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To help identify some of the best ways to boost medical practice revenue, we asked practice management expert Rosemarie Nelson to share some of her tips.
Most practices are struggling financially due to declining reimbursement and increasing overhead, and many have made changes to increase practice revenue. But according to Rosemarie Nelson, principal with the Medical Group Management Association Health Care Consulting Group, there's still more that many practices can do to boost revenue.
To help identify some of the best tactics, Physicians Practice asked Nelson to share some of her tips. Here's what she told us.
Physicians Practice: Based on your work with practices, what are some common areas that you think practices overlook when it comes to boosting revenue?Rosemarie Nelson: Underutilizing their existing technology (practice management system, EHR, clearinghouse, patient portal, and so on), and their staff. I always find some feature/function in the practice management system or EHR that could eliminate or reduce a manual effort.
For example, in one practice, nurses kept a paper file on tests that they wanted to be sure to track for incoming results. Instead of printing those test orders and filing them and then fingering through them regularly to look for results, they could have used the EHR to filter on only outstanding tests so that they could follow up as needed. That simple functionality would have saved each nurse an hour a day in that practice.
Physicians Practice: Of the areas you mentioned, what do you think could potentially result in the biggest financial improvement for a practice in the short term? How about the long term?
Rosemarie Nelson: Short-term gains can be earned by optimizing technology. Long-term gains will be earned over time in human resource savings. It is easy to see from this one example on filtering open orders for test result management how the hour saved per day per nurse is a short-term gain.
The practice can more effectively use that hour saved per day per nurse in the short term, but over the long term, the practice can restructure staff with resulting cost savings and therefore an increase in profitability.
Examine everything routinely. When a new upgrade or release of your software is available, learn how to take advantage of the changes. Maintaining the status quo in a dynamic environment is not a recipe for success.
Physicians Practice: If a practice wanted to start on a revenue-boosting project today, what would be the easiest area to start with?
Rosemarie Nelson: Well, nothing comes easily! Optimizing technology takes a very concerted effort because it is hard to get people to change behaviors and adapt to methods to get their work done.
The easiest first step is to reach out to your vendor and ask it to provide you with an evaluation of your own operations - what are you not doing with the technology tool that you could benefit from adopting.
Act as your own consultant. Evaluate your operations by doing a walk-through from the patients' perspective. Where can you be more patient-friendly? Challenge your staff to identify time-wasting activities. Look at redundant steps in each process from check-in, to rooming patients, to discharge and check-out. Do not accept "because we've always done it this way" as an acceptable reason to continue.
Think as if you could create it all from scratch and design the process for patient service and efficiency. Maybe you'll need to invest in more equipment, but do the analysis to determine how a one-time investment can offset the cost of a daily process that is performed 35 times per day.
To learn more from Nelson, sign up for Practice Rx, Physicians Practice's new conference for physicians and administrators. At the conference, Nelson will share more of her revenue-boosting tips.