The Private Practice Administrator
A profile in networking, advocacy, and professionalism.
By Scott C. Spradling
When I first joined our practice, even though I had over 20 years of health care management experience, I knew very little about physical therapy. I thought, well it must be like a bike—you have wheels, pedals, handlebars, and a seat, just hop on and go. I soon found that all the gears and levers were vastly different than my past experience and the mechanics for keeping the wheels turning smoothly and efficiently required me to acquire and learn information fast.
Plenty of material can be found online from experts—many of whom are associated with our national and/or state organizations—but what I was really looking for were the folks like me wanting to discuss real-world situations and ask real-world questions.
I soon learned about the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association, a small group of mostly local physical therapy administrators, office managers, and billing managers who get together once a quarter for a luncheon to learn and share information about the latest changes, developments, problems, or dynamics that affect the everyday operation of the private practice physical therapy business. What an amazing group to find, people just like me trying to figure out just exactly how to bill for “neuromuscular reeducation” to a motor vehicle accident (MVA) personal injury protection (PIP) carrier without them denying it as “investigational.”
Shortly after finding this state association, the national PPS Conference came to Seattle in 2011 and introduced the first Administrators Certificate Course. I jumped at the opportunity and went through the six-module course, took the exam, and thankfully passed. I also joined the Administrators Council that year. I found it interesting that many people in the state association, the Administrators Certificate program, or the PPS Administrators Council did not know about each other, even though both have been around for more than 20 years. I quickly learned that a great number of smaller or solo practices had a “biller” or an “office manager” who was responsible for important elements of the revenue cycle, yet they had little or no access to the wealth of information and resources available to them. Many people I spoke with did not even know of Impact magazine, let alone a column for administrators. This is not to imply that practice owners were not making these resources available, but rather that many practice owners also had no idea these resources were available.
The mission of the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association is to provide a network of education and information that advances the role of the administrator in the profession of physical therapy. Since being voted in as president in 2011, with the hard work of our five-member board, we have continually challenged our members to become active and involved, be better informed, and raise the bar. In the past three years, our quarterly luncheons have evolved into all-day conferences that offer presentations on a wide range of topics given by leading industry experts. We have seen our membership grow to include practice owners as well as their administrative staff, and we have been professionally recognized by and work closely with our state’s APTA and PPS chapters.
The best weapon a private practice owner can have in their arsenal is their administrator. The best way an administrator can become that is to get involved, stay informed, and network. Some of these national conferences can be rather costly for the small or solo practices, but for just $50 annually an administrator can join the PPS Administrators Council, which provides a great network of information. And if your state does not have a managers association, start one. All it takes is two people getting together and sharing ideas. I also recommend enlisting the help of your state’s physical therapy chapter, asking if they would help spread the word. I have yet to find a private practice owner who says they do not want their administrative staff to be better informed.
Several of our members are now not only certified administrators through PPS, but also are involved in the Administrators Council and are becoming key resources for practice administration and management. Administrators have a responsibility to care for the practice so the practitioners can care for the patients, creating a valuable and rewarding partnership.
Scott C. Spradling is a member of the PPS Administrators Council and a certified administrator since 2011. He is the administrator of Movement Systems Physical Therapy in Seattle, Washington, and can be reached at email@example.com.