Hire a manager to improve profits and sanity

Study analyzes cost of running a practice without help on the business side
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Dec 01, 2007


Hiring a practice manager
ALACHUA, FLA. — Veterinarians could be losing tens of thousands of dollars each year by leaving one clinic position unfilled — practice manager.

Based on the feedback of 132 practices, the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) 2007 Diagnostic Survey revealed the average veterinarian generates just over $284 per hour practicing veterinary medicine — yet stands to lose almost 90 percent of those earnings during each hour spent on practice-management duties.

"The loss to the clinic is calculated by multiplying the amount the average doctor generates per hour by the total hours spent on management duties, non-revenue-generating duties," says Christine Shupe, VHMA executive director.

Loss of revenue for the average veterinarian who chooses management duties over medicine is $250 an hour, according to the report. This means if the average veterinarian spends four hours weekly on management duties, the practice can stand to lose more than $50,000 in one year.

That amount can rise for higher per-doctor production figures, says Karl Salzsieder, DVM, JD and veterinary consultant with Salzsieder Consulting and Legal Services in Kelso, Wash. and Veterinary Economics advisory board member.

"The key to maximizing production in a veterinary hospital is to keep the veterinarian busy practicing veterinary medicine," Shupe contends.

Delegation may help veterinarians keep their sanity and patience, Salzsieder says. "Only a few have that personality or interest that makes [management duties] enjoyable. For most, the management side is an aggravation, which is another reason they shouldn't do it," he says.

Mainstreaming managers

Practice owners seem to have already taken notice of the report's conclusions. "While there is no way to accurately measure the percentages of all practices that have recently hired managers, full-time-manager membership in the VHMA has increased steadily by nine percent to 11 percent over the last few years," Shupe says.

No veterinarian should be without a manager, even if it is a current practice employee who devotes several hours weekly to the task, Salzsieder says.

Those DVMs who are reluctant to delegate managerial responsibilities —for lack of trust, qualified personnel, time or other reasons — need to weigh the potential financial and professional benefits against the drawbacks. Managers can focus specifically on their responsibilities without the distraction of seeing patients, while also potentially improving budgeting, marketing, staff motivation and record-keeping, according to the report.

Help wanted

How does one find someone to manage a practice?

Start by deciding how much time the practice demands.

"With one doctor, you need a one-day-a-week manager. Generally, it is about a day a week per doctor for up to five doctors," Salzsieder says. "It is better to break it out and say one and one-half to two hours a day of management duties for a one-doctor practice."

Also, qualified management candidates do not have to come from a veterinary medicine or health-care background. "Many successful hospital managers have come from retail, hospitality or banking backgrounds where they already learned how to deal with staff, clients, budgets, inventory, etc.," the report concludes.

But an outside management expert does not need to be brought in, Salzsieder says. "In smaller practices that need less than a 25-to 30-hour-a-week manager, you can have an internal person converted to this role because it is better to have someone on the premises all the time."

All aspects of management — facilities, inventory, staffing, accounting, etc. — can be divided among different practice employees, based on their expertise. But an overseeing point person should be selected to update the doctor weekly.