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BC Advantage (BCA): How would you describe your experience as a Practice Manager?
Allison Hiott (AH): I have practiced many different specialties in my time with the Greenville Health System and I feel all have given me different amounts of experience. I love the physician side of managing. I have worked on the hospital side in different roles but managing a practice has been much more enjoyable. It allows me to work on skills to deal with difficult employees as well as difficult patients but also to learn how to reward and retain the good employees.
BCA: What about this particular field interested you and how did you get started?
AH: I originally went to cosmetology school and started working for the hospital system in 1989. I immediately knew this was where I was supposed to be. Call it being nosey or nerdy but I wanted to learn more and more about how patients were taken care of and learn more and more what made a hospital run. So needless to say, I quit cosmetology and concentrated on working, learning and growing in the healthcare system. I have now been with GHS for 24 years in various roles. Each role has set me up for the next.
BCA: You started out as a medical records clerk and worked your way up to a Practice Manager, how much time and effort did you have to put forth to make it this far in your profession?
AH: I applied lots of time and work. You need to really stay engaged. Get to know people, volunteer for projects when you can. Get your name and face out there. That is how I would get to know people. I would work hard and prove I could learn fast and was dependable. So it only took one person to notice your work ethics and talents and call you about potential jobs they had open and wanted you to apply for. That is how I moved up each time I moved. I always moved into a higher role.
BCA: Can you describe a typical day for you as a Practice Manager?
AH: Wow, this is hard to answer. In many jobs you have tasks you complete for the day and then you go home. With Practice Managers, our way to describe it is "putting out fires" all day. You of course have things due at certain times, budget information, evaluations of staff, payroll, etc. But most days you are just fixing things that come up. My computer is not working, the sink is leaking, I need this ordered, I need this fixed, I need you to come talk to an upset patient, finding coverage and rearranging staff to cover all aspects of the job if people are out sick, etc. So no one day is alike.
BCA: With ICD-10 starting October 1, 2014, how much impact will that have on you and how are you preparing your staff for the transition?
AH: It will not impact us in a huge way since we are a specialty and don't have as many codes that we will have to learn. GHS as a whole is offering training to the coding staff.
BCA: How did your degree prepare you for a career as a Practice Manager?
AH: All the jobs, including my degrees have prepared me to be a practice manager because many of the jobs of the employees I manage I have actually done at some point in my career. So I feel this gives me an advantage to understand what they go through and how to mentor them.
BCA: What has been the most complex assignment so far for you?
AH: Transitioning this large practice to an electronic medical record system.
BCA: What kind of challenges have you faced when training and supervising your department staff?
AH: Having enough staff to get them trained before having to just throw them into the roles. We are so busy when we lose one employee and have to train a new one it is difficult because the work load doesn't decrease.
BCA: What kind of performance standards do you have for your unit?
AH: They are given their job description and on the job training and I hold them accountable to this. We do a yearly performance evaluation on our staff. I monitor their errors as well as their accomplishments throughout the year to do an evaluation that is fair and accurate.
BCA: What kind of advice can you provide to our readers who are looking to obtain the same career as you?
AH: Work hard, prove yourself, and get to know as many people in the workplace as you can. Network as often as you can; make sure if they have the opportunity to work on projects to volunteer.
BCA: What do you like most and least about being a Practice Manager?
AH: I love being able to make a difference and make a practice successful. I like a challenge. This practice is very challenging. There are now 53 of us in UMR so it is rather large. Our daily average of patients seen is about 300 a day. I like the least in dealing with difficult staff.
BCA: When you have to make an important decision and don't have all the correct facts, how do you handle the situation?
AH: I typically investigate as much as I can to get as many facts as I can. I try to be fair and just in any decision I make and I am very careful to not jump to conclusions. If it involves staff I interview them and counsel and mentor them all. If it involves a much bigger scale of a decision I involve my Director for guidance.
BCA: What has been your greatest achievement so far in your career?
AH: I feel everything I have done and accomplished here with GHS is my greatest accomplishment. I started as a file clerk in medical records, and with hard work I worked my way up to the Practice Manager status. I passed the AAPC exam for Coding as well as the AHIMA one to be a CCS. These were both very hard classes and exams. I also recently took on the role of Regional Director of the SC chapter of AHIMA. I feel I worked hard to get my name out there and that is the most important thing you can do.
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