Deborah A. Wilkins
Medical Practice Advisory Group, LLC
Many physician owners and medical practice managers report that they are frustrated by never having adequate time to do an operational or financial assessment of their practices to identify and correct the problems which are negatively impacting profitability and productivity. This is because managers are constantly attending to the daily needs of the practice, putting out fires, resolving personnel problems, dealing with cash flow issues and physician-generated concerns. As necessary as these activities are to operating a successful practice, they are generally not related to improving practice performance and profitability.
An operational assessment and continuous process improvement project is designed to provide the practice with a blueprint for achieving greater efficiency and profitability over the short-term and long-term. A comprehensive operational assessment and improvement process project assesses the following twelve areas of medical practice operations in a top to bottom manner:
1. Profitability and Overhead Expenses,
2. Accounts Receivable Management,
3. Productivity, Capacity and Staffing
4. Scheduling, Patient Access and Patient Satisfaction
5. Patient Flow, Operational Efficiency and Office Organization
6. Coding, Reimbursement and Medical Records
7. Patient Billing, Insurance Processing and Collections
8. Compliance and Risk Management to include:
Malpractice Risk Reduction
Human Resources Compliance
9. Personnel Management
10. Facility and Equipment Management
11. Information Technology Systems
12. Strategic Planning and Marketing
A comprehensive practice assessment which evaluates all of the above-listed areas, utilizes a three-page checklist. However, because each medical practice is unique, with its own specific needs, these assessment projects are tailored to focus on those specific areas of concern to your practice. The areas of focus for each assessment project should be discussed and agreed upon in advance.
A practice assessment checklist tailored to the needs of your practice is the primary tool utilized for assessing the operational areas included in the project. Each item on the checklist is reviewed and discussed in detail in the report. Where applicable, the assessment checklist also includes a comparison of the group’s financial and productivity data with industry standard national and/or regional medians and “best practices” benchmarks for the client’s practice size. Using standard measures, benchmarking provides a continuous process for measuring an learning about your practice’s productivity, costs, profitability and quality. Although medical practices, even those in trouble, often report the use of benchmarks, they are rarely integrated into the daily operations of the practice or used to create accountability or drive performance improvement. If practices truly wish to master their business systems, benchmarking must be used to drive performance to achieve “best practice” standards.
Typically, it takes about a week to acquire the information that is necessary for solo practitioners to upwards of a month or more for larger groups, wherein interviews must be scheduled with every member of the staff and time is spent observing the processes in the office from check-in and check-out, to billing, to medical records, to the clinical area. Once the site work is finished, work on the report commences, which takes anywhere from six to eight weeks and sometimes longer, depending on group size. The Practice Assessment report (report of findings and recommendations) focuses primarily on problems, deficiencies and/or concerns identified as a result of the analysis of the information provided by the practice and through direct observation. All of the identified problems and/or deficiencies listed on the assessment checklist having a direct or indirect negative impact on practice cash flow and/or profitability are further analyzed in the report. This analysis/assessment explains how the identified problem or deficiency affects practice cash flow and/or profitability; it also offers recommendations for changes or improvements that should be implemented to resolve the identified problems and discusses options on how to implement the recommended action(s).
Upon completion of the assessment and compilation of the report of findings and recommendations, a meeting should be scheduled to discuss and elaborate on the final report and answer any questions relative to the information and recommended change initiatives.
A medical practice assessment is of tremendous benefit to a practice in expediting the process of identifying operational inefficiencies and problems inherent in nearly every practice, large or small, which are negatively impacting practice productivity, cash flow and profitability. The assessment also assists the practice in prioritizing those recommended actions which will have the greatest immediate impact on improving practice performance and profitability.
Isn’t it time your practice has a check-up?