Outsource Your Pain

October 30, 2007
Judy Capko

It's a common error for physicians to think their managers and staff can do anything they ask of them.

It's a common error for physicians to think their managers and staff can do anything they ask of them. Compliment notwithstanding, such absolute faith may in fact place an unfair burden on the recipients. Conversely, does your staff face a mounting workload but never seems to get their jobs done? They may be on overload. Staff overload is dangerous. It compromises employee satisfaction, breeds confusion, and impedes your practice's ability to provide superior patient service.

Even the best staff has its limits if a practice is growing. In that case, it may be time to look for different ways to get the job done. Outsourcing just might be the ticket. Consider these experts:

  • Consultant - Often, physicians and managers alike put off rather important projects - such as formulating an overall strategic plan - because they must contend with so many opposing priorities. Certainly, those in management should be deeply involved in such critical planning, but do they have time to do the upfront research and analysis, prepare the report, and facilitate the strategic planning retreat? My best guess is no, and in my experience that's one of the primary reasons such projects get derailed. Hire an expert whose advice and recommendations will provide critical direction.

  • Event planner - Speaking of planning a retreat - or for that matter, seminars and other events - why not hire an event planner to handle the arrangements and all those pesky details? This point person will save you time and get the job done on time, correctly, and headache-free.

  • Payroll service - Definitely use a service that offers direct deposit. Some will even track accumulated paid time off - a real relief to managers. If you already use a service but you manually type employee hours into a spreadsheet for the service's use, consider switching to a time clock that automatically uploads employee time records. You'll have the peace of mind that your payroll data is accurate as well as time to concentrate on more pressing issues.

  • Temp service - If you have a short-term administrative need that would unduly tax your already busy staff, such as a computer conversion, consider using a temp service for data entry and other "grunt work." Making use of a temp service will ensure a timely conversion without compromising work flow or patient care.

  • Billing service - Feel like you're continuously chasing rainbows? Maybe you should just let someone else do it. A billing service will take a cut off the top of what it collects for you (6 percent, give or take). If they don't produce, they don't get paid. This keeps them highly motivated to bring in the revenue. If they can raise your collections beyond your current rate (and their fee), why not?

  • PR firm - A public relations specialist can get you valuable exposure for increased visibility and connection to the community, while presenting a consistent image and message. If building such relations is a priority for your practice, then tapping into a PR firm's expertise might be the best way to go.

Whether you have on your practice's plate a one-time job (renovating the office) or a vital daily task (working delinquent accounts), you can find a good outsourced match for your needs. Poll your colleagues, research services on the Internet, and take advantage of whatever annual conferences you attend by exploring the vendor offerings in the exhibit hall. If you recently heard a speaker you really liked or if you read an article by someone that aligns with your needs and your philosophies, visit the associated Web site and ask for references.

Note that your problems don't necessarily end with finding a service provider. Monitoring performance and costs of the outsourced tasks is critical to success, especially for long-term services. For the first 90 days, closely inspect results and hold the vendor accountable for any variations from the promised outcome. Still satisfied after 90 days? Then just periodically spot-check so you stay in control and don't sacrifice quality for convenience.

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant with more than 20 years of experience. She is also the founder of Capko & Company (www.capko.com). Her emphasis is on improving practice performance by valuing staff, building patient-centered strategies, and making the most of resources. She is the author of the top-selling book, "Secrets of the Best-Run Practices." Judy has received national recognition in her field, working with both small and large practices, as well as major academic faculty practices from coast to coast. She is a popular speaker for major healthcare conferences and healthcare executive summits. She can be reached at judy@capko.com or 805 499 9203.