Thursday, September 11, 2008

How to do an Operational Manual for a Practitioner's Office

You really ought to do a "how to" type guide for things you and your staff "do" in your business.  Basically, what you ought to have is an operational manual.    An operational manual is very important for a business to have as it can enable the business to continue to function after you or any particular staff member has left the business.  A good one essentially makes the business larger than any one particular individual, including you.  But you don't have to do it all in one day, or even one week, month, year, or decade.

The concept of "Operational Manual" can be intimidating.  When I think of one, I see a huge binder with thousands of pages of documents that makes for the most boring reading material ever.  Of course, after you've worked on your manual for several years, it'll hopefully look just like the boring one I just described.

You could and should do your manual piecemeal: a little at a time.  And you may wish to include the staff in the process.  Since they are the ones that do most of the actual work that is detailed in the manual, the staff are probably the people most qualified to write it.  I had my technician write down for me the exact steps that she takes when she does a semen analysis.  I then reviewed the steps with her and found ways that could make her more efficient and accurate.  Conversely I discovered--through her--methods to improve the process of semen analysis; the same with urine analysis.  Writing the operational manual with my MA/tech has been an educational process for both of us. 

In my offices, we have documented the processes for digital back-up & recovery, disaster plans, instrument prep and sterilization, specimen collection and handling, phone triage and etiquette, scheduling procedures, copay collection and even how to use the credit card processor.

My operational manual has been a work in progress that started one day in February 2006 as I sat in the The Smithtown Library and planned my new practice.  Over the past 2 1/2 years, I have added to it, subtracted from it, revised parts of it, and learned from it.  The manual has a paper form, but really it has been converted to more of a digital format.  The original document still resides on the shared drive on my office computer but now I keep copies of all the documents and all the newer documents on my Google documents site.  This way, I can revise them from anywhere, at any time.  In addition, with Google documents, you can give staff "collaborator" priveledges and you can adjust settings on the documents site so that it will notify you whenever a change was made by the collaborator.  I don't do this, but you could and I can see the benefits of it.

Also, you can also buy an operational manual from a commercial site, such as the MGMA.  But I don't recommend this because the process of writing the manual is what makes you, your staff, and your practice better.

So start today and after several years, you'll have created something pretty impressive.
Let me know how it goes.