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When physicians need a second opinion


Physicians are specialists in medical care, but they sometimes need help with the business side of medical practice.

Editor’s Note:Physicians Practice’s blog features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for professionals to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The opinions are that of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Physicians Practice or UBM.

Let’s say you are a general pediatrician. Would you be doing a cardiac catheterization for an adult?

What about if you were an orthopedic surgeon; would you manage a child’s seizure medication?

Or if you were a neurologist, would you prescribe chemotherapy for a breast cancer patient?

Of course, the answer to all the above questions is an emphatic “No!” but so many physicians are indeed working outside their scope of expertise when it comes to managing the business side of their medical practice.

A friend of mine works in a practice in which the new physician owners (the seniors having recently retired) are doing just what I described. They have disregarded the very seasoned office manager and are making business decisions on their own. And wouldn’t you know it, their practice is floundering.

As doctors, we are specialists in managing medical conditions of our patients within our chosen specialties. So why do we think we are business geniuses too?

I’m not making a blanket statement that all physicians have poor business skills. But the most prudent medical practices assess their business prowess and hire the best specialists to fill in the deficiencies. Consider the following suggestions if you think you might need a second opinion about your medical practice.

1. Analyze your business operations.

  • Look at workflow at all levels of the practice (front desk to nursing to practitioners) and streamline inefficient practices.
  • Analyze scheduling carefully. Are there too many gaps in the number of patients seen in a day? Are your providers seeing enough patients to cover their part of the overhead plus extra for practice profit?
  • Audit the coding done by providers. Are they capturing all the revenue that you are due?
  • Look at your inventory, both medical and non-medical. Do you have excess items sitting on shelves?
  • Look at your food budget. Are you buying lunch or dinners for the practice often? Perhaps you should cut back if your bottom line is suffering.

2. Employ a good practice manager. The ideal practice manager will have management education and relevant experience. If you already have a trusted and capable office administration, offer educational opportunities to improve their skills. The Medical Group Management Association has lots of courses, books, and meetings that will give your practice manager loads of extra information and training.

3. Hire a new accountant to go over the books as a second opinion. A fresh set of eyes can pinpoint problems more quickly. And don’t just hire them, listen to them.

4. Consider hiring a business consultant. Similar to an accountant, the consultant can help you analyze your business operations and provide you with additional insight. Think of this as an investment, not as an expense.

The most important thing for a medical practice is for it to remain profitable. Yes, you must give the best care to your patients, but if you are not making money, you won’t be in practice to take care of those patients. And you won’t be able to hire the best talent nor purchase the latest new medical technology in the future.

Lastly, don’t wait until you are already in debt. Take a look at your practice today to spot areas that need improvement. Don’t be like my friend’s practice and suddenly find yourself in trouble. Preventive care applies to practices as well as patients.

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