What Emotional Intelligence Means to Eye Health Practice Managers

By Byrd Evans on April 25, 2018

Running a busy eye health practice (whether the doctors are optometrists, ophthalmologists or both) is a challenge. This kind of physician’s office is generally open most weekdays throughout the year, except for a few holidays. The volume of patients to be seen each day goes up and down and employee turnover will affect the level of patient care. A good practice manager must hire, train and assign staff members to ensure that all areas of the practice run smoothly or patients will be adversely affected.

Recently, the American Association of Ophthalmologists (AAO) asked practice managers to talk about what habits they found to be important for effectiveness in their jobs. After all, they must juggle so many competing obligations (i.e. running a business, overseeing billing and ensuring organizational compliance with federal and state laws regarding patient data). These aren’t simple processes to oversee; this places qualified practice managers in great demand.

What Makes a Strong Practice Manager?

The funny thing about a practice manager is that they’re the equivalent of an executive professional such as a school principal or a car dealership general manager. It takes a certain amount of fortitude to assume this kind of leadership role, especially when including the need to balance the requirements of many employees. If you want a great practice manager, we encourage you to ask your physicians what they believe is needed. What works today could be different than in the past because our workforce has changed and the legal requirements on every practice has and will change in our health care environment.

Today, the workplace includes more older workers than ever before. Practices could employ members of five generations under the same roof including Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Millennials (Generation Y) and Centennials (Generation Z). Each generation brings different beliefs to work and it’s sometimes difficult for them to coexist. A strong practice manager will be able to work with all people, regardless of their backgrounds, and make decisions that are sensitive to their needs.

Who Can Handle the Pressure?

It takes a special person to be able to work under pressure while managing a diverse group of people. This must occur while keeping the eye health practice profitable. An interesting article about the connection between emotional intelligence and self-esteem was published in the Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy. The article makes us suggests that that the skill set needed from managers has changed, especially in the last two decades. Bibi, Saqlain and Mussawar suggested that emotional intelligence could be defined as the ability to understand emotions so that one can evaluate thoughts. People with high emotional intelligence may be considered mature, but they’re also masters of self-regulation. Think of them as having high self-esteem and confidence in abundance. They tend to bounce back easily from setbacks and to feel positive about the world. Outside influences do not usually shake them, good or bad.

Is Communication Tied to Emotions?

It’s important here not to confuse emotional intelligence with cognitive intelligence. The former seems to complement the latter when it comes to practice management. For example, if a practice manager must fire a long-term employee who is a favorite among doctors and patients, there will be an impact on everyone in the office. Nonetheless, if this employee did something so egregious that termination is indicated, it’s a business decision. A person with high cognitive intelligence determines that termination is necessary but might select the wrong way to go about it. A person with high emotional intelligence tries to understand how the employee will feel and how the decision will impact the workplace culture. They anticipate the negative feelings that employees will have about the termination and plan how to deal with them. That being said, practice managers may have too many competing demands on their time. Finding time to prepare employees for such an event could be impossible. It’s really a matter of looking at the practice’s current working conditions and determining the top priorities.

We Live in a World with Changing Gender Definitions

The same article confirms that females generally have higher emotional intelligence than males, at least in a sample of 250 Pakistani college students. In the current workplace, gender definitions are changing. It’s not fair to generalize that female practice managers will be better equipped to use emotional intelligence than their male counterparts. It is fair to say that all practice managers, regardless of gender, can expand their professional training in order to increase their emotional intelligence. This could include using one’s senses and knowledge about verbal and nonverbal behavior to show more sensitivity to workers’ emotions. A good example would be making a flexible schedule that accommodates employees who work part-time including retirees returning to the workforce, parents of newborns and college students with class schedules that change each term. While a manager may not be in a position to offer every position to a part-time worker, people with scheduling limitations can be included whenever possible.

Leadership Matters

Eye health practice managers must use their emotional intelligence to regulate their own emotions in tense situations. This includes when they must manage conflicts between employees, intervene when physicians have problems with patients or employees and assist when patients have difficulties. A manager sets the tone for the entire practice. If managers are in a bad mood or are unable to regulate their emotions, then they will negatively impact other people in the same office.

In some cases, it may be more beneficial to outsource certain job responsibilities such as medical billing. Because this is such a detail-oriented and complex task, outsourcing this important task could help take extra pressure off your practice manager. Agnite Health LLC, an affiliate of Advantage Administration, Inc., can not only lighten the medical billing load from your internal employees; we can also improve your revenue flow. The more streamlined your medical billing, the fewer outstanding payments your practice will have. For more details, please contact us today.