How to hire the right practice administrator

June 4, 2019

Hiring a good administrator is as important as hiring a good physician. But, how do you find the right administrator for your practice?

Jim Collins, a noted business management expert said, “great vision without great people is irrelevant.”  Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was quoted as saying, “the task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been. Both these quotes are very applicable to how your practice administrator should be thinking on their first day on the job.  

Hiring a good administrator is as important as hiring a good physician. You want to make sure they have the skill set to succeed, but they also need to fit in with your existing team and they can work harmoniously with the staff and your physicians. But, how do you find the right administrator for your practice? 

It may not be easy. As the large baby boom population ages and people remain active later in life, there continues to be a need for increased healthcare services.  According to U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Statistics, the 2017 median pay was $98,350.00 and administrator jobs are projected to grow 20 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. 

The first step is to identify the organization’s administrative needs and the type of candidate best suited to meet them. 

Qualified candidates should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree but an advanced degree, such as an MHA, MBA, MPH, or MPA, is preferable. They also must have experience in financial management, human resources, patient flow, marketing, budgets, government regulations, EHR, and physician relations. Additional certifications in areas of medical practice administrationfinancial managementcoding, and human resources are not essential, but reaffirm that a level of competency has been met.  Experience in a specialty may be preferable, but it is really the management skills that are more important in finding the right administrator. 

In addition, ideal candidates should embody a natural ability to be a leader, motivator, change agent, and an even-keeled benevolent individual. They should be humble and an articulate communicator since they will be your organization’s biggest cheerleader and set an example for others to follow.  

The next step is to recruit for the position.. One of the best ways to recruit an administrator is through word of mouth. I would recommend telling your pharmaceutical reps when you have a job opening. They visit a lot of offices and may know who is actively or passively looking to make a move.  Also, posting your job opening on mgma.com or Linkedin is an excellent way to increase your chances of connecting with the right type of candidate for your organization.

Your future administrator could be working in one of several settings, including a hospital department, community health center, private practices, or at an ambulatory care center. Sometimes you can find potential candidates working in less traditional jobs, such as nurse managers, practice management consultants, and even a pharmaceutical account manager.  

Each candidate may bring a unique set of skills to the position based on their background and experiences. For example, a candidate who previously worked in a hospital will have a better understanding of dynamics of the physician-hospital relationships.  Someone who worked in the pharmaceutical industry will have stronger marketing skills which can be applicable for promoting your brand developing your referral sources and practice opportunities. Someone from a medical practice will have a solid foundation in all areas of practice management, but may not be an expert if every area.  

If you do receive resumes, identify your strongest candidates who have solid job histories and the skills/experience to manage your practice for future growth.  You should reach out to the candidates by phone and conduct a 30-45 minute phone call.  Subsequently, you want to bring them for an interview with most of the physicians in the group. Each physician should ask the candidates how they would respond to situations involving patients, staff, and possible day-to-day scenarios. This form of questioning provides insight into how a candidate may analyze and problem solve the routine and complex challenges that come with the job.

After finding a candidate you like and checking references, you should make an offer no later than five days after an interview.  Administrator candidates tend to make decisions quickly as well.  If the candidate feels like their management style would be mutually beneficial with the physician partner(s), one would expect a candidate to accept an offer rather quickly.  

Once you hire your administrator, it is important to invest in their onboarding education immediately. You should initially spend a few hours each week acclimating your new hire to the organization’s finances, internal/external stakeholder relationships, and organizational priorities. 

To start off a positive administrator-physician owner relationship, it is recommended to delegate responsibilities to the new administrator sooner rather than later. A good administrator wants to be challenged and show you they can be an articulate problem solver and can be a knowledgeable adviser. For example, your new administrator can usually hit the ground running on their own when it comes to recruiting for a vacancy for an administrative or clinical position.  If there is patient issue, an experienced administrator should be able to step in and deescalate the situation with minimal disruption and diplomacy. 

The relationship between the administrator and the managing partner/owner is like a marriage.   They need to naturally ‘click’ with each other and have that synergy for this relationship to last. A good administrator is there to remind, remember, and be that extra set of eyes and ears for the practice’s physicians. The administrator should be a trusted operational and financial advisor who can maintain confidentially and adapt and adjust to the highs and lows of the practice.

Keeping an ongoing flow of communication between owner(s) and the administrator will help the staff, patients, and ultimately the organization.  

By taking care to identify and recruit the best candidate and giving that individual the tools and autonomy to do the job, you will find yourself with an administrator that fits in with your current team and makes your organization better. It would not be unusual for that administrator to stay with you until the day you retire and see your last patient.