As a consultant, my job is not just to help clients to solve business problems, but also to help educate clients on the best ways to maximize their return on the investment they are making for our services.
Naturally some physicians are afraid to use consultants. They may know that they need help with their practice but are often concerned about costs, and frankly, how to even go about engaging one!
1. Do you need a consultant?
Consultants are best utilized for highly specialized areas, such as insurance contract negotiations, succession planning, strategic business planning, coding audits, practice assessments, practice valuations, mergers, practice start-ups, EHR selection, and those sorts of occasional, single-need projects. If you have needs like these, hiring an experienced expert who knows how to do it right will be worth your investment.
Do not use consultants for things like billing and credentialing, day-to-day management and finance, and human resource management. These are longer-term, daily activities, and as such, you should either hire the in-house experience you need or outsource these functions altogether.
2. What's the difference between outsourcing and using a consultant?
Consultants are usually highly specialized professionals who focus on specific, singular issues and help you to implement solutions. Engagements are usually short term in nature, and designed to produce results in a set period of time, for example, contract negotiations. Pricing is usually based on an hourly rate reflective of the consultant's experience and qualifications.
If you have daily needs that are ongoing, such as patient billing or human resource management, there are many companies to which you can outsource those functions effectively. You will typically sign a service agreement and usually engage the company for a period of at least a year. Pricing for these services are based on long-term contracts and calculated across volume. If would be much more expensive to utilize a consultant to perform these sorts of administrative functions for you.
3. Finding a consultant
Ask your colleagues. There is no better referral than from a colleague who has worked with a consultant and can vouch for the quality of the work undertaken on his behalf. You can also call your medical society; many societies have a process for evaluating consultants before they will add them to their referral lists. If your office manager is a member of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), you can source consultants from that association too. If the consultants listed are too broadly categorized, it can also be helpful to search the internet and see what companies specialize in the specific areas in which you need help.