“Good quality is less costly because of more accurate diagnoses, fewer treatment errors, lower complication rates, faster recovery, less invasive treatment, and the minimization of the need for treatment. More broadly, better health is less expensive than illness.”
~Michael E. Porter
The appeal of being a doctor in private practice has taken a hit in the past few years. Although independent practice is still an attractive option for physicians who want the freedom and independence to practice in a setting that allows them to provide personalized medical care, it has become even more difficult to remain relevant and stay competitive in modern society.
The ability to survive and thrive in a setting that is increasingly fluid and challenging requires outstanding patient care, astute clinical judgement, effective collaboration with colleagues, a well-oiled administrative machine, and innovative problem-solving.
In fact, Medical Economics rated increased competition as number four in the Top Challenges of 2022, up from number six in 2021. Their recommendations for remaining competitive, especially in light of new, quick care delivery options, include:
Patients want convenience and became accustomed to receiving their medical care via telehealth during the pandemic. This leap in communication flexibility gives providers the capability of meeting patients and providing care when, how and where it is most needed. Telehealth is something most physicians have more practice using now and are comfortable with its abilities. If your virtual care program became suddenly dormant when your practice reopened for in-person appointments, dust off the cobwebs and get going again.
Staying relevant means being available in different ways. Your practice might have to rethink its appointment strategy, offer virtual care options, or increase the flexibility of its Patient Portal to answer questions and provide information in a faster, more convenient format.
Patients dislike the inconvenience of the current appointment structure. Incorporate online appointment scheduling capabilities, gather necessary insurance information prior to the appointment, provide digital appointment reminders, explain payment expectations, and help patients adjust their arrival time to reflect the provider’s reality for meeting the specific appointment time.
Reduce the internal paperwork flow through the use of an advanced EHR, to accurately capture charting notes and access all relevant patient data in one location.
The endless difficulties of coding and billing errors, claim denials and rejections, and difficulty in collecting remaining balances from patients all contribute to the stress of internal team members, and frustrate patients who may find that it aggravates their health situation even further.
This article focuses on tactics you can employ to remain both relevant and competitive, so your practice can continue to survive, and you can continue to practice the fine art of medical care.
Stay Relevant by Building on Unique Advantages in Your Independent Practice
“We practice medicine that our historical ancestors could only dream of,
and we have access to amazing treatments and cures for our patients on a daily basis.”
~ Suneel Dhand, MD via KevinMD
While it is true that professionals in independent practice are able to provide higher levels of effective care than ever before dreamed possible, it is also necessary to recognize that those capabilities may be less relevant to your patient population.
Younger, busier patients may be unaware of your advantages, so you need to invest in a solid marketing strategy that reminds prospects of why they want to build a provider-patient relationship in place of just receiving ad hoc care from any provider who happens to be available in an urgent care facility at the moment of medical need. The advantages of having a healthcare professional who knows a patient’s full medical history and personality quirks can be presented in many modern ways:
Craft a Message
Don’t succumb to the “price war” aspect of providing medical care. You are a unique practice with awesome advantages to offer your patients. Craft a marketing message that reminds patients why it is better to build a relationship with a particular provider than just find the “cheapest care” available.
Value is the reason a one-time visitor becomes a long-term patient. Your private practice provides value by making patients feel appreciated and heard. Pay attention to the “niceties” of phone etiquette, communication and in-person visits, and provide a balance of high-level care and education that helps patients become an active participant in making their own healthy choices.
Trust in the medical community has eroded significantly for many reasons. Patients “do their own research” or hear stories about lower quality levels of care and become distrustful of those in the medical community who are actually trying to help them make better, more informed decisions. Ask for referrals to family and friends from your current patients and include positive reviews on your website and social media pages to build confidence in your practice.
It might feel like you are “giving away” information, but more patients are coming to expect that their medical providers are interested in providing accurate information on modern health practices. Have interesting information on your website, write a consistent blog about topics in your area of specialty, and share health tidbits on your social media pages. Not only does this endear you to current and prospective patients, but it also keeps your practice top-of-mind when healthcare needs arise.
Create a Patient Experience
The American Medical Association recommends that private practices develop a patient experience program to improve your practice and increase satisfaction among patients and caregivers. According to AMA, “Successful patient experience efforts are grounded by creating a burning platform for change, leveraging transparent feedback and providing effective training. Building a patient experience program is not only important for improving patient satisfaction but can also be a rewarding activity for your practice.” Steps to create a patient experience program include:
- Assess the current state of patient satisfaction
- Define your “North Star”
- Engage key stakeholders in experience design
- Develop and implement your patient experience strategy
- Analyze feedback and determine the impact
- Recognize accomplishments and improve over time
Marketing is a key method to communicate the benefits of your practice to current and prospective patients. Some marketing metrics that can help track the effectiveness of your current outreach efforts and set the stage for growth include: search engine rankings/position, social media metrics, website performance, website traffic, patient reviews, and types of social media engagements.
Stay Competitive by Running Your Private Practice Efficiently
Patients no longer have an easy choice when it comes to receiving medical care. Not only do they have the choice of providers, but they can also venture into the primary and urgent care space. This means that your independent practice must provide care, and also run in the most efficient way possible to keep an eye on revenue and profitability. Actions you can take to help your private practice run more efficiently include:
Implement Lean Health Care
Lean care is a principle espoused by the American Medical Association to strengthen the problem-solving culture in your independent practice, so everyone feels responsible and empowered to improve the practice. Lean is a strategy and set of tools that help your practice be more resilient and adaptable to future changes in health care. Lean is a mindset and a method to assist medical professionals in improving office practices and minimizing waste in every process. The goal is to empower team members to find and fix the root cause of wasteful activities. Waste can be found in everything from lengthy wait-times and inefficient office technology, to poor-performing EHRs, and lack of access to needed information.
Reduce Coding Errors
Coding errors can occur when a private practice is too aggressive in attempting to receive compensation, or too passive in not billing at the most appropriate rate possible. Inaccurate coding can inflict financial pressures on your independent practice in the form of decreased revenue, audits, or even clawbacks from private insurers and revenue audit contractors (RACs). In February 2022, Medical Economics highlighted five costly coding errors: inappropriate E/M coding, missing E/M codes, inaccurate capturing of patient status, missed administrative procedure codes, and inaccurate utilization of modifiers. Although there are many more potential errors, correcting at least the errors on this list can make a significant, positive difference to the financial and operational well-being of your private practice.
Use Personalized Digital Health Management to Enhance Patient Care
In addition to building up your telehealth and Patient Portal capabilities, digital health can help to anticipate, address and monitor issues before they become chronic or life-threatening. The most recent example of advances in this area is with Remote Patient Monitoring, or RPM. This capability can help your practice proactively manage post-acute and chronic care with a highly personalized, data-informed approach. By monitoring glucose levels, blood pressure readings, or sleep patterns, your practice can proactively intervene to prevent or mitigate health issues.
Incorporate Performance Benchmarks
Apply a scientific approach to measuring and correcting key performance indicators (KPIs). Compare your performance across key categories such as: productivity, accounts receivable, insurance claims, denials, reimbursements, and patient satisfaction.
Clearly Communicate Patient Payments Expectations
Transparency and “surprise billing” are becoming key trends in medical practice billing. To increase compliance and make every effort to maximize cash flow, your private practice needs to incorporate techniques that will make sure patients are fully aware of what part is their responsibility. Team members need to understand practice billing policies, and clearly communicate these to patients at all points of interaction. Utilize online and mobile payment options and send billing and payment reminders via electronic means whenever possible.
Get Rid of "Stupid Stuff"
The American Medical Association describes the technical term of “stupid stuff” as all those unnecessary tasks that have introduced a heavy burden into the daily workload of physicians and other providers. These daily inefficiencies are stressful for all involved, and detrimental to the cost efficiencies of your independent practice. Create a simple internal program in your practice where suggestions for change can be solicited and efficiently acted upon. Examples of “stupid stuff” that can add up to wasted time and effort:
- Not having a printer in each exam room, so providers have to walk to a central location to get printouts
- Inefficient EHR templates
- Useless questions on patient intake forms
- Continuing to fax information in a digital age
- Not accepting online or mobile payments when patients already moved to those methods
- Poor e-prescription protocols
- Redundant questions
- Relying only on paper communication methods
- Ignoring negative patient comments
State-of-the-Art Technology from Amazing Charts Helps Private Practices Compete
Amazing Charts offers many solutions specifically designed to help your private practice survive and thrive. Your practice can achieve the benefits of efficient digital administrative tasks, while you concentrate on the personal aspects of providing care:
Electronic Health Record
Maximize reimbursements and gather more about insurance coverage and patient responsibilities at check-in with our PM.
Our pop health modules help you report on Clinical Quality Measures for MIPS, identify gaps, and more.
Medical Billing Services
Don’t leave dollars on the table when you can use a medical billing service to handle the hassle of billing for you, and at a more affordable rate than most third-party billers.
Increase care delivery capabilities with the option to treat patients virtually while they’re in their homes.
Virtual Preventative Care Assistant
Manage patients with chronic conditions with a remote staff that can provide a fuller continuum of care.
Healthcare Technology Solutions Designed By and For Independent Practices
Amazing Charts was founded in 2001 by a practicing family physician to help medical practices thrive. We have grown consistently since then by creating easy-to-use solutions for delivering patient care. Today, we offer a variety of additional capabilities designed to help independent practices succeed, including Electronic Health Records, Practice Management, Billing Services, Population Health and Remote Care. Call 866-382-5932 to learn about our products, schedule a practice consultation, and learn more about telehealth pandemic lessons that can help your independent practice grow.