Today's slowing economy is leading many physicians to put the brakes on spending.
Today’s slowing economy is leading many physicians to put the brakes on spending. But such a reaction may not in fact be the best solution for easing economic pressures. Rather, it’s an opportune time to get creative and explore ways to increase revenue and profits for your practice.
Start by taking a critical look at how well you manage a “typical” day at the office. Too often, I see inefficiencies and poor scheduling patterns that compromise revenue. Think about it: If you saw just one additional patient per day you would sweeten the revenue pie without adding to your expenses. Conversely, no-shows cost you plenty.
Here are a few pointers to consider that can lead to improved profits:
Make quality a top priority. A well-trained staff knows how to do its job right the first time. When training is not a priority in your practice, quality diminishes. The cost of poor quality is obvious. Consider the extra time it takes to repair mistakes, such as rescheduling no-shows because they were not confirmed the day before.
Be a coding wizard. Submitting insurance claims is another area where I frequently find opportunities to improve the bottom line. When claims get kicked back to the office because they are incomplete or incorrect, your staff must take precious time to research, correct, and resubmit them. This means you must wait that much longer to get paid. Minimize the delay -- as well as your A/R -- by making sure all the physicians and billers in your practice are up to speed on your payers’ rules and correct coding protocols right from the start.
Delegate. Too many physicians perform tasks that don’t require their expertise. If you are routinely doing something that your nurse is capable of completing, let her do it. You might be able to see two more patients each day. That’s 40 more patients a month, and your nurse will also become more productive. The same goes for any business tasks you might routinely do that could be off-loaded to administrative staff. Of course, you’ll want to balance this with a “everybody pitches in” attitude if a situation calls for that.
Work in real time. Don’t allow charting to stack up during the day. Complete each chart as patients are seen. Also resolve any other tasks related to that patient visit -- phone calls, consult requests, etc. Charting as you go is faster and ensures accuracy and thoroughness. It also eliminates the need to review your notes and mentally revisit each encounter. Best of all, you’ll likely pay less staff overtime and get yourself out of the office on schedule.
Explore new revenue streams. Pay close attention to services and products your patients are asking about, especially those that might compliment your existing service mix. Think about diagnostic services that you are referring out. If you feel there is a potential opportunity to increase revenue, don’t automatically nix the idea. Gather more information, query your patients, find out what you could charge and how much you would get reimbursed, and if the potential volume would provide an attractive return on investment.
Stay attuned to practice revenue. Occasionally audit charge-adjustments to make sure your staff are only modifying what is required by third-party contracts. Be sure your staff collects the patient responsibility before it ages beyond 90 days. Institute a procedure to collect on previous balances when patients are in the office. This can really boost cash flow and reduce time spent trying to collect after the fact.
Practice economics is a big picture issue, so don’t get radical and put a freeze on expenses until you’ve considered these simple steps to increase revenue and improve efficiency. Seek opportunities that support your practice’s mission, enrich the services you offer, and lead the way to a more secure future. It’s your practice -- protect it!
Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant with more than 20 years experience. She is the author of “Secrets of the Best Run Practice” and “Take Back Time.” Her focus is practice operations, staffing, finance and marketing. Judy is a national lecturer, presenting at many executive management and physician specialty conferences. She is based in Thousand Oaks, Calif. She can be reached at (805) 499 9203 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.