11 Ways to Increase Your Bottom Line

October 6, 2010

Here are some simple things you can do to help boost your revenue.

I'm sure, at some point, every practice administrator has felt stymied: You're just about out of ways to increase revenues or cut expenses. You can’t work much harder, and you can’t work much smarter. However, before you consider more drastic steps like cutting salaries, there are some simple things you can do to help boost your bottom line. Here are 11 of my favorites: 

1. Overtime - Eliminate absolutely all unnecessary overtime. Just ten minutes of overtime a day is the equivalent of an extra week of work each year, at time-and-a-half. Yikes!

2. Schedules, working smarter - Look at unused appointment slots, patient cancellations, and no shows (bet they’re higher now than they were prerecession). Thursday's schedule may be full on Monday, but more than likely it will have two or three unfilled appointments by Thursday. That’s money lost for the practice. Consider overbooking to fill more of the time allocated to seeing patients. Make sure your staff keeps the providers' schedules filled at all times.

3. Office expenses - You pay your bills on time, but do you pay with a "rewards" credit card when possible? Practices can earn frequent flyer miles, free shipping, and other "income proxies" by paying with a rewards credit card.

4. Pretax it - Talk with your accountant about expenses that can be paid with pretax dollars to increase your take-home pay. Cell phone bills, iPads, laptops, work-related mileage - the list is long and you should be pretaxing everything you can.

5. Cell phone minutes - I like cell phone family plans, even for medical practices. My old group had five "families," each sharing a bucket of minutes. We saved 35 percent a year over what we paid in prior years, and that increased my doctors’ take-home pay.

6. Schedules, working harder - Look at your schedule again, but this time for places to add more appointment slots. Five more follow-ups per week can increase doctors' take-home pay by perhaps $15,000. Three more new patients a week could net $23,000. And don't forget about administrative tasks that docs could be handing off to support staff - e.g., patient callbacks, credentialing forms, etc. Doctors are directly responsible for generating revenue, so don't let them be diverted by uncompensated duties.

7. Forms - E-mail your forms packet to patients when possible. More and more patients prefer it. E-mailing saves on postage and copying, and increases the likelihood patients will arrive at your office with their paperwork already completed.

8. Where’s the beef? - Find out what types of patients feed your most profitable revenue streams. Do you know? You should. Maximize the practice's revenue by not only making sure the schedule has room for those patients, but also by drafting a plan to market your practice to attract those patients.

9. Add another service - I have become a fan of in-office pharmacies. Having an in-office pharmacy is great for your patients and a good income producer for you. Hint: Using prepackaging seems the easier route, but it cuts into your profits quickly.

10. Reminders - Does your practice lose out on recurring revenue because it fails to remind patients about follow-up visits or studies? Make sure this does not happen in your practice. Preventive maintenance revenue streams are just as important to your medical practice as they are to the HVAC company or the auto service center.

11. Coding and documentation - If you have not had a certified coder review your coding, do so soon. You are either leaving money on the table (undercoding) or putting yourself at risk of an audit (overcoding). Have your coding reviewed relative to 1) your documentation (to make sure your coding and documentation are in synch) and 2) your peers (e.g., use the Medicare specialty-specific data, found in the "Tools" section of PhysiciansPractice.com).

There you have it, 11 old tricks worth revisiting. While you may think you have them down pat, making sure you do is a wise idea.

Lucien W. Roberts, III, MHA, FACMPE, is associate administrator of business development at MCV Physicians. He also consults with medical groups and health systems in areas such as compliance, physician compensation, negotiation, strategic planning, and billing/collections. He may be reached at lucien.roberts@yahoo.com.