A standard operating procedures document or series of documents keep the work flowing in case of emergency
Your billing manager is invaluable. They’ve been right there with you since the first day you opened your practice. They started out as your receptionist before taking over billing. They were also your IT troubleshooter and sometimes morale officer. Over time, as your practice grew, they helped nurture it right alongside you.
Although they now only pinch hit as a receptionist, they still know each of your patients by name, and always remember to ask how children, spouses, and sometimes even family pets are doing. You couldn’t even imagine trying to run your practice without your billing manager by your side.
Except now the unthinkable has happened. Your billing manager has decided to retire. While it is certainly true that the rest of your staff excels at their jobs, nobody understood the ins and outs of coding like your billing manager. What will you do once they are gone? Now you are left with a hole to fill in your office staff.
A scenario such as this is an excellent reason to start looking at creating a standard operating procedure document (SOP) or set of manuals now, rather than after critical personnel have left. What exactly are SOP manuals, and how can they improve your office efficiency and effectiveness?
The standard operating procedures document
Standard operating procedures are step-by-step instructions for how to do the various tasks in your office that keep it running smoothly and efficiently. These tasks can include everything from sorting mail, to billing, to scripts for answering the phone.
SOPs are designed so that anyone in your office — including you — can perform that particular task if the person who usually does it is unable to do so.
Writing the standard operating procedures document
Writing all the SOPs for your office will be time-consuming, so it is best to tackle it in pieces, such as devoting an hour or two per week. Have the primary person responsible for the task break it down into sections, starting with the name of the task, which items are needed for the task, and then the task steps.
If the task involves using files on the computer, include the steps necessary to find the files and navigate any computer programs. Finally, each SOP should explain what to do once the task has been finished. So if we use sending patients appointment reminder cards as a simplified example:
SOP Name: Appointment Reminder Cards
Items Needed: Printed cards, stamps or postage meter, address labels
- Run computer search for patients with appointments in the next two weeks
- Include steps for running search
- Print address labels
- Include steps for printing labels
- Affix labels to reminder cards
- Affix stamps or run through postage meter
- Mail out cards
Prepare for new staff
Obviously, this is a very stripped-down example. You will want to customize this to fit the needs of your particular practice. However, it is meant to be a springboard to get you to think about how to prepare yourself for the day that your trusty staff member leaves.
Having a full set of SOPs will not only allow your other staff members to pick up the slack until you have hired a new person into that position, but will help that new hire acclimate into their duties as quickly as possible.