Physicians Practice Pearls: Get It Done

November 15, 2006

Another selection from our popular weekly e-mail newsletter. This issue: Five fast ways to boost office efficiency.


Scheduling, billing, and work habits all affect the daily rhythms of your office. Here are a few quick tips to streamline your practice and maximize productivity levels:

1. See more patients each day without adding appointment slots. Rather than adding to your already-packed patient schedule, try to reschedule patient cancellations and no-shows, as the resulting lost revenue directly affects your bottom line. Making reminder calls and charging no-show fees may further prompt your patients to keep their appointments. And motivate staff to replace same-day cancellations or no-shows with other patients at the last minute. Aim for a 100-percent cancellation conversion rate.

2. Accurately capture charges for each service you provide. Physicians still commonly undercode for their services, despite improvements in coding education and documentation tools. In addition to appropriately coding for the level of visit you provide, be sure to capture all charges associated with your services. Most practices can run reports on uncoded office visits, but it's much more difficult to ensure you've billed specific patients for the immunizations, lab work, or other ancillaries you've provided.

3. Take a good look at your finances. Examine your month-end financial statements, along with the record of the checks you've recorded each month. Analyze each expense for its return on investment. Is it worth the cost? And be honest with yourself. I've worked with too many physicians who continue to retain staff simply to avoid the discomfort of firing an employee.

4. Collect patient payments at the time of service. As consumers, we automatically pay the plumber before he leaves our home, yet we often assume we can ignore three or more statements from our physicians before we pay them. It's up to physicians to change this impression. One practice with which I recently worked told its patients that it could no longer afford to send statements and that payments had to be made at the time of service. It worked! Require payment on past-due balances at each visit, and empower staff with access to explanations of benefits from patients' insurers so they can answer any questions regarding outstanding balances. People are more likely to pay up if they know what they're paying for and why.

5. Don't procrastinate. Perform work as it presents itself. Dictate in front of patients; you'll improve your efficiency by eliminating the poor memory recall that can result when you save dictation for later. An added bonus? Your patients are more likely to understand their diagnoses and follow treatment plans if you repeat them while your recorder is on.

Elizabeth Woodcock, MBA, CPC, is a professional speaker and consultant specializing in practice management. Elizabeth is a fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives and a certified professional coder. She can be reached at elizabeth@elizabethwoodcock.com or via editor@physicianspractice.com. Learn more about Elizabeth at www.elizabethwoodcock.com.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2006 issue of Physicians Practice.