Regulatory compliance and technology are changing the landscape of the health care industry. New technologies, revenue cycles resolution and changes in leadership can all have a positive impact on your practice. Are you prepared to take on these new opportunities? In this article, Tammie Lunceford answers a few questions about how the landscape is changing and how facing these changes can help breathe new life into your practice.
Question: What are some of the common challenges you have seen in medical practices recently?
Answer: I often see revenue cycle problems. It is more difficult now than ever to get paid by the carriers and by the patient. As you know, we’ve had a shift from the carrier paying all of the health claims to now the patient has more responsibility over the costs, and it can be difficult to ask patients for money. Physicians are there to serve the patient and many feel uncomfortable asking the patient for money. I also see problems with adopting new technologies that are available, and problems where too much responsibility is on the front office…having them answer the phone and also deal face-to-face with the patient, which can be challenging. We also have seen a lot of highly qualified managers (Baby Boomers) leaving the market, which can lead to issues with changing leadership.
Question: Can you describe a couple of examples you’ve seen in medical practices where, with a few small changes, you saw a big impact.
Answer: I work with both large and small practices, and I have a couple of stories that I could share. One from this year was a Practice Assessment for a new client. The manager was overwhelmed because the practice had doubled in size over a four-year period. The physicians were overwhelmed because they were finding themselves making decisions for a large practice when they had been a small practice for so many years. Their revenue cycle manager, who had been very loyal to the practice, was not qualified to handle the new load, and were having some financial issues. MACRA was approaching as a big project and that they had no idea how to attempt that undertaking. Plus, throughout their growth, they had failed to build the appropriate infrastructure to adequately support the practice, like hiring a mid-level manager or supervisory staff to assist the manager in staying highly effective. So, after I identified these problems during the assessment, I worked closely with the group and over a short period of time we recruited and hired a revenue cycle manager who was effective and innovative. The practice’s profitability has increased, they relieved the front desk staff from answering the phones and allowed them to focus on the patients standing in front of them. Through coaching the group and the manager, they have been able to work more cohesively and make better decisions. They’ve identified some team leaders to lead other areas, and they are doing great. They are approaching projects more on their own now, but I’m still their advisor and have built a long-term relationship and I know we will continue working with that practice.
We also work with smaller practices. We received a call from a physician who was leaving a large practice and going out on her own to form a “boutique practice.” I assisted her early in her practice. She couldn’t afford a high-level manager to help her make decisions, so I became her advisor. I continued this over a five-year period and we have taken her from being too small to hire a manager to hiring a manager, to hiring to mid-level providers, and now we are about to hire a partner for her. I love forming these lasting relationships with managers and providers.
Question: What new changes are we seeing in healthcare as we move forward into the next few years?
Answer: Because we’ve seen a decline in reimbursement and collections over the last few years, it can be difficult for us to get physicians to invest in their practice because many are afraid. They want to hang on to their money rather than investing in their practice. They really don’t know where we are going in the future of healthcare, there are changes in the payment models, administrative burdens are at their highest, and manager and physician burnout is at its highest. There has never been a time where I’ve seen practices need advisory services more than now. I think with technology growing as quickly as it is, we will need to guide these physicians on what technologies they should incorporate and invest in to keep their practice vital.
Article contributed by Tammie Lunceford, Healthcare and Dental Consultant, Warren Averett Healthcare Consulting Group. Warren Averett is an official Gold Partner with the Medical Association.