Increasing Revenue, One Service at a Time
As a physician, how often do you think about your revenue stream? “What’s to think about?” you may ask. Your schedule is booked solid. Patients come in, they receive treatment, and they are billed. If they are delinquent on their payments, they are reminded. You, and all of your staff are paid on time each week.
If it is this simple, then why are so many independent practices barely breaking even, or sliding ever closer to the red, while other successful ones find that their earnings have inconspicuously plateaued? To answer this, think back on the original question. Thinking about revenue means delving beneath the surface of your daily routine into things like accurate billing info, the exact number of delinquent accounts in your system, or the number of your claims vs. the number of denials.
Moving beyond stabilization, to increase revenue, you have to think outside of the box. Increased patient intake and retention is only the beginning. Would providing secondary services put your practice over the top? Are they right for it? Are the numbers getting too complex to handle in-house? It may be time to consult with your senior staff members about the many facets of the “revenue question.”
The Devil’s in the Details
We already know how the seemingly benign, overlooked parts of your daily routine become a hive for complications. How often are patients unable to meet their co-pays? If this kind of thing happens frequently, then you may have yourself to blame for lacking foresight. It may seem tedious, or even a bit invasive to some, but verifying the status of a patient’s healthcare benefits beforehand, especially a new patient, can help a lot. Make sure their credit card information is on file for automatic billing. Get a handle on how many outstanding accounts your practice has, and compute the value of all of them. Do what you can to make sure a patient knows that they are expected to pay, and educate them about your practice’s financial policy. Make sure your front desk staff are well-prepared for these kinds of exchanges.
In a previous post, we covered the issue of denied claims. It’s been a problem for many independent physicians, and it’s important that you know just how consistently it has been a problem for your practice. Get the numbers. How many claim denials have you been served with this quarter? When you have them in order, follow up. As we’ve discussed, most denials are made erroneously, or are caused by typos and blank spots. It would chafe anyone if they knew they were losing income due to misspellings. It may be a good idea to delegate denied claim follow-up to a staff specialist, especially larger, or more suspicious ones. Dumping the extra workload on a regular billing and claims specialist can be overwhelming and inefficient.
It comes up again and again, but the same tenacious attention to detail should be paid to billing. ICD-10 is new. It seems overwhelming, and frustrating. It is also the new language of how you get paid for procedures and treatments you provide. We strongly advocate hiring capable billing and claims specialists for many reasons. The difference between two fairly common ailments or treatments could be a single number in the system, or letter. The monetary difference between these easily mixed up treatments can be two additional dollars, maybe five, or ten. We are talking minute details, and small figures, right? Wrong. What if this “common” mistake is made a hundred times in the course of a busy year? What about two hundred times? This can cost your practice thousands of dollars in revenue that you could have used in many different ways.
Bringing the most to your practice
With issues surrounding reimbursements, and other problems blocking profits, it might be time to consider offering ancillary services at your practice. From urine drug screens to Botox treatments, there are a variety of complimentary services you can offer at your practice that will increase your bottom line. Instead of directing your patients out the door to a hospital or lab for certain tests, you can run them yourself, and reap the benefits. But where there are benefits, there are also potential pitfalls. Remember the term complimentary when deciding on extra services. The extra services and products you offer should fall in line with what kind of practice you run—primary care, urgent care, etc… You should also have a sense of the demographic you serve in choosing what these services will be. To this end, you must involve your whole staff. They work closely with your patients every day, and will have a strong idea of what they want, and what your return on investment may look like.
In keeping with what you can potentially bring to your practice to increase revenue, let’s switch from services to people, specifically CPAs. Yes, certified public accountants. Some practices swear by outsourcing all of their complex accounting needs. State certified CPAs bring a deep set of financial tools to the table and offer healthcare-specific services, including revenue enhancement, practice valuation, mergers and acquisitions, practice restructuring, and physician compensation. While it is tempting to “save money” by having all accounting matters done in-house, consider the increase in the margin for error. You may end up losing more money than you save. One thing you and your staff definitely gain from outsourcing your practice’s accounting is more time to do your jobs.
Regularly tracking accounts, paying close attention to details, and making simple, thought-out changes can ensure that money comes in and goes out in the right increments, and at the right times. Do businesses sometimes have to spend money to make money? Of course. If the move is right, put your money to work by offering ancillary medical services. While working with outside professionals to keep your finances in order (not to mention above board…) will cost money, you should consider it a benefit of an insurance policy, one that will ensure the health and livelihood of your practice for years to come.
| HCRC Staffing | Brian@hcrcstaffing.com | www.hcrcstaffing.com
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