Career Paths

Hospital’s new venture is step up career ladder

Access skills a fit for practice management

Her hospital’s venture into management of a medical practice has presented a new career opportunity for Susan Pouliot, RN, MA, the longtime director of patient registration for Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, FL.

The new position, director of Titusville Family Practice, appears almost tailor-made for Pouliot, who took steps during her 14-year tenure as patient registration director to prepare for career advancement. These achievements stand out when she considers the qualifications that made her a strong candidate for the job:

• a master’s degree in computer resource and information management and a second master’s in health service management, which she’ll complete in May;

• experience as a physician liaison, including responsibility for a quarterly office staff luncheon;

• active participation in preparing for surveys by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO);

• familiarity with the hospital’s computer system.

Under Parrish Medical Center’s arrangement with Titusville Family Practice, the hospital will not own the practice, just manage it, Pouliot says. The physicians will be employees of the hospital, and so will their staffs. The plan is that eventually the practice will grow, with other physicians coming on board, she adds, but for now the focus is on improving the existing practice.

"Right now, they’re very busy, but somehow the volumes are not that high," Pouliot says. "We’ll try to increase patient volume. Two physicians are leaving, so we’ll be recruiting other physicians to replace them, as well as adding two nurse practitioners."

The hospital will use a project engineer to look at the practice’s process flow, "to see if we can make the process easier and faster," an effort Pouliot also will be involved in, she adds.

Although the hospital’s contract with the physician practice is effective Feb. 1, Pouliot assumed her position in mid-December. Her immediate challenge, she says, was twofold: to get the computer system up and running and to bring office staff up to par with the hospital’s benefits and pay scales.

Parrish Medical Center will buy the physician practice module for Meditech, its computer system, and bring Titusville Family Practice on-line, she says. "Once we get that going in their office, we will offer it to the other physicians we have on staff." The physician practice module will allow physicians more leeway and flexibility in accessing hospital data, she notes. "They will be able to schedule their own outpatient testing, get statistics, and so forth."

Using wireless technology, Parrish will connect the medical practice to its hospital information system network, Pouliot adds, and physicians likely will be able to use the system’s transcription capability. "We’re now transcribing in Microsoft Word, which is converted into our patient care inquiry system. We’re thinking of tying in [the practice physicians], so if a patient of theirs comes into the emergency department [ED], the ED physician knows what happened on the patient’s last office visit." If the patient says, for example, that a pink pill was prescribed but does not know the name of the medication, the ED physician will be able to look and see exactly what the medication was, she notes.

Another focus will be on evaluating the medical practice’s antiquated telephone system, which has caused patients to experience long hold times and difficulty getting through to the office, she says.

Along with the demands of technology, Pouliot points out, she will face a human resources issue with the office staff. "Employees are feeling insecure because things are changing. They’re used to being in a small practice, and now they’re becoming part of a larger facility. One of the big challenges is to keep up their morale."

In her new position, Pouliot will learn more about the office staff’s needs, she says, allowing her to become an even more effective physician-hospital liaison. "In patient registration, we’re always complaining about the physician offices, saying, Why can’t they do this and that?’ Now I will see why they can’t do this and that."

In addition to her continuing oversight of the office staff luncheon, she will conduct coding workshops for office staff and keep them abreast of new Medicare requirements, Pouliot says. "I’ll have two offices, one at the physicians’ office and one at the hospital. They want me to know what’s going on in both places."

Her previous position will be "re-engineered," she says, but a replacement will be sought and the job will remain at the director level. "The complaints were unbelievable when I came in 14 years ago, and now there are virtually no complaints. They don’t want to go backwards. The CEO is adamant about that."

Her new job can lead to more opportunity for career advancement, she says. "There are possibilities of growth as more and more practices come on. I was looking for something challenging, and I certainly have gotten it."