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Lab manager as group practice administrator.

Lab manager as group practice administrator

Several years ago I acquired a new job without filling out an application, being interviewed, or for that matter, quitting my old job. The additional title of group practice administrator was thrust upon me.

New jobs like mine followed formation of pathology group practices associated with hospitals, a response to changes in Federal reimbursement policies during the 1980s. Pathologists were required to bill Medicare separately for most anatomic pathology services they provided. Payment for limited clinical pathology consults were also allowed under specified circumstances.

Many hospital administrators and pathologists saw in this a way to lower hospital costs and possibly raise pathologists' compensation. Thus arose separate group practices based in but structurally independent of hospitals.

When it came time to administer such ventures, many pathologists chose the most logical and convenient individual--the hospital laboratory manager.

If you are a lab manager, the added role of group practice administrator provides an opportunity to break out of the technical and service aspects of your current position and broaden your skills and expertise. Keep in mind, though, that this role places new demands on you and requires skills vastly different from those you possess.

The first and perhaps most important thing you must acquire is reimbursement expertise. You need to be aware of the proper procedure codes to be able to bill for pathology services. The fiscal viability of the group practice depends on rapid and proper recording of patient demographic information and billing codes. The group practice administrator has to set up frequent in-service sessions to inform pathologists and staff about the importance of correct procedure coding.

A skill you probably have, but may need to hone, is negotiation technique. Instead of seeking the best prices for reagents or laboratory instruments, you may find yourself discussing appropriate reimbursement levels with various third-party payers.

Quite often the level of group practice income hinges on the administrator's negotiating power. Increasingly, hospitals have been negotiating per diem rates for use of their services by proliferating preferred provider organizations and health maintenance organizations, leaving pathologists and other hospital-based physicians to fend for themselves.

As a medical office manager, you will face cumbersome and sometimes unpleasant duties, such as setting up an audit trail to track timely patient payment, dunning patients, hiring collection agencies, and dealing with patient complaints.

While the position of group practice administrator will undoubtedly increase your work-load, there are certain advantages to wearing two hats. One is the closer association you will have with the pathologists. Because pathologists will rely to a large extent on your skills for their level of compensation, you should find them more responsive to your ideas and suggestions. In addition, financial bonuses may also fall your way as group members recognize your contribution to the success of their bottom line.

The obvious disadvantage, of course, is the demand this new role may place on your time and abilities. New responsibilities may also further complicate the dual reporting role most laboratory administrators now have to the lab director and a hospital administrator.

Administration of a group practice does not necessarily mean you have to run the whole show. For novice administrators, it might be more advantageous to contract with an outsider to provide billing services and reimbursement expertise. A number of companies perform these services for a relatively modest fee. Overall responsibility for administration remains yours, however.

Despite the disadvantages, be enthusiastic if you find yourself in the combined position of laboratory manager and group practice administrator. Look upon it as an opportunity to advance your career and increase your authority and visibility within the institution. Remember, two jobs are better than none.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:pathology groups
Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1988
Words:610
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