Do I need another medical assistant?

This is one of the top 10 questions I receive as a medical consultant, and my answer is always the same:

  1. Are you doing things that you are not required to do as a physician?
  2. Do you ever find yourself saying:
    • Crap! I forgot to do that!
    • I am running late.
    • I will do that test later.
    • I will dispense those wound care supplies on the next visit.
    • I have 3 hours of charting to do.
    • Why is my bank balance so low?

Chances are you need another medical assistant and/or protocols.

How can I possibly afford another medical assistant?

My answer is, how can you not afford one? There are so many missed opportunity costs when a physician tries to do it all.

  • How many biopsies did you put off until the next visit?
  • How many braces and products did you not dispense because of time?
  • How many things did you forget to do?
  • How many times did patients not pay at the time of service, and you never received a dime?
  • How many times did patients not pay at the time of service, and you never received a dime?
  • How many MA’s quit because they were burnt out?

Physicians lose money all the time due to inefficiency and poorly run offices. Not collecting a patient’s deductible, not dispensing a month’s supply of wound care supplies, not dispensing a brace; all those things quickly pay for a medical assistant or two…or three. Medical assistants can soon pay for themselves.

How many medical assistants do I need?

There should always be more medical assistants than physicians—if medical assistants are doing everything they are trained to do, and the doctor is doing ONLY what they are required to do.

A medical assistant will spend at least twice the amount of time with a patient than the physician. It only makes mathematical sense that there are more MAs than physicians.

In most cases, a doctor’s office with a high procedure rate should have as many MAs as treatment rooms that are being used. The MA should take the patient back, do x-rays, set up for biopsies, equipment needed, lab orders, consent forms, and DME supplies that could be dispensed, pull injections, and set up all procedure trays before the physician enters the room. Then the MA should stay with the physician to assist and document care.

After the physician leaves the room an MA can wrap the foot, dispense wound care supplies and products, go over post-op instructions and good shoes, scan for orthotics, take cast of AFO’s, apply total contact casts, schedule the next visit, go over insurance information, answer any questions a patient has, and finish the office note.

Doing all this, the MA may be with the patient for an hour, while the physician can be in the room only 5-10 minutes.

Am I overstaffed?

Occasionally I visit an office that is overstaffed. Yes, during clinic hours, you may need 6-8 staff members with one physician. But, if the physician is not in the office, no one needs 6-8 staff members in the office. If you are running with 4 MAs during clinic time, they are not required when the doctor is doing surgery, or out of the office.

Schedule your employees’ time correctly.

In Conclusion

Let others help you.

You will be much more effective as a physician and as a business owner. Make your time more valuable and do the things that you love and the things that you are legally required to do as a physician. Your bank account, employees, and family will thank you.

Holly Burkman
Holly Burkman, MBA

Holly is a recognized international speaker and author. Working with her husband to build a medical practice from the ground up, she has handled all aspects of the podiatry field from medical assisting to billing and practice management. Currently, she spends her time as a practice management consultant helping physicians learn how to run successful medical practices by implementing protocols. Holly holds numerous degrees and certificates that give her the credibility to help practices; however, it is the years of personal in-office experience that allow her to offer customized solutions that make practices profitable again.