Get the Right People: TMA Can Make Sure You Do

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Practice Management Feature - July 2010


Tex Med. 2010;106(7):29-31.

2010;106(7):29-31.

By Crystal Conde
Associate Editor

When it comes to hiring office staff for his Houston-area urgent care facilities, Christopher Ogunro, MD, says it's pivotal to get it right from the start. Five years ago, the emergency room physician opened an urgent care center in Cypress.

"I could have spent weeks researching how to staff my center, but my time is valuable. I didn't have time to go through the trial-and-error process," he said. "My philosophy is if you want something done right, you hire a professional."

Dr. Ogunro hired Texas Medical Association Practice Consulting to help him screen and hire job applicants, develop human resources policies and procedures, and conduct background checks.

"Many of the employees TMA Practice Consulting helped me hire in 2005 still work for me today," Dr. Ogunro said.

TMA practice consultants help physicians determine their clinical and business staffing needs to recruit skilled, appropriate candidates. TMA Practice Consulting staff recruitment services include recommending salaries and benefits, placing employment advertisements, conducting telephone screening, scheduling and participating in interviews, checking references, and initiating background checks for qualified candidates. (See "TMA Practice Consulting Staff Recruitment Services.")

As his business expands, Dr. Ogunro continues to contract with TMA Practice Consulting to do background checks on potential employees. Late last year, he opened a second Excel Urgent Care center in Missouri City.

Bringing qualified, competent staff members on board is important in any physician's practice, Dr. Ogunro says.

"If you try to wing the hiring process, you'll run into a lot of problems and will make mistakes. Employee turnover is expensive because you continually have to go back and start the hiring process over," he said. "If you recruit the right people in the first place, you can focus on what you're trained to do."


Worth the Investment

Francisco R. Rodriguez, MD, a partner with Rio Grande Urology PA, describes hiring a practice administrator to oversee four office locations and 21 physicians as "a long and painful process." Rio Grande Urology PA has three offices in El Paso and one in Las Cruces, N.M.

"Initially, we tried to hire an administrator on our own, but our knowledge base was virtually nonexistent. I had read about TMA Practice Consulting services, and I thought they could help us," he said.

Dr. Rodriguez and his partners began searching for qualified candidates last fall. He says his biggest challenge was convincing his partners to invest money in hiring a consultant to help them find the right employee for the job. Once a TMA practice consultant arrived in El Paso to learn more about the practice's needs, however, Dr. Rodriguez says his partners quickly began commending him.

"Our practice consultant sat down with all 10 partners who work here in El Paso to get a good idea of what qualities we wanted in a practice administrator and how our practice was set up," he said. "Now, everyone agrees that hiring TMA Practice Consulting was worth every penny."

But the road to hiring wasn't smooth. TMA Practice Consulting conducted a nationwide job search for the urology group and did an initial screening of candidates. The group selected a candidate to hire, but upon offering him the job, Dr. Rodriguez says, the potential employee used the job offer as leverage at his current job.

"One thing we found out from that experience is that you haven't actually hired someone until he or she is under contract," Dr. Rodriguez said.

The group returned to the drawing board and continued the search with the help of TMA Practice Consulting. After five months of scouring the nation for an experienced practice administrator, Rio Grande Urology hired an applicant from Nebraska in April.

Despite the arduous process, Dr. Rodriguez says the services TMA Practice Consulting provided were invaluable.

"Our practice consultant did the screening for us, held initial interviews with candidates over the phone, narrowed down the candidate field to three, and coached us on interviews. Our consultant provided us with questions in hand so we could do the final interviews ourselves, and TMA Practice Consulting conducted the background check on the person we wanted to hire," he said.

Dr. Ogunro adds that the background check is an essential element of the staff hiring process.

"During the course of an interview, people are on their best behavior. A potential employee isn't going to disclose his past criminal record. The background check will bring up any red flags or warning signs, such as embezzlement or other run-ins with the law," he said.


Beyond Hiring

Once physicians have hired staff members, the work doesn't stop there. According to Ginger Douglas, practice administrator at Austin Children's Chest Associates PA, physicians can benefit from the continuing support offered by a consulting group. TMA Practice Consulting assisted with Austin Children's Chest Associates' practice setup in 2004 and guided the group's physicians in hiring staff members.

She says TMA Practice Consulting can help physicians develop an employee handbook; establish policies and procedures for all areas of the practice; guide them on disciplinary actions and terminations; and offer ongoing training to staff members.

Experienced practice consultants can also help physicians overcome some common human resources-related challenges. For instance, Ms. Douglas says, TMA Practice Consulting can guide physicians on how to handle employee conduct problems, such as arriving late to work or dressing in an unprofessional manner.

She adds that many physicians need guidance to ensure they're paying appropriate salaries to staff members. TMA Practice Consulting can gather salary surveys so physicians can feel confident in their ability to provide competitive, fair wages.

"TMA Practice Consulting has some good resources for physicians, whether they're setting up a practice and looking to hire or in need of some ongoing human resources assistance," Ms. Douglas said.

For Dr. Ogunro, hiring TMA Practice Consulting was a smart move.

"Unless a physician has opened and managed a business before, it's worth it to pay experienced professionals to help with staffing and human resources," he said. "My continued relationship with TMA Practice Consulting has been useful to me. I can sleep well knowing I've hired the right people."

Crystal Conde can be reached by telephone at (800) 880-1300, ext. 1385, or (512) 370-1385; by fax at (512) 370-1629; or by e-mail at  Crystal Conde.


SIDEBAR

TMA Practice Consulting Staff Recruitment Services

TMA consultants can place employment advertisements and conduct initial applicant screenings via telephone. They work with clients to develop job descriptions, schedule interviews with applicants, participate in interviews with the physician, and test job applicants on their billing proficiency. Following the interview, they check references and backgrounds and create offer letters and personnel files.

After physicians hire a staff, the consultants train them on office policies and procedures, as well as compliance with the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. TMA consultants also provide Occupational Safety and Health Administration training.

TMA consultants can also provide staff members with resources such as medical office policy and procedure manuals; fee schedules; CPT, ICD-9, and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System coding books; Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certification applications; practice forms and templates; and required office postings.

For more information about human resources services from TMA Practice Consulting, click here .

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