The Value of Assistants

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Some people think that when the CEO is loading paper in the copy machine it creates a culture of "we're all in this together." But from a financial perspective, work should be delegated to the lowest-cost employee who can do it well.

There are three key factors to keep in mind to effectively use assistants: The clinician (or manager) must be willing to truly delegate parts of the workload to the assistant; the assistant must be willing to stretch beyond his or her comfort zone to assume new responsibilities; and there must be enough work to keep the clinician or manager busy.

Let's assume a practice where each patient visit is an hour long, and the clinician then takes half an hour to work on documentation. Patients are seen from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and the clinician gets an hour for lunch. Based on this, a clinician can see two patients in the morning and three patients in the afternoon. Now, let's say the practitioner's revenue per visit averages $400. In an average full day that practitioner generates $2,000 and works until at least 5:30 each day finishing notes.

What changes if that practitioner has a medical scribe, earning $15 an hour ($31,000/year) to support them and to document all interactions? That cuts practitioner time in the room to 45 minutes, including a few minutes to review the scribe's documentation. The practitioner has five minutes between patients, takes an hour for lunch, sees nine patients each day, and still finishes around 5:30 after finalizing the day's notes.

Four more patients at an average of $400 per visit is an extra $1,600 per day in revenue generated for the practice. In about one month of full-time service, the practice has recovered the scribe's entire year's salary in increased efficiency.

The same logic holds true for managers and executives. How much more effective can they be if their focus is on what they do best and allow the rest of the staff to do what they do best? If you are a clinician-owner, can you really be 100 percent effective at both jobs without great assistants? Think about how much better things could be if you directed your energy where it is most effective.