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To maintain a steady cash flow, the practice must be prepared, with systems and management in place to accommodate changes in a timely manner. Additional laws and regulations associated with employment law, privacy law, and health law add to the complexities associated with running a medical practice today.


Published 12/1/2010
Kalen W. Privatsky

Supporting your practice administrator

AAOE is a resource to consider

Orthopaedic surgeons frequently have long days that are often complicated and filled with the unexpected. A day in the life of an orthopaedic practice administrator may also be long, complicated, and filled with the unexpected. Consider this scenario:

The day starts with a negotiation meeting with a large healthcare organization. When the practice administrator arrives at the clinic, a stack of messages await. A medical assistant and two staff members have called in sick. The garbage disposal in the break room is not working, and the toilet in the hallway is backed up. One of the front-desk computers is down. Two staff members have a dispute and have requested a meeting. One of the partners wants to discuss the most recent distribution and his overhead charges. And the practice isn’t officially open yet!

In the past two decades, medical group practice management has become an important profession. The modernization of health care has created a complex, changing environment that requires a successful practice to employ technology, advanced systems, and an educated and dedicated staff. Keeping up in just one area—regulations—is practically a full-time job.

The government and payers dictate how a physician will bill for a service, how much the physician will be reimbursed for such service, and how the physician must manage his or her practice. Each commercial payer issues its own set of rules and regulations related to billing and reimbursement issues—and no two are alike.

Kalen W. Privatsky


A range of responsibilities
The more than 25,000 AAOS members represent thousands of clinics in the United States, ranging in size from 1 to more than 100 providers. Regardless of a clinic’s location or practice focus, most have a practice manager or administrator to guide them through the business of delivering healthcare services.

Depending on the size and complexity of a practice, the administrator may be responsible for the following aspects of the business management:

  • operations management
  • human resources and payroll
  • budgeting and planning
  • information technology
  • negotiations
  • recruitment and marketing
  • accounts receivable management
  • accounts payable
  • employment and healthcare law
  • coding and billing
  • physical plant management

Though the administrator may not be an expert in every one of these areas, he or she should have the ability to perform these duties competently.

In a practice with several hundred providers, several thousand support employees are needed. These practices may have an organization structure similar to a large company, with the practice administrator serving as the chief operating officer, and managers in charge of areas such as human resources, finance, operations, or a department or service line.

Resources and assistance
With more than 1,300 active members throughout the country, the American Association of Orthopaedic Executives (AAOE) plays an active role in the medical practice executive community. As the premier association serving orthopaedic practice executives, AAOE provides unmatched peer-to-peer networking and educational excellence for members.

AAOE members come from one-provider offices as well as from multisite, large group practices. Their varied backgrounds ensure that members will find mentors, ideas, and practice advice. Among the many resources offered by the AAOE are the following:

An annual conference, featuring nationally recognized speakers, multiple educational offerings, abundant networking opportunities, and a vendor showcase hall.

An annual benchmarking survey, presented by group size, specialty, and geographic area—free to participating members.

A Web sitewww.aaoe.net—constantly updated with practice management tools, job opportunities, vendor or business partner information, and legislative notes.

Legislative Updates, a monthly electronic newsletter on current federal and state legislative issues.

Online, peer-to-peer advice, through a listserv of members.

Networking, any day, any time. The ability to call or e-mail colleagues to see how they accomplished a certain task or issue is an invaluable tool and resource.

ALPS mentoring program, enabling a new practice administrator to develop a meaningful relationship with an experienced member, fostering personal and professional growth, development, and education.

AAOS connection, enabling AAOE members to receive the AAOS member rate to AAOS-sponsored events, and to access management and legislative resources.

Medical practice management is a challenging, constantly changing profession that requires ongoing communication and networking for success. The AAOE enables orthopaedic practice managers across the nation to acquire these resources. If your practice manager is not yet an AAOE member, why not investigate membership opportunities? You, your staff, and your practice can all benefit from joining.

Kalen W. Privatsky is an AAOE member, president of the Washington State Medical Group Management Association, and administrator of Valley Orthopedic Associates/Proliance Surgeons, Inc. He can be reached at k.privatsky@proliancesurgeons.com