Keeping solvent in a recession

Physicians have many questions for consulting firms related to effects of the recession.

Physicians increasingly are asking practice management consulting firms questions related to the effects of the recession on their bottom line, reports American Medical News (6/15/09). Here are some questions consultants hear most often and their responses:

HOW CAN I GET MORE PATIENTS IN THE DOOR?

Improve your practice, making it more attractive to new patients, and develop ways to better serve current patients. Enlist your staff in helping find new patients and ask them for ideas on how they can help, for example by calling patients to ask about family members who might need a physician.

Take a close look at coding and billing, as small changes in these areas often can make a major difference in pay. Also examine your top payers' contracts and what each pays per patient. When a payer is not providing a profit, it's time to renegotiate or eliminate the contract.

SHOULD I ADJUST MY STAFFING LEVELS?

Cutting staff can result in inefficiencies that are more costly than the salaries you eliminate. Making sure everyone is working to the top of their certification is a better option. In considering whether to outsource billing, it's wise to audit accounts receivable to determine if in-house billing is working well, keeping in mind these guidelines: Fewer than 20% of accounts should be 90 days old or more, and the turnaround time from the
date of service to a bill going out should be no more than 45 days.

HOW CAN I GET PATIENTS TO PAY THEIR PORTION OF THE BILL PROMPTLY?

The key here is to be disciplined and diligent in talking about payment and collecting relevant information before service is delivered. Front office staff needs to be trained in what to say, how to say it consistently, and how to approach the patient respectfully about collecting his or her portion.

SHOULD I INVEST IN AN ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORD (EMR) SYSTEM NOW?

Given government incentives and potential improvements in patient care, physicians have no choice but to get on board with an EMR system.