"I save the owner 25 hours a week—and then some."

"I save the owner 25 hours a week—and then some."

Practice managers lower turnover, free up the doctors' time so they can focus more on patients and clients, and improve the owners' sanity. Could you use one of these gems in your practice?
Sep 01, 2006

SINCE JOYCE BLAIR JOINED SOUTHPOINTE Veterinary Hospital in Allen Park, Mich., as its hospital manager 12 years ago, she estimates she has saved the owner at least 25 hours a week. Dr. Carol McKee, owner of the six-doctor, 22-staff member practice, says Blair saves her "every minute she's here," so really that's more like 40 hours a week.

"I'd say my biggest contribution to the practice is the owner's peace of mind," says Blair. "I've freed up her time by handling staff and client issues. I certainly try to run the practice day to day in a way that's in line with her thinking and philosophy."

Figure 1. Covering all the management duties
With more time, owners with practice managers can focus more on client and patient care. In fact, more time means they can see more patients. Since Jan Diffin took over as the clinic manager of Escanaba Veterinary Clinic in Escanaba, Mich., the three-doctor practice has seen about 30 additional clients per week. Calculated at an average doctor transaction of $112, that works out to an extra $3,360 per month—or more than $40,000 a year.

In all fairness, Diffin says, the hospital added another doctor last year, too. Diffin's humble when she talks about her contributions to the practice, but the numbers don't lie. And she'll admit that her position saves the practice money. "We increased our profits by having a clinic manager because the doctors can practice medicine; they don't have to worry about staff problems, scheduling, and ordering inventory," she says. But more important, says Diffin, are her contributions to the clinic team by facilitating monthly staff meetings, continuing education, and open communication for the 15 staff members.

Figure 2. Taking care of your manager
These benefits—the ability to delegate employee development, an improvement in the owners' quality of life, and the ability to focus on medicine and strategic planning—are the top reasons that owners hire or want to hire a hospital administrator or manager, according to results from Benchmarks 2006: A Study of Well-Managed Practices. There's no surprise then that 71 percent of the 100 top-notch practices participating in the study currently employ a hospital administrator or manager. Of those without, 50 percent plan to hire one in the next two years. Knowing what they know now, 57 percent would have hired a manager sooner.

Overall, study participants that employ a manager say their managers have saved them an average of 15 hours a week. They report lower overall staff cost as a percentage of revenue (by about 1 percent), and per doctor production averages that are $46,000 higher than in practices without a manager. "I think my doctor's relieved that she can practice medicine now," says Diffin. "She doesn't need to worry about the small stuff."