About The Survey
The survey was given to 30 health and medical practice managers in the Upstate New York area, during the month of September, 2016. The survey was conducted as part of customer development research at InboundMD with the purpose of better understanding the day, goals, pain points and role of the practice manager and practice at large.
Survey respondents were comprised of various specialties from chiropractic, dental and dermatology, to cardiac, plastic surgery and radiology. Survey respondents also varied in the size of practice they managed, from those managing a single provider, to others with more than 20.
15 of the 30 practice managers were interviewed via phone or in person, while the remaining 15 participated via an online survey. All practice manager and practice names have been removed.
Practice managers have long, varied days
Yikes! Being a practice manager is similar to being a business owner or CEO – you’re wearing plenty of hats and have a really long day that not everyone could handle.
Patient care and practice growth tops for PM’s
The focus for practice managers remains ensuring the practice provides great care to the patients that come through its doors, while simultaneously finding ways to continually grow the practice.
There was not one practice manager that did not mention issues with insurance companies and payments. Outside of compliance (and people), insurance companies were practice manager enemy #1.
People problems are persistent in practices
Developing, managing and training staff in a fast paced environment where there’s a lot to know adds stress and hurdles to practice managers days. If there was one wish, most would want better people.
Opportunities remain as not everyone is marketing
Despite a focus on growing the practice, few practice manager’s report investing the time and resource to effectively market the practice, creating opportunity for those that do.
Reputation important, but not always tracked
Given the importance of patient care, it was surprising that some practices still do not track patient satisfaction, rating and review scores (in private or public), despite the obvious benefit and positive impact that comes from doing so.
Survey Response Analysis
Q4 – What time does your work day typically start?
Analysis: Practice Managers Are Early Risers
Almost 90% of practice managers surveyed start work before 8am, with 22% of practice managers starting before 7am. It’s an early start to a long and multifaceted work day.
Q5 – What time does your typical work day end?
Analysis: Practice Managers Work Long Hours
Over 70% of practice managers work until 5pm or later, indicating that the job doesn’t stop just because the patients have stopped coming in. That means many practice managers are routinely working 10 hours per day to keep their practices running, showing up early and staying late in order to get the job done.
Q6 – Do you typically take a lunch break?
Analysis: Lunch? What Lunch? We’re too busy!
One in three practice managers surveyed never take a lunch. With 40.74% of respondents stating that they only sometimes take a lunch, the fast paced and varied nature of being a practice manager means your stomach often comes last.
Q7 – What is the best time during the work day to get a hold of you?
Analysis: When is a Good Time? It Depends
Given how busy practice managers are, it was not surprising to see that there was no real “best time in the day” to connect with a practice manager. The most common answer was “depends on the day,” which means you’re lucky to catch a practice manager, unless you’re already on their calendar.
Q8 – How many meeting do you take each month with potential vendors?
Analysis: Want a Meeting? Good Luck
In a busy practice, there’s not a lot of time to spend on things outside of patient’s needs, insurance disputes and managing operations, so it’s no surprise that over 80% of practice managers take less than two new vendor meetings each month. Given the number of calls they receive, it must be tough figuring out who to speak with!
Q9 – What are the top three goals in your role?
Analysis: Growth Comes Through Quality Patient Care
Continuing to provide quality patient care, alongside the growth of the practice were cited as the two most important goals of the role of the practice manager, followed by compliance and operational efficiency. It’s great to see that so many practice managers have the goal of patient care first and practice growth second – we’re sure that patients are happy to hear this!
Q10 – What are your five primary responsibilities?
Analysis: Practice Manager = Business Owner / CEO
The day-to-day responsibilities of a practice manager are similar to that of a business owner or small enterprise CEO. Managing operations tops the list, followed by human resources, AR / AP, compliance and then practice growth. It’s interesting that growth of the practice ranked highly as a goal, but ranked as a much lower priority when it comes to daily responsibilities.
Q11 – How is your performance currently measured?
Analysis: Performance Measurement is Informal
For the majority of practice managers surveyed, there is no formal performance measurement in place for their role. The majority of practice managers who participated stated that performance was measured on whether or not the clinic continued to move forward and things were done as required. While few had formal performance measurements, those who did were judged on a yearly basis.
Q12 – What tasks do you perform most frequently throughout the day?
Analysis: Patients, Billing and Insurance Consume the Day
It comes as no real surprise that patients, billing and insurance issues top the list of things that practice managers are handling most frequently on any given day. In addition, many practice managers commented that managing staff, answering questions from staff, m and training staff also consumed a large amount of time during the day.
Q13 – Are there any tasks frequently performed with pen and paper?
Analysis: Pen and Paper is Finally Dying in the Practice
With the exception of patient intake and assessment forms, not much is done with pen and paper inside a practice these days. Notes were the number one item that was still done using pen and paper. It greatly surprised us to hear that simple patient forms are still manually completed and re-entered!
Q14 – What are the top three hurdles or pain points in your day?
Analysis: This Job Would Be Great Without the People
By and large, dealing with staff issues was the number one pain point for practice managers. Dealing with insurance companies and insurance issues, followed by handling patients were next. Managing people doesn’t seem to be getting easier (or more enjoyable).
Q15 – If you had a magic genie in a bottle that could grant three wishes, what three things would you wish for to allow for more time in your day?
Analysis: But What IF We Don’t Train These People?
People issues were cited as the biggest issues for practice managers. Help with people issues, came as the number one request of the imaginary practice manager genie. This help came in the form of requests such as, “more time for training,” “stronger managers,” and “better quality talent.” Despite technological advances, well trained human beings, are in more demand than ever when it comes to running a successful practice.
Q16 – What groups or associations are you a member of?
Analysis: Join the MGMA Already
The MGMA, the Medical Group Management Association topped the list of professional organizations that practice managers join. The MGMA was followed by AADOM, the American Association of Dental Office Managers, the AAOE, the American Association of Orthopedic Executives. Every respondent was a member of at least one organization, an indication that practice managers understand the value of continual development and professional growth.
Q17 – Where do you go to find information / news about becoming a better manager / running a better practice?
Analysis: MGMA > Internet
With the amount of information available online, one would think that practice managers are relying on new forms of media, such as blogs, to stay up-to-date. According to survey respondents, traditional outlets, such as MGMA, are the main source of information for practice managers. This could be due to the great content and networking opportunities provided by the organization OR the reality of a busy schedule that doesn’t allow for following multiple information sources.
Q18 – What are the top three goals for the practice in the next 12 months?
Analysis: Grow the Practice (With Better Staff)
Looking ahead to next year, most practice’s are focused on growing through improvements to staff. From increasing the capabilities and knowledge of the staff to reducing turnover and efficiency enhancements, it was clear that addressing staff related issues was a major way practice managers see to grow their practice. It’s worth noting that none of the respondents articulate growth through business development or marketing.
Q19 – How does your practice make decisions on selecting vendors?
Analysis: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
The majority of practice managers surveyed reported that there was no formal decision making process for selecting new vendors. In most cases, the practice manager was the decision maker, after consulting with the practice owner or partners. Of those who responded that they did have a process, the majority used a traditional supplier evaluation process typically used when evaluating physical, tangible products: receiving a minimum of three quotes, checking no less than five references for each of the quotes, and a final analysis leading to a decision.
Q20 – Who is involved in making software and services purchase decisions?
Analysis: Me, Myself and the Dr.
You may have expected this one. Outside of the practitioner the practice manager is the key person within the practice, when it comes to making decisions on everything outside of patient care.
Q21 – When is the last time your practice purchased a new piece of software or technology?
Analysis: Always Buying Something New
Over 70% of practices have purchased a new piece of software or technology within the last year, and over 50% y within the last six months. Sadly, one in four practices is not keeping up with the times, having last purchased a new piece of software or technology over two years ago.
Q22 – How long did the process take? (The last time a piece of software or technology was purchased)
Analysis: Decisions, in 90 Days or Less
More than half the practice managers surveyed made their purchase decisions inside of 90 days, but relatively few made their decisions inside of 30 days. This is indicative of the busy nature of the practice and everyone’s personal time schedules – getting a hold of partners and doctors, delivering the details of the quotes, and inspiring a decision is a multi-week process in most practices.
Q23 – How many time per week do you receive unsolicited vendor phone calls?
Analysis: Please Stop Calling
40% of practice managers surveyed noted that they receive more than 10 unsolicited phone calls from potential new vendors every week. That’s 40 – yes, FORTY – unsolicited calls every month. With the average practice manager taking less than 2 meetings, only 5% of all potential service providers ever make it to a first meeting. Prospective vendors better be special or solve a very pressing need.
Q24 – How many outside vendors do you currently work with?
Analysis: It Takes a Village
Running a successful healthcare practice is no easy feat. In addition to managing the provider(s) and staff, a practice manager also has to manage a number of outside contractors. In fact, of the survey participants, 44% have to manage seven or more outside vendors on a frequent basis. On the whole, 72% of practice managers have at least four outside vendor relationships to manage – that’s lot of people!
Q25 – What is the primary way your practice gets new patients?
Analysis: Word of Mouth Still #1
The way patients find your practice is changing, but traditional channels are still the dominant force. Over 56% of practice managers responded that word of mouth was the major way in which patient report finding the practice. This fact may be slightly misleading, since an increasing number of patients and primary caregivers are going online to ask friends and family for referrals and then conducting additional research online before contacting referrals.
Q26 – Does your practice currently spend money to acquire new patients?
Analysis: Paying for New Patients
Almost 60% of the practice managers surveyed reported that their practice is spending money on marketing or advertising in order acquire new patients in the past year. What’s interesting is that only 8% of practices reported spending $0 on marketing or advertising in the question, so close to 32% of respondents are spending money on marketing, but not seeing new patients!
Q27 – How much does the practice currently spend per month on marketing?
Analysis: Most Practices Spend At Least $500 a Month
Not every practice is advertising or marketing, but for those who do, they are spending at least $500 per month. The largest percentage of practice managers who responded to the survey are spending $1,000 to $2,500 on advertising and marketing initiatives each month. While these budgets are not large, they can be very impactful if properly invested in the right marketing channels.
Q28 – What channels does your practice currently use to market to new patients?
Analysis: Social Media is Popular With Patients (and Practice Managers)
Practices are trying to keep up with the changing ways in which patients find healthcare providers. 46% of all respondents noted that they’re currently using social media to attract new patients. Interestingly, the same number of practices were using newspaper ads as were online ads (33%). From a marketer’s perspective it was interesting to see social media so highly used, especially since many patients do not start their research on social networks, but search engines, like Google.
Q29 – How much time do you or your staff spend on marketing the practice each week?
Analysis: We Want to Grow, But Spend No Time on Marketing
Almost half of the respondents, 41.67%, reported that less than one hour per week is spent on marketing the practice. Another 33.33% responded that less than three hours per week was spent on marketing, indicating that most practices surveyed are not heavily invested in marketing. This was puzzling information, given how many practice managers reported growth and profitability as goals / responsibilities.
Q30 – How does the practice measure the success of marketing efforts?
Analysis: Marketing Success is Not Measured
Of those practices that are advertising and marketing, more than half have no formal measurements for the success of their efforts or tracking mechanisms in place. The small percentage of practices that are measuring the success of advertising and marketing efforts are relying on asking patients ‘how they found out’ about the practice but the data collected is often not documented. This lack of measurement and tracking in this area does raise some concern given the importance of “practice growth” to managers and the current availability of tools to help them understand their return on marketing investments.
Q31 – How does the practice currently manage, monitor and protect their professional reputation?
Analysis: Patient Ratings and Reviews are Important, We Just Don’t Monitor Them
Every manager expressed that patient care, patient experience and patient feedback is important. Yet 60% of respondents indicated that they do not use any software or tool to proactively solicit patient feedback or monitor what’s being said about them by patients online. Given the existence of a marketing budget at most practices and the important role this plays in the success of a practice, more practice managers should be thinking about the benefits to spending money in this area.
Q32 – Have you ever engaged an outside vendor to provide marketing and technology improvements?
Analysis: Yes, We Outsource
80% of practice manager surveyed have used an outside vendor to provide marketing and technology improvements, indicating that most practices do not have the time or in-house expertise to successfully deploy and maintain these systems on an ongoing basis. Given the demanding and hectic schedules faced by practice managers, this should come as no surprise.
Q33 – When was the last time you engaged an outside vendor to provider marketing and technology improvements?
Analysis: Vendor’s Come, Vendor’s Go
Over half (54%) of respondents indicated that they had brought in an outside marketing or technology vendor to make improvements in the last 90 days, with an additional 25% noting that they had done so in the last 12 months. This demonstrates the willingness of practice managers to adopt new technology and tools, and that t rapid changes in healthcare are forcing practices to keep up with the changing demands.