• Getting the Right Fit: Tips on Succession Planning for Your Next Practice Administrator


    When planning the succession of your practice administrator one of the greatest obstacles may be finding the right person for the job. Each practice is unique and identifying the expectations for your new administrator is the first step during this transition. Understanding the leadership qualities that are essential for this position will also contribute to the decision-making process.

    Who is the right person for your practice?

    The first consideration could be recruiting individuals who have the capability to learn or extensive knowledge or experience in the following management areas:

    • Business operations
    • Finance and accounting
    • Ophthalmic knowledge
    • Regulatory and compliance
    • Marketing and public relationS
    • Human resources
    • Coding and reimbursement
    • Strategic planning

    Next, evaluating the qualities the potential leader demonstrates is essential. Some of the common characteristics seen in leaders would be:

    • Motivation
    • Trustworthiness
    • Focus
    • Confidence
    • Respect
    • Clear communication
    • Transparency
    • Independence
    • Responsibility
    • Willingness to learn
    • Decisiveness
    • Problem solving

    The greatest challenge is determining whether the potential candidate would be the right person for your practice and culture. Rarely would a person possess all the skills and necessary experience required for your perfect ophthalmic administrator. But can they identify their weaknesses and take the initiative to learn? And do they have the personality and leadership style that would complement your practice culture?

    Internal vs. external candidate

    Perhaps you are reviewing a resume of an experienced business manager with excellent leadership skills and no ophthalmic experience. Additionally, you have the internal application from a dedicated employee with extensive ophthalmic experience, knowledge of internal protocols and positive relationships with doctors and staff. Which candidate is best? The answer depends on many factors, including practice expectations and the individual. Neither candidate would be a bad choice.

    The key is determining whether the experienced business manager would be willing to learn ophthalmology, be capable, and have the personality that could be a positive influence for the practice. Or is the loyal employee with extensive ophthalmic experience a good leader and capable of being an administrator? If her experience is clinical, could she learn the business aspect of the ophthalmic practice?

    The potential administrator has a responsibility to gain the knowledge and experience he or she needs to grow. But is your practice prepared to provide the resources for success? Consider this checklist:

    • Identify the potential areas for growth
    • Discover the resources available for ophthalmic leaders
    • Provide an atmosphere that fosters independent learning
    • Empower your physician leaders to proctor and assess progress

    Plan your smooth transition

    During times of change, developing a plan for the transition provides direction for all stakeholders. When onboarding your new administrator, consider the steps necessary for a positive transition. The checklist for managing this project could include the following:

    • Provide communication to your staff regarding the change of leadership
    • Ask for feedback regarding concerns during this transition
    • Confirm the new organizational chart
    • Discuss chain of command during the training process
    • Develop or update the job description
    • Create an administrator expectation agreement
    • Design a training program for the new administrator
    • Introduce the new administrator to the staff and physicians
    • Coordinate training with the previous administrator
    • Review ophthalmic resources for business management (i.e., AAOE)
    • Schedule meetings with physician leaders to provide feedback

    Culture and values

    Finally, assign an ambassador who will orient your new administrator on the history, values and the culture of the practice. This crucial phase will allow the new leadership to discover the vision for the business. As the transition is completed, the physicians and management team will continue to develop the strategic plan for the future. The ultimate goal is a successful new practice administrator who is the right person for your practice.

    “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they will work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they will work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” – Simon Sinek

    Plan to attend Succession Planning Essentials: Hiring Your Next Administrator. In this 60-minute webinar, three seasoned practice administrators of small and medium-sized practice will help you create a succession plan to minimize disruptions when there’s a key staff turnover. 

    Live Webinar: Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017
    2 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. CT / Noon MT / 11 a.m. PT

    Note: Webinar recording will be available to all attendees at no additional charge.

    About the Author

    Joy Woodke COE, OCS is a practice administrator for Oregon Eye Consultants, LLC. She also serves as chair of the AAOE EHR Committee.