Family medicine is among the lowest-earning specialties for physicians. This has been attributed to lower reimbursement rates for primary medicine coupled with the high overhead costs of running a general practice that must meet many different needs. As a result, primary care physicians are turning to ancillary services to bolster their practice income.
If you are considering adding additional services to your family practice here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Do these services fit my practice demographics?
Cosmetic procedures, such as hair removal and anti-aging laser treatment for the skin, may be appropriate if your patient base has disposable income. If few of your patients can afford procedures that aren’t covered by insurance, however, these self-pay services won’t get much traction. If you order a lot of lab tests that your patients’ insurance companies pay for, and you want to offer the convenience of an in-house lab, this may be a better bet. Another idea is to adopt a turnkey allergy treatment program. Allergies affect 20 percent of the population, so this is a high demand service. Many primary care physicians are now prescribing sublingual immunotherapy, which allows patients to dispense their allergy serum as under-the-tongue drops in the comfort of home. This will keep your patients from having to drive multiple times a week to get shots from an allergist.
What are the financial ramifications?
Perhaps you are considering bringing an x-ray machine into your office because you frequently refer out for this service. If you are not sure that you can recover the cost of the equipment, try renting rather than buying or having a contract provider come to your practice a couple of times each week to perform the service.
Will insurance companies cover?
Coding is the keyword here. Do your homework, researching billing codes and ensuring that insurance companies will cover potential ancillary services. Medicare may say that they will cover, but verify this with local agents to make sure that you are getting consistent information. Remember that many insurances now favor preventative care, so services that fall into this category are often reimbursed well. These include things like mobile mammography and ultrasound.
Do I have extra space?
Every square foot of your medical practice should be generating revenue. If you have rooms that sit empty all day, consider moving to a smaller office or filling that space with an ancillary service. If you have the clientele to sustain it, you could bring in a dietitian, pain specialist, neuromuscular massage therapist, or physical therapist a couple times a week to turn the space into a marketable area.
Do I have the people and time?
If an added service can fit into your current schedule without bogging down workflow, it may be a good choice. Some physicians add services that monopolize their time or their staff’s time, only to turn the work environment frenzied and chaotic.
What if the service isn’t performing as hoped?
If you take the plunge and add a new product or service to your practice, make sure that you keep a close eye on your profits to ensure that it is performing as well as you had hoped. If it is not producing results after several months, consider cutting your losses rather than plodding along as the new service eats steadily into your earnings.