Streamlining accounts receivable processes, fine-tuning patient engagement, improving staff efficiency, finessing payer relations, negotiating equitable contracts, maintaining compliance with ever-changing regulations—there’s always something. Managing a medical practice is not easy.
But you can make the job easier on yourself and your staff with tips to get better results in quicker time. Let’s look at a few convenient moves.
The business world has long touted “the customer is king.” With healthcare reform linking reimbursement to patient outcomes and satisfaction, the patient has become consumer and is the new king on the block. For you, this means more than implementing best practices for patient engagement and patient flow. This means that patient convenience is paramount and must be a top priority for your medical practice.
What services can you add to your roster to enhance patient convenience? Can you remove the need for patients to drive to additional locations—and sit in additional waiting rooms—for common lab tests? If not, how can you make these inconveniences… well, more convenient? Why not schedule your patients’ appointments for labs, imagining, and diagnostic studies while they’re standing in front of you in your office?
But that’s not convenient for my staff, you say. And you’re right. It is more work—upfront. Think big picture, though. Think of the return on your investment and how it will save you on the patient retention side of the equation. Think of how it will contribute to word of mouth marketing. If nothing else, think of how it will help to ensure you receive the studies you need to properly treat your patients.
In the end, what’s convenient for your patients is convenient for your practice.
Be on the lookout for ways to insert convenience. Maybe it’s providing the option to make appointments online or download lab results. Don’t be afraid to venture into new technologies, which are affordable and much easier to navigate than you might think.
Patient retention involves many best practices across your organization, all of which are rooted in the culture of your office—all but one. Don’t forget the obvious. If you forget, you can be sure your patients will forget.
Schedule next appointments as your patients leave. This is especially essential for annual physicals, which is the most overlooked checkout appointment scheduled.
By scheduling annual physicals, you write your existing patients in the books. You also spare them the task of watching their calendars to call a few months in advance of year’s end to make their appointment. Instead, they simply receive a reminder call from your office, and everyone’s happy.
If you overlook this practice, you make it convenient for patients considering a move to another provider to make the switch. Give them a greater convenience. With annual physicals scheduled well in advance, all they need to do is show up.
Yes, you may spend close to 90 days in A/R waiting for insurance companies to reimburse your claims. Your cash flow, then, could probably use a boost. Do yourself a favor and rev up self-pay collections by keeping credit cards on file.
Provide patients with a print copy outlining your financial policy, including the timeframe indicating when charges to their cards will be posted. Don’t present this as an option. Do, though, remain open to consider cases on a needs basis. Perhaps you can include a phone number to call for additional arrangements. With credit cards on file, you’ll be equipped to offer automate payment plans.
Above all, take care to convey your financial policy as a convenience to your patients with the intention of eliminating payment hassles.
So, okay, you have a no-show policy to protect your practice from last-minute cancelations and lost revenue. Maybe you charge patients at the first no-show, maybe you give them a second chance. There’s no right or wrong choice, just be sure to clearly communicate your policy. Give your patients a printout version and keep it posted in plain sight, informing them, for example, that you require a 36-hour notice for cancelations, otherwise they will be charged via credit card.
As regretful as a no-show policy is to enforce, focus on the conveniences protected in your policy and talk up these conveniences with patients when you need to discuss it.
First, stress how important it is to your practice to offer appointment flexibility. Assure patients that you understand their circumstances, are happy to accommodate changes in their schedules, and will do everything in your power to arrange for a new appointment as soon as possible.
Next, and here’s the important part, when having to act on a no-show, emphasize the “greater good”, which is preserving the ability to see patients for acute care. You might say something to the effect: “We strive to be available for patients with urgent needs—and would hope to be available to provide you with immediate attention should you become sick. Unfortunately, without a no-show policy prompting patients to tell us when they can’t make an appointment, we don’t learn about openings that could be given to others.”
To prevent no-shows in the first place, add another layer of convenience to your appointment reminder system with email or text messages. Send out reminders 48 hours in advance and include your policy on no-shows. If this doesn’t ensure your appointments are kept, it will certainly diffuse anger when the no-show policy is imposed.
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