Five Strategies to Boost Medical Practice Income

October 4, 2014

It is time for physicians and their staff members to develop strategies to help their practices survive and thrive.

Let’s face it. The world of healthcare has altered dramatically and in many markets that has had a negative effect on physician practices. Additionally, insurance and other expenses have increased, creating a further decline in the way many physicians can make money and keep their money.

It is time for physicians and even their staff members to develop strategies that ensure that revenues maintain and most importantly, that they all get paid.  Here are five strategies to help you get started:

1. Consider Expenses vs. Costs
In my work with practices, one of the first items that requires scrutiny is expenses. Although physicians must remain within reimbursement guidelines, there are still costs for treatment. Therefore, all physicians should conduct a cost per patient analysis so that costs factor in expenses associated with the treatment. So for example, a cardiologist must factor in utilities, salaries, equipment depreciation, leasing, etc., to determine the correct cost to return profit. Failure to meet expenses can mean failure of the practice.

2. Automate Processes
Second, too many doctors and staff conduct too much heavy lifting. For example, one orthopedist I worked with had his staff keep a paper file of all scheduled appointments for the day as well as another for X-rays and other test results. This not only wasted time in duplicated effort, it wasted time because an automated process within the EHR could have taken care of this work. Practices must determine if an automated system can replace manual labor, and take advantage.

3. Set Hard Rules
Third, we live in a crazy busy world, as do our patients. However, this does not discount rudeness and unprofessionalism. Nothing is worse than patient no shows. This may not appear as a money drain but if 10 percent of your 2,500 patients do not show, conduct the arithmetic and you will be surprised. It may be necessary (depending on state requirements) to charge for no shows or non-rescheduled appointments.

4. Offer Additional Services
Fourth, patients visit with you because of their trust and respect for your services. Many physicians today are attempting to adopt ancillary services as methods to create additional income, yet some have not done so. In our present world, in which obesity is on the rise and the elderly population is growing, there is no reason why some physicians cannot offer complementary services. For example, orthopedists can offer physical therapy, cardiologists can offer dietary and weight counseling, a general practitioner might offer consulting or classes that create networks and support groups.

5. Consider Alternate Models
Another opportunity stems from the Affordable Care Act. Many large and even small corporations are hiring insurance and consulting companies to facilitate wellness programs to decrease high healthcare costs. Firms that participate in these programs gain a healthy discount on their premiums. For the physician there is very little setup, just time. The physician can meet and consult as often as desired and organizations pay large fees for these services. Further, these wellness programs are terrific sources of individual referrals because the physician is able to present content in front of large groups of people.

In addition to these revenue-boosting options, many physicians are now offering concierge practices so that they can charge a high fee to a very specific demographic. While some time and attention needs to be taken in terms of setup, a well-established physician might consider proposing the idea to a small group of 12 patients. This initial group can provide a revenue boost.

According to a recent report appearing on Becker's Hospital Review, roughly 70 percent of U.S. concierge medicine and direct-pay primary-care physicians are internal medicine specialists, with most treating six patients to eight patients each day. Finally, 71 percent of concierge and direct-pay physicians report they are doing "better" financially than in 2008.

No matter the direction the physician decides to take, it is clear that remaining staid in today’s competitive changing marketplace is not the answer. Change is the only way to provide revenue to the practice. Making some of these changes will make the difference in a practice thriving versus one that is merely surviving.