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Should you create an operations manual for your independent practice?


Your independent practice is a small business. As such, you need to ensure that it runs smoothly even when you have a change in personnel or when an emergency or unique situation arises, such as the recent shift to telehealth during the pandemic. An operations manual for your independent practice can ensure that your patients receive consistent healthcare as well as administrative care from everyone on your team.

An operations manual can be created with minimal cost and effort but can reap great benefits for your independent practice. It can be used to:

  • Train new staff members
  • Enable your team to function seamlessly even if you are not in the office
  • Determine how any changes in your operation will affect your practice and your patients.

Once the manual is complete, it should be used as a living document. Provide a copy to each team member and help them understand that it is a guide to help them be more successful in their efforts to provide quality care to your patients. Reviewing the manual on a regular basis will ensure that the contents are accurate and current.

When developing the operations manual for your independent practice, start with your team members. Ask them to document what they do each day so the processes and procedures can be included in the manual. While this may seem time consuming at first, having each person write down what they do as they do it will provide the basic information you need to create a useful guide for your practice.

As the independent physician, you are ultimately responsible for reviewing the content provided by your team members. You may learn something about how your practice operates from reading their input. Use this opportunity to discuss discrepancies you might notice and solidify the positive results you and your patients are able to realize from your team’s efforts.

Organize the material in a logical manner so it can be useful to train new team members or to provide refresher training. A table of contents should include:

  • Practice overview – mission, history, key contacts
  • Position descriptions – brief overview of who does what within the practice
  • Patient communications – protocol for phone calls, electronic messages, and walk-in questions
  • Patient experience – guidelines on encouraging patients to follow post-visit instructions, practice policy on dealing with frustrating patients, and steps necessary to ensure patients enjoy quality outcomes from their interactions with the practice staff
  • Safety and security – review of HIPAA requirements, including secure electronic health records (EHRs) and protecting patient information
  • Basic practice administrative procedures – greeting patients at check-in, billing, and appointment setting
  • Patient visit procedures – height and weight measurements, blood pressure and temperature checks, material distribution, and typical visit duration.

Other topics specific to your independent practice should also be included in your operations manual. For example, you may want to set policy regarding requesting time off and working overtime.

A timely topic that should be included in every independent practice’s operations manual is your COVID-19 procedure for keeping patients and staff safe and healthy during the pandemic.