It’s almost that time again: the fourth quarter, the busiest time of year for many medical practices. As patient deductibles are met, a window opens for patients to receive services with little or no cost-sharing — and that presents an opportunity for them and practices alike.
This window only opens once a year, and for many types of practices, it can be make-or-break for profitability. It’s a good idea to plan to make the most of it, especially since the revenue your practice generates in Q4 can provide a soft landing for Q1, when many patients will look to save money by putting off nonurgent healthcare services.
Here are four of my favorite tips for making the most of the last weeks of the year.
Communicate early and often.
It’s easy for patients to miss out on the chance to receive care without cost-sharing once the holiday rush arrives. Communicating with patients now, before the holidays are in full swing, gives everyone more time to plan and schedule.
What’s more, some of your patients may not understand how much money they might save. For example, younger patients who’ve never met their deductibles before may not realize how much they can save on a procedure if they schedule it now instead of next year. By reaching out and explaining the potential savings, you’ll help patients not just save money, but also receive beneficial care they’ve put off.
To make sure your message is heard above the everyday media noise level, use multiple forms of contact – general information posts on social media and your website, personalized emails, and even phone calls for patients who are likely to benefit most significantly. Remember that repetition is essential with important messages, so don’t be afraid to create a series of social media posts and emails to be shared and delivered over many weeks. Be sure, also, that the employees who handle your phones and appointment setting have the tools and training they need to answer patients’ insurance questions.
Let technology do some of the heavy lifting.
To target your outreach to patients who could benefit most from scheduling services before December 31, you’ll need to identify them first. This task is a perfect opportunity to get more use out of your EHR and practice management system. Searching on ICD-10 codes, for example, can help you determine which patients had diagnoses that indicate surgical procedures or other treatments that typically carry cost-sharing. Searching your practice management system for CPT codes can help refine your lists based on whether patients have already been billed for that service.
There are usually multiple ways to do these sorts of queries and reports. If you aren’t sure you know all the tricks — or whether there are new features you might have missed — now is a great time to reach out to your vendor(s) for a refresher.
Technology can also help you get the word out. Once you’ve identified your target patient audience, you can email them via your portal–a great way to track the response and also encourage more use of the portal. Social media tools like Hootsuite and SocialBee can help you schedule reminder posts throughout the fall, so that no one has to remember to do it when things get more hectic.
Make sure your staff knows the drill.
The fourth quarter can be stressful for everyone in your practice. Being organized, clear and prepared can help avoid unnecessary stress.
You may have already stated your holiday time off policies (for example, in your employee handbook). But refreshing everyone’s memory as the holidays approach will help avoid confusion (and, potentially, hurt feelings). If you think you’ll need extra help, make sure you’ve already planned out how you’ll get it.
Review your reminder process.
With many patients hoping to receive services before the December 31 deadline, it’s even more important that no visit or surgical slots are lost to missed appointments or late cancellations. There’s still time to review your reminder procedures to be sure they’re on point. Confirm that your staff is collecting the contact information needed to remind patients by the methods they prefer. And be sure to test that your systems are working to deliver those reminders reliably.
Laurie Morgan, MBA is a partner and senior consultant for Capko & Morgan. Her consulting focuses on practice management effectiveness and practice profitability. She is the author of the book People, Technology, Profit: Practical Ideas for a Happier, Healthier Practice business as well as the Management Rx series of e-books, and blogs at capko.com/blog.