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St. Anthony's Physician Organization
Never a Dull Moment: Serving with SAPO
We’ve all been to the doctor many times, but few of us know the workings of a medical office from the inside out. What’s it like to manage a busy practice, with phones ringing nearly non-stop and patients coming and going all day?
“It takes the whole staff working together to make a successful day,” said Sherry Kohlenberger, group manager of two successful St. Anthony’s Physician Organization (SAPO) practices, Premier Women’s Health Care and Urogynecology Consultants. “Some days are challenging, but also very satisfying.”
On a recent Friday, Kohlenberger unlocked Premier’s office shortly before the 7 a.m. opening time, only to learn that five of the office phones were not working. Her first challenge was to work with Information Services to have the lines brought back up.
A four-year SAPO veteran, Kohlenberger never is quite sure what the day will hold. One day, you might find her working the front desk to cover a staffing shortfall. Another day, she may be found working on payroll, office budgeting and bank deposits of co-pays and other revenue, coordinating operations with physicians, and dealing with employees, vendors and patients.
The square of carpeting that sits atop her desk indicates yet more decision-making: Premier will be expanding soon, with final architectural plans drafted for three new exam rooms, an additional physician office, and new offices for Kohlenberger and the surgery scheduler. She’s been working with staff on the plans since October, and will soon adjust the office layout and schedule to cope with the construction upheaval.
“Every day is something new,” she smiles.
A 20-year medical management veteran, Kohlenberger has worked in the field for 25 years. Her first job involved working with medical records for a private office on Grand Boulevard, next door to where the old St. Anthony’s Hospital once stood.
“Being part of a great practice and knowing the confidence that the providers show in me to make the correct day-to-day decisions to make our practices the best they can be is very rewarding,” she said.
Donna Sertl agrees. As office manager of Lemay Internal and Family Medicine, and soon to become office manager of South County Family and Sports Medicine, she finds that her days fly by.
“We take care of patients sometimes minute by minute,” she said. “We have a goal to answer the phone within three rings. We do not have a recording: our patients always get a ‘real’ person to talk to.”
Lemay’s patients pose challenges in both culture and language: most are from the Bosnian community in south St. Louis and South County. About 95 percent are Bosnian, and most do not speak English. To make them feel more comfortable, the staff at Lemay is Bosnian, as are both physicians. The office uses Bosnian patient satisfaction surveys, interpreters, signs written in Bosnian, and leaves appointment openings on the books for patients who walk in and want to be seen right away.
“The joy of helping patients who have no one else to turn to, due to the language barrier, is very rewarding,” Sertl said. “We resolve issues with patients who are so grateful to us, and that makes us all feel so good.”
Sertl has worked at St. Anthony’s for 25 years. Her typical work day begins at 7 a.m., when she reviews her emails from the previous evening.
“I balance all of the co-pays and get the deposit ready for the bank,” she said. “I help answer the phones, help patients with their bills to us, and other providers. I help the physicians with computer issues. I also ensure there is enough staff to cover the physicians for the day. I meet with outside vendors and payers. I handle all employee issues and review the physicians’ progress notes daily for correct coding, documentation, etc.”
It all comes down to care, Sertl noted.
“We are here to serve our patients, no matter what the need is,” she said. “We are passionate about making sure we care for every patient, every day.”
And there’s always room for improvement, Kohlenberger said.
“When visiting my physician, I always observe the operation of that practice to see if there is anything done there that we could incorporate into our practices,” Kohlenberger said.
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
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