When Physicians Are Out, Revenue Also Takes a Vacation

July 23, 2012

Taking a look at my practice finances, there was definitely an impact from my associate being out for a while this quarter.

“If someone’s a money hoarder, it’s no wonder doctors don’t go on vacation.”

This was the insightful (?) comment of my biller/husband as we were calculating my associate’s quarterly distribution recently. I could go on about how that isn’t the reason we don’t go, how it’s impossible to schedule patients as it is, how there are always a million phone calls to make, how it’s a huge burden on the person left to man the office, but those are topics for another time.

The comment was spurred by the glaring difference in the profit distribution this quarter compared to last quarter. Perhaps, I should give you a little background. As in many practices, my associate’s contract states that she will receive a salary and, in addition to that, a percentage of the collections made on the claims she submits. The more patients she sees, the more complex the cases, the more money she gets. Well, this quarter, she took a week-long vacation, went to a conference for a week, and unfortunately, needed to be out for medical reasons for four weeks. Well, that’s six weeks of no patients, no office visits, no hospital consults, and no procedures. That equals six weeks of no collections for her. Well, technically, collections were still coming in from preceding weeks, but you know what I mean.

For the individual, it’s unfortunate, but not catastrophic. She still has her salary, she was just down a few bucks. OK, a few thousand bucks, but, hey, she’ll still pay her bills. That was one of the great things about being employed. In my prior practice, if I went on vacation, I didn’t worry about money. When I went on maternity leave, I knew the practice wouldn’t collapse. OK, maybe the collections that quarter would be lower, but it would be made up once I got back and caught up with everything.

For my current practice, her absence made things a little tight for money. The expenses didn’t change. Staff still needed to be paid, rent was paid, insurance, utilities, etc. But the revenue went down. I’ll admit, I had to hang on to my paychecks for a few weeks, just to make sure there was always something in the checking account. I had to use my company card a little more than I usually like.

Things are back up to speed now and I anticipate that the next quarter will be profitable again. I can’t imagine what a solo practitioner does. Oh, yeah, I remember. You don’t go on vacation, you don’t go to conferences, and you pray to God you don’t get sick.

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