Private Practices

Training up private practice staff fast to help fill MA needs

Len Strazewski , Contributing News Writer

Phones are ringing, messengers are waiting and emails are going unanswered. That’s the scene in understaffed physician private practices that have been unable to train and hire medical assistants qualified to provide administrative support.

Keep your practice running

The AMA is fighting to keep private practice a viable option for physicians. We're working to remove unnecessary burdens so physicians can reclaim the time they need to focus on patients. 

Rapid reskilling—training generally educated office staff to handle some clinical functions—may be the answer, and a nonprofit is developing a new training program using artificial intelligence and other technology.

Isotonik Solutions, based in Potomac, Maryland, is a finalist in the international XPRIZE competition, which supports the development of new technology to respond to contemporary social and business problems. Isotonik is a finalist—and has already won $300,000—for its entry in the “rapid reskilling” division, which is a 30-month competition with a $5 million prize purse. Isotonik could win up to $1.5 million.

The winner, which will be chosen early this year, must train 5,000 people in 90 days or less and ensure job retention for at least 60 days. Isotonik, launched by a coterie of experts and marketers from several international companies, was named a finalist last year after presenting a reskilling process using advanced technology and curriculum.

Isotonik is offering its reskilling services at no charge to physician private practices and other health care organizations through March as it continues to participate in the XPRIZE process and develop a track record for its process, said Isotonik co-founder and team leader Komal Kaul. She is an adviser and executive with several international nonprofits and has advanced degrees in physics and biotechnology.

For more information about participating in the free reskilling training, visit Isotonik’s website.

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While medical assistants can receive some training in other medical education programs such as nursing school or community college special programs, they are difficult to recruit, and physician private practices often rely on professional or association job boards to reach candidates.

“There’s a complete shortage” of MAs, Kaul noted, and physician practices “are suffering now.”

She added that, in some cases, “the physicians are having to do the front desk job, hence the medical assistant training. That's the entry level, in-the-door position that doesn't require certification in the industry. And then you can grow within the industry.”

Dr. Silpa Saladi, a foreign-trained medical technology industry executive, contributes physician perspective to the team.

“The goal here is to reskill people, to put them into jobs that they may not have been in before. We're trying to get more people into the workforce,” she said. As for physician practices, the “goal is to equip them with whatever they need so that they can improve and focus on patient care.”

“We realized through our two rounds [of the XPRIZE competition] that there is a complete disconnect between the academia or the training centers and the employers,” Dr. Saladi said. “There are many times when employers are not able to reach the right people. Second, it is very expensive to get trained. So many people don't get trained. But in the medical industry, if you're not trained—you don't get hired. “

It takes astute clinical judgment as well as a commitment to collaboration and solving challenging problems to succeed in independent settings that are often fluid, and the AMA offers the resources and support physicians need to both start and sustain success in private practice.

Among these are the AMA Private Practice Simple Solutions series of free, open-access rapid-learning cycles that provide opportunities to implement actionable changes that can immediately increase efficiency in private practices. A previous session outlined advice to help meet recruiting challenges.

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The medical assistant rapid reskilling curriculum was generated through interviews with physician practices and health systems, Dr. Saladi said.

“The reason that we have this training is to equip someone to start working the day they finish their training,” she added. “They're ready to go. They're prepared for the workforce on day one, there's no extra time. I mean, obviously there there's a little bit of time for adjustment, but a lot less than it would be if you hire someone straight out of college with no prior experience.”

“We sat down with multiple health systems” and multiple physician practices “and found out what their biggest concerns were,” Dr. Saladi said. Isotonik then took the “the full curriculum of a medical assistant” and honed it down to what would be needed “for day one of being in the workforce.

Find out more about the AMA Private Practice Physicians Section, which seeks to preserve the freedom, independence and integrity of private practice.