Improving operational efficiencies should be an ongoing process for all medical practices. Reevaluating and examining existing procedures can help you identify areas of weakness that can drain revenues and increase costs, lowering the bottom line. The following suggestions may help jump-start your thinking about ways you can maximize your practice’s revenue stream and reduce costs, without sacrificing patient care.
Keep Coding Current and Accurate
Miscoding is expensive. It can reduce reimbursements and cause delays or denied claims. Miscoding is often due to using old data, under coding to avoid penalty risk, or leaving coding decisions to inexperienced support staff.
For more accurate coding, maintain updated coding manuals and software, keep a code reference summary handy in exam rooms, and use online coding resources. If you make notes during each patient visit, you will be able to bill more accurately. Taking coding refresher courses will help your staff stay current with coding practices.
Finally, periodic assessments of your practice’s coding accuracy can help uncover problem areas. These assessments could include a review of your practice’s forms and a comparison of billing codes with the actual services that were provided.
Improve Employee Productivity
Consider these ideas for improving productivity:
- Set productivity goals and offer incentives to your staff for reaching those goals.
- Delegate administrative functions. (Ensure that physicians spend most of their day doing only what physicians can do.)
- Plan patient flow so that physician and medical assistant billable time is maximized.
Exercise More Efficient Control over Staff Time
It is often possible to trim overtime expenses without reducing the quality of patient care. Start by reviewing the payroll records of your non-exempt employees to determine who worked overtime and why. Find out if your practice was fully staffed and simply busy, or if it was short one or more employees on the days when the overtime occurred. If overtime was necessary because you were short-staffed, see if this was due to vacations or some other controllable situation. It may be necessary to revise your practice’s policy on vacation time, if scheduled time off was the cause of the increase in overtime.
Update Fee Schedules and Review Reimbursement Rates
Patients can be price conscious and resistant to fee increases. Nevertheless, if your practice has not raised fees in some time, you may want to consider appropriate increases. In addition, you should periodically examine the reimbursement rates of all the plans you participate in and reevaluate whether it makes economic sense to continue accepting patients from some of the ones that reimburse poorly.
Improve Purchasing Practices
Medical and office supplies can be a significant part of a practice’s expenses. Busy practices may take the path of least resistance and continue ordering from the vendors that have always supplied them. That can be an expensive mistake. Choose several of your practice’s high-volume items and find out how much other vendors are charging for those items. Use that information to negotiate lower prices with your current suppliers, consolidate orders with fewer vendors, or switch to new suppliers to save money.
Contact Bob Baldassari, MCB’s Medical Practice tax and consulting leader, for a best practice review of your medical practice and tax planning and compliance services.