After working with a variety of physicians and specialty care groups on back-office functions, we have discovered one universal truth: most physicians prefer serving patients than dealing with accounting. However, staffing, processes and collections are critical to a profitable practice. With more physicians working for small practices or for other physicians than ever before, this whitepaper shares tips for simplifying accounting while also making staffing and processes more efficient to support practice profits and physician productivity.
In an article I wrote for Magazine this year, one of my key points emphasized the importance of high physician productivity. Physicians who spend increasing time on administrative duties can contribute to more than 50 percent of practice losses. It’s simple math. If they are not billing time for patient care, then they are not billing.
And yet, math (or accounting as we call it) is often what trips up a small to mid-sized practice group on the path to profits. It’s not only the accounting itself, but also the processes and controls in place to manage it. Physician group owners can spend a lot of time worrying over reimbursement from a variety of third-party payor models as well as compliance to support reimbursement, but the building blocks of efficient accounting lie with staffing, processes and accounts receivable. For example:
- Staffing: If your administrative staff is not trained on reducing cancellation rates or inviting patients to set up a payment plan, these are potential points of loss.
- Processes: Online scheduling options, automated appointment reminders and online bill pay can all help to streamline customer service and cash flow.
- Accounts Receivable: Software that combines accounting with your payroll and reporting can help produce reports for partners as well as bankers to review revenue projections and make better business decisions such as the right time to purchase new equipment or buy a building.
We find that streamlined accounting processes on their own can improve practice efficiency and physician productivity. Give your staff the right tools and the autonomy to improve efficiency. Understand your key performance indicators. Track your numbers regularly through simplified reports. Let’s look at a few ways this can be accomplished in a small to mid-sized practice.
Simplifying Staffing Ties to Physician Productivity
Traditionally, physicians groups will hire part-time staff in scheduling and bookkeeping to bookend the practice delivery. The patient gets scheduled, treated and sent a bill. The physicians still wear many hats to oversee the business and also serve patients.
Practice management systems can help to centralize insurance submissions, accounting, billing, payroll and reporting. There are many practice management software solutions available to practices today, and it’s important that these systems are cost-effective, user friendly and compatible with other systems in the practice. Problems occur, however, when administrative employees are not properly trained on all of the tools and capabilities of the system, but also if they don’t understand the goals of the practice.
For example, the three main areas staff should be focused on include:
- Risk management. Make sure referrals and insurance authorizations are checked at registration and that patient co-pays are collected.
- Claims management. Make sure all services are billed properly through the system.
- Make sure that no-shows are reduced through appointment reminders and rescheduling options as quickly as possible.
If you are limited in administrative staffing — which every small to mid-sized practice should be — consider which back-office functions can be outsourced to professionals who specialize in them, including human resources, payroll administration, performance management and even recruitment. Also, there is IT support, legal expertise and medical billing. The right vendors will be efficient and pass along savings through fewer errors, a third-party perspective on best practices and healthier accounts receivable.
As an exercise, tally up the salary and benefits of a full-time equivalent employee to perform an office function correctly — as well as the cost of system upgrades, training, supplies and office space. Then look at the percentage a vendor will charge to handle the function for you.
We are not advocating that you necessarily terminate or reduce your administrative staff. In fact, by freeing up their time to focus more on patient service and follow-up, you will better leverage internal staff to support efficient scheduling and maintaining the office practice management system. They can also promote patient use of any online self-serve tools you have in place or will soon have in place.
Cornwell Jackson’s Business Services Department offers a wide range of outsourced financial services to serve small to mid-sized medical and dental practices — including payroll outsourcing and solutions to improve cash flow and productivity. While you focus on care outcomes of your patients, we can address the business side of a healthy practice. Contact us for a consultation or click here to view our whitepaper on medical practice KPIs.
Scott Bates, CPA, is a partner in the audit practice and leads Cornwell Jackson’s Business Services Department, which includes a dedicated team for outsourced accounting, bookkeeping and payroll services. He provides consulting to clients in auto, healthcare, real estate, transportation, technology, service, retail and manufacturing and distribution.
Contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-202-8000.