Josh Weiner is chief operating officer of Solutionreach.
Stay independent and profitable through the use of technology.
Studies confirm what you already know: Patients of independent practices have lower costs and better health outcomes. Both are also key indicators of high patient satisfaction. Staying independent seems like a no-brainer, but it's getting harder and harder for providers to do so.
It can be tough to grow a thriving practice and remain competitive in the marketplace given the rise in reimbursement challenges, patient consumerism, and care delivery options. Consequently, many practices find themselves choosing between joining a hospital network or closing their practice altogether.
While joining a larger network may bring providers some initial relief in terms of job security, those benefits are not long-lived. Providers who keep their practices independent tend to make more money and have higher job satisfaction than their employed counterparts. Plus, independent providers can often avoid the office politics and bureaucracies that sometimes exists in larger health systems.
Rather than join a consolidating, selling, or closing, independent providers need to consider an alternative option. They can implement technology to help increase revenue and expand their practice. Small investments in the right software can reap big rewards for independent practices.
Patient relationship management (PRM) software offers a variety of tools that help a practice expand its patient base. The key is building loyal relationships with current patients, as strong patient relationships can help attract new patients. One way to grow your patient base is through regular communication.
Patient communication software allows practices to create newsletters and schedule their delivery. Not only does this consistent communication build loyalty with existing patients, it’s also a great opportunity to ask for referrals. A “Refer a Friend” button can be added to newsletters, prompting patients to easily provide the name and contact information for the friend they would like to refer. The PRM software gathers this information centrally, which also makes it easier for practice employees to follow up on these referrals.
Another great way to ensure continued medical practice growth is by maintaining a positive online presence. Seventy-two percent of patients look at online reviews before they choose a new provider, so ensuring there are plenty of positive reviews can have a huge impact in persuading potential patients to book an appointment.
As with referrals, the best way to increase the number of online reviews is to reach out to existing patients. PRM software allows everyone in the practice to get involved. When team members have a positive interaction with a patient, they can ask the patient if he/she would be willing to write an online review. If the patient agrees, the staff member can send a text message to the patient’s phone with a link to the practice’s Google or Facebook page. This makes it simple for patients, who only have to click the link and write their review.
PRM software can also impact the practice’s bottom line by increasing its efficiency. Many of the tasks required to keep a practice running are time-consuming. Simple tasks such as confirming upcoming appointments, informing patients about balances, and sending appointment reminders are all tasks that, if done manually, can mean a lot of time spent on the phone. But with patient communication software, these tasks can all be automated.
Appointment reminders are automatically sent to every patient before every appointment. The practice can decide how often the reminders are sent, and patients can choose to receive those reminders by text, email, or phone call. The reminder messages can also include appointment-specific information, such as a reminder to fast or bring their medication(s) with them. Patients can confirm the appointment or let the practice know they need to reschedule. The PRM software gathers all the data in one place for practice staff so they can respond accordingly.
Automated reminders aren’t just for existing appointments. They can also be used to remind patients they have a balance or schedule a future appointment. Patients receive the message in the way they prefer to be contacted, so they are more likely to see the message and take the requested action. With so many tasks to do every day, practice staff can spend more time interacting with patients and less time on routine calls.
Independent practices are feeling the financial burden of trying to compete with bigger clinics and hospital networks. Instead of giving in to the pressure to merge or sell, providers can use technology to make simple changes to help them continue running a successful practice with all the benefits that come with remaining independent.
Josh Weiner is president and chief operating officer at Solutionreach.