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How To Allocate Group Practice Management Duties

March 2013 ISSUE March 1, 2013
Practice Management General/Other
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Over the past few years, the number of group dental practices has grown significantly.  Managing a multi-doctor practice involves more cost, complexity, and communication than with solo practices. The key is establishing a well-thought-out and efficient system of outlining management areas, with clear divisions of responsibility to each partner.

We recommend that practice management responsibilities be divided into eight areas as follows, with each management area assigned to a partner, based on their interests and skill level. The responsible partner should retain management of his assigned area for an extended time period to increase his effectiveness.

1. Financial and Administrative – This area involves the hiring, training, and motivated front office personnel, including the receptionist and those who schedule patients, performing accounting functions, billing and collections, accounts payable, and insurance. It also includes maintaining relations with the practice’s CPA and bank, preparation of practice financial statement, and retirement plan contributions. This area also includes long-term planning, such as establishing new locations, expanding office space, or purchasing another practice and merging it. The responsible partner should also set practice financial goals and establish a budget annually, subject to the approval of all partners.

2. Facility and Equipment – This management area oversees repairs and maintenance of the facility, as well as all dental and office furniture and equipment.  It also includes maintenance and repairs to the parking areas.

3. Clinical Personnel – This management area involves the hiring, training, and motivating of back office clinical staff.

4. Professional Supplies and Lab – The partner responsible for this area must supervise purchasing of all professional (dental/medical) supplies and supervise lab procedures. This includes establishing an order point for supplies, the quantity to order, and suppliers to order from. If the practice operates an in-house lab, the lab staff would also be under this partner’s supervision. Furthermore, determining whether to perform lab procedures in-house or use a third party lab is also included in this area of responsibility.

5. Professional Relations – This area is much more important for specialty practices than for general practices, due to the large percentage of patients that are doctor-referred. This partner has the responsibility for developing and monitoring programs to encourage doctors to refer patients to the specialty practice.

6. Patient and Public Relations – This management area includes establishing and operating a patient referral program and related rewards, preparing public relations material, community recognition, and partnerships for the practice, as well as operation of the recall program.

7. Evaluation of New Technology and Treatment Techniques – This management area requires the doctor to evaluate new technology for potential purchase. It also requires evaluating new treatment techniques and materials. With technology and treatment modalities changing rapidly, it’s critical that group practices regularly evaluate this area to remain on the cutting edge of clinical quality.

8. Patient Quality Control – This management area requires establishing a level of quality of care that will be uniform for all patients. Moreover, it requires the doctor to establish and maintain patient records and related storage, to assure that proper records will be available if needed in the event of a malpractice claim.

The “golden rule” for group practice management success is that the responsible partner will maintain his area of management, but will not change its level of function without partner approval. For example, if an assistant terminates employment, the responsible partner has a duty to hire a suitable replacement, without requiring the approval of the other partners. However, if he wishes to add an additional assistant, he must have partner approval, since this represents a change in the level of practice function.

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