Monday, December 14, 2009

Melissa Young, MD: Employee No. 2

When I started my new office, I knew I wanted to keep expenses at a minimum. Less overhead equals more profit for less work. I did want to make what I felt were smart investments. I paid for a wireless computer network and an EMR. I spent money on renovating my office space to make it pleasant and efficient. And I wanted to pay reasonably well for good, reliable, trust-worthy staff — even if that meant just having one staff member to start.

When I opened the office, I figured all the patients would be new, and even “old” patients from my prior practice would need to be treated as if they were new (even if I didn’t get paid for a new patient visit), because all their information had to be entered into the EMR. So, patient appointments were relatively long at 45 minutes a piece, which meant that on any given day, I saw about eight patients. So my one and only employee, my front office person, could handle the phones and the faxes and the mail, and I could handle entering clinical into the computer, taking my own vitals, calling patients and pharmacies back.

Now, into my third month (wow, can it really be true?), the follow-up patients are coming in — meaning shorter visits, more patients per day, more prescription refills and more phone calls. I recently hired my second employee, a medical assistant.
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She is helping to enter patients’ histories and medication lists, and she is taking the vital signs. This affords me a few extra minutes to spend with patients, to return phone calls, and to just take a breather from time to time.

Bringing in a third person is tricky. My receptionist and I have been doing this for two months. We have established a rhythm, a flow. We know who’s supposed to being doing what and when. And we get along fabulously. It helps that we are of similar age and have compatible personalities. I was anxious about bringing in someone new. Of course, I had interviewed her and thought she would easily fit it, but you never know.

She has been with us for a week now. So far, so good. She is eager to learn, eager to work. Again, she is in the same age group as we are, and maybe that helps. We are still in the orientation/training phase, and we are going to have to rethink our workflow. My MA has to remind me to stop cleaning up the exam rooms between patients, and I have had to rearrange some computer space, and I’ll have to order different sized gloves for her, too.

It’s an additional expense (my husband thinks perhaps a premature one), but it frees me up for what I think is more productive time, and despite the need for change, has given me a little peace of mind.

Melissa G. Young, MD, FACE, FACP, is an endocrinologist in private practice, an assistant clinical professor at Robert Wood Johnson, and a working suburban mother of two in Freehold, N.J. She is a regular contributor to Practice Notes.

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