In order to provide quality care, a physician’s office must be efficient and well-run. This is true for the obvious reason that providers can’t afford to keep an unprofitable practice open forever. It is also true because providers that work in well-run practices can worry less about daily administrative emergencies, and spend more time on patients and professional development. Fortunately, many recent advances that make offices more efficient, also make for better medicine. Electronic health records, for example, are far more efficient than the paper systems they replaced, and they reduce errors by putting all of the relevant information right at the provider’s fingertips.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best practices of offices that excel in both patient care and the business activities that support it.
Hire, train, manage, and support an outstanding staff
We’ve started with this one because it is, perhaps, one of the most important things that practices do. Every member of the team will contribute either positively or negatively to the overall patient experience and to the well-being of the practice. The relationship between team members sets the tone for the office and determines whether work will be cooperative or antagonistic. Finding great people can be a challenge, but the best practices never settle when it comes to staff. Once excellent team members are hired, the most successful practices support them by giving them the resources they need to do a fantastic job, and offering professional development for continuous career growth.
Many hospitals are turning to business process methodologies originally deployed in manufacturing to reduce costs and improve safety. The same approach can be used in medical practices of all sizes. You can start identifying and eliminating waste by asking a number of questions. Is every process or piece of paperwork necessary? Do we utilize every available technology resource to its fullest? Are there things we are doing for free that could be billable if done differently? (Follow-up phone calls are a good example.) Is the size of our space right for our needs? Are our billing and collection practices effective? Are we billing secondary insurance?
Create a customer-centric culture
There has been a shift in the balance of power in medicine. Traditional thinking about the doctor/patient relationship, where the physician is largely in control, is giving way to the customer/provider relationship for good reason. The move toward consumer-directed healthcare means that providers need to focus on providing an experience that keeps customers loyal and proves value. An excellent best practice is to frequently request customer feedback. Ask customers about their expectations and understand what is most important to them.
Lower your HIPAA risks
You’ve already been through the process of bringing your practice into compliance with HIPAA, but this shouldn’t be seen as a one time exercise. HIPAA enforcement is increasing, and although individuals can not take legal action for HIPAA violations, in some states the legal door has been opened to allow private action over privacy and security failures. In order to reduce your risk, periodically review your HIPAA compliance efforts and policies with everyone who has access to patient information. Ensure that you understand who qualifies as a business associate and that they have agreements in place. Make sure that all technology you introduce to your practice is HIPAA compliant.
Market the practice
The “If you build it, they will come,” approach only works in baseball movies. In order to grow your practice, or to simply counter patient churn, it is necessary to do at least a baseline amount of marketing to make sure that patients looking for a provider in your area are aware of your practice. (We’ve compiled a few tips.) Your website is an excellent place to start. It is also important to make sure that existing patients are aware of each of the services you offer.
Invest in modern technology
You don’t have to rush out and buy every new gadget that comes along or subscribe to every software service on the planet, but keeping abreast of what’s available is essential for ensuring that your practice remains as efficient and competitive as possible. Telemedicine is an excellent example of a technology that helps successful practices produce more revenue, improve patient outcomes, and guard against competitive pressures all in one swoop.
Get help if you need it
The business side of medicine is not the strong suit of every provider. If managing staff, analyzing processes, or strategizing to maximize revenue is not something you are equipped to tackle, it can be well worth it to bring in outside resources to help. In the same way your patients turn to you to protect and improve their health, it is a smart move to call on experts who can help improve the well-being of your practice.