Medical Practice Strategic Planning for the New Year

November 5, 2016
P.J. Cloud-Moulds

Getting your medical practice ready for the challenges the New Year will bring should start now. Here are some areas to review.

As the end of the year nears, it is the time to review, reflect, re-plan, and refine your practice goals. Reviewing your practice's financial and clinical benchmarks and data, reflecting on your growth and goals met, and planning improvements and changes for next year can give your practice the direction it needs to stay competitive and agile. It's a lot easier than you think if you just break strategic planning down into sections.

Revenue cycle management

You'll want to make sure you have your monthly, quarterly, and yearly data ready to review come Jan. 1. If it's been a few months since you've had the opportunity to gather this information, now is the time to task someone to sharpen their pencil and start tallying away. It is more critical now than ever to really know where your business stands with regard to your numbers. This is not just the Profit and Loss (P&L) statement. I'm talking about what drives those numbers, items like:

• Number of monthly patient visits

• Patient charges

• Cash inflow

• Adjustments

• Total accounts receivable (A/R)

• A/R broken down by number of aging days (0-30, 30-60, 60-90, 90-120, 120+)

• DSO (average days sales outstanding) - the number of days it takes from the day a patient was seen, to the day the money was posted

• Number of patient statements sent, percent who pay, percent who go to collections

• Patient balance of total A/R

These are the most critical areas that I monitor monthly. These tell the story of your practice's financial health, and you can make small changes that affect these numbers quickly and positively on any given day.

Staff achievements and goals

Reflection is not to be overlooked. You'll want to make sure you keep a daily, weekly, or monthly list of your team's "Wins." This could be something as small as, "I made Mr. Smith smile today!" to "We collected 100 percent of required up-front collections this month." Small wins add up to big changes in attitude, performance, and overall job satisfaction. If you're thinking those things don't matter, think again. A happy staff is a productive staff. They need to know the work they do for you is appreciated. Be sure you are sharing these wins witheveryone. I do something for my team anytime we break a record or reach a milestone; I bring in cups and sparkling apple cider. Everyone gets involved and we have about five to 10 minutes of a nice break to talk about how we reached this goal. It's very refreshing to have a small celebration in the middle of the workweek.

Weaknesses

Things didn't go as planned this year? Okay, now you have a base to work from. Look at what didn't work, and start thinking about why it didn't work. Were the requirements communicated properly? Deadlines set? Accountability held for those who did not meet or reach their goal requirements? Before you hit the ceiling in frustration, really look at the "whys" of missed goals. For next year, incorporate those changes into your plan, and ask for your team's help and feedback. (And mean it!) Being humble is a really great gift to have and utilize properly. I can tell you now, if I receive kudos for the work done, I pass the gratitude on to my team. They are outstanding in what they do, and I know I could not get everything done without them. They know I feel this way and they are more than happy to give back, because I am genuinely grateful for their support.

Operations

Lastly, start thinking about your systems. I'm a really big systems person, and I know that without those in place, your practice operations will exist in a world of semi-controlled chaos. That is not a healthy working environment for most people. You may have one or two rock-stars who know how to work well in this type of "non-system," but that is gambling on a house of cards. I always use the "If I were hit by a bus …" thought process. If I were no longer able to perform the functions of my job, would the billing department or practice crumble? It's a hard question to ask, and a harder one to honestly answer. But so important in the big picture. Refine those systems and make sure you have all of your bases covered if someone should leave the practice or go out on disability or leave of absence unexpectedly.

This is the time of year to start thinking about practice policy changes and updates. You have a few months to identify issues that are troublesome and implement updates. Getting started now is your best bet for a smooth new year.