If you’re finding it harder and harder to eke out a living in medicine, you’re not alone. It used to be that primary care providers could just come to work and practice medicine, but today’s physicians must be more innovative and efficient than ever. The trick is not to eat the elephant all at once. Making a few small changes to your practice in the next year can significantly improve your bottom line. Here are a few tips to help you increase the income of your medical practice.
Prepare for value-based reimbursement — Insurance companies are moving toward models that reward providers for more than just seeing patients. Major insurers such as Medicare are already announcing plans to reimburse for “non-productivity” criteria such as patient satisfaction, quality outcomes and cost-containment. Essentially, they will provide more generous reimbursement for doctors who can prove that they’re offering better care for less money. Communicate with payers to find out what they are looking for now and what they will be aiming for in the future in the way of value-based reimbursement. Take steps to conform your practice policies to future developments.
Watch revenue cycles — Numbers talk—especially when it comes to revenue cycles. Smart practitioners concern themselves with numbers and trends. Track your revenue cycles over time to note patterns. Then, take your findings back to your practice and make necessary adjustments. Sometimes revenue is affected by matters beyond your control. For example, you may see fewer patients in summer because people go on vacation. Take extra measures to get people in the door, such as sending out reminders about back-to-school physicals. You can also encourage your staff members to take their own vacations in summer rather than during your busy season.
Work more closely with your insurance department — No matter how many patients you see per day or how outstanding your care is, if your insurance staff isn’t getting reimbursement, your bottom line will suffer. The insurance department of a practice is often located out of sight, out of mind. This may encourage a lack of oversight from practice owners. Adapt a new model of meeting regularly with these staff members and monitoring reimbursement from month to month. People perform better when they know that they will be held accountable for their actions. And the very fact that you are taking interest in their work can be empowering to employees.
Expand your services — A Medscape Business Magazine article showed that two-thirds of people with allergies would prefer to receive treatment from their primary care physician than from an allergist. The same holds true of many specialty services. If you as a trusted physician offer it, patients are likely to patronize it. Allergy is a particularly fast-growing field, with allergies expected to increase by 25 to 30 percent in the next 15 years. If testing and treatment seem out of reach, adopt a turnkey allergy treatment program. At AllergyEasy, we help you order allergy test kits and allergy testing supplies and prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to allergic patients. SLIT is an attractive new method of allergy immunotherapy that works like shots but allows patients to take under-the-tongue allergy drops in the comfort of home. (SLIT has a higher safety profile than shots.) That means no painful shots and no frequent trips to the doctor for injections. Studies have shown sublingual immunotherapy to be as effective as shots and far easier for patients to comply with.
It’s a challenging time to be a general practitioner with insurance companies expecting physicians to do more with less. To be sure, this will tax the creativity and business skills of providers. If you are willing to keep up with current trends in medicine, track your numbers, empower your staff (particularly your insurance staff), and branch out to other income opportunities, you can increase your medical practice revenue significantly.