Is Outsourcing Right for Your Practice?
KELLY H. BUCHHEIT, CPA
In a rapidly changing health care industry, it pays to put all options on the table when considering improvements to your practice. Some of the ways your practice has traditionally done business may be holding it back. It may be time to consider outsourcing some activities to ensure your practice continues to thrive.
A cost-benefit analysis comes first
Before making any major decision, you should always perform a careful cost-benefit analysis. For some tasks, the cost of outsourcing will be clearly less than that of performing the task in-house. But, for other tasks, the direct cost may be close to, or even exceed, the cost of performing the activity in-house. Aside from the direct cost, you should also consider whether outsourcing those tasks will improve results that positively affect the practice’s bottom line, reduce indirect costs or provide other valuable benefits.
For example, an effective outside billing service or professional management firm may help improve the practice’s billing cycle and account collections by reducing the aging of patient receivables and resulting in more consistent cash flows. Revenue that your practice generates from more effective billing and follow-up may easily exceed the incremental direct cost of an outside billing service.
Related Read: Should You Outsource Billing?
In other situations, factors such as tax consequences, savings in capital expenditures or other financial trade-offs may make a significant difference. For instance, the cost of an outside billing service may be expensed on your practice’s income statement, but the cost of a computerized billing system acquisition is generally a capital expense that the practice may have to depreciate over an extended period.
Interest and commitment matter
There are several factors that will help you determine the initial feasibility of outsourcing a particular task. First, look at the size of your practice and the level of internal expertise that is needed to perform the task. Second, consider your physicians’ interest and commitment to participating in management decisions and oversight of the task. Lastly, explore the marketplace for service providers that can perform the task well and at a competitive rate. Make sure you weigh all three of these factors in relation to your practice before making a decision to outsource services.
Streamlining for better service
Outsourcing offers several primary benefits: Improved results from a provider specializing in a particular activity, potential for reduced costs and the elimination of responsibilities and administrative burden for physicians and administrators.
Diagnostics and testing
Outsourcing does not necessarily have to be limited to administrative tasks. Specialty group practices performing diagnostic and therapeutic services may outsource not only the administrative responsibility and equipment maintenance, but also the technical component of those services. Niche companies that specialize in these areas can provide well-trained personnel.
A cardiology group may, for instance, choose to outsource its cardiac stress tests. This type of outsourcing can provide expansion opportunities and often without the risk, capital expense and lead time required to develop comparable in-house capabilities.
Less is more
When your staff is burdened with extraneous or administrative tasks, it is easy to get bogged down and lose your practice’s competitive edge. Consider outsourcing specific activities to help your practice navigate today’s economy and come out ahead.
Achieving Patient Satisfaction
KEVIN P. OMAHEN, CPA
Improving patient satisfaction is not a one size fits all formula. It is a process that needs to be evaluated continuously by the provider and tailored to the patients that are treated. However, there are various improvement opportunities that universally assist in achieving this goal.
- Patient Engagement
Spend some time engaging with patients before starting clinical procedures. Doing so can help improve trust and strengthen rapport. There are several ways to achieve this. One easy way to strengthen patient engagement is to establish and nurture personal connections. Get to know your patients. This may be difficult as you are treating a wide variety of patients each day and some you may see for a few minutes. However, attempting to engage with the patient outside of just the medical conversation is important.
- Educate Patients
You have gone through years of education and possibly years of experience. On the other hand, your patients are not as educated on their conditions as you are (this is why they are coming to see you). This makes educating patients important. Give your patients a background on what you are observing and thinking. Let them know as much as you know to help them gain comfort and trust.
- Office Look
Are the carpets on the floor 20 years old? Are the decorations in the waiting room from the ’80s? The appearance of the office plays a significant role in the patient’s experience. It may not be necessary for an office makeover every few years, but cleaning up the office and making it more modern improves the patient’s overall experience.
- Systems Update
Technology is constantly updating, but not all practices keep up with the times when it comes to administration. Patients like the ability to book appointments online, receive electronic reminders, etc. Making sure that you are staying current with your administrative systems is important to improving patient satisfaction.
- Wait Time
Sitting in the waiting room for hours because your doctor is overbooked is incredibly irritating from a patient’s perspective. Time is important to everyone. Let patients know at check-in about delays. If the doctor is running behind schedule, be specific about the amount of time. The patient can then make an informed decision to stay or reschedule. Also, make sure your scheduling process continues to make sense for you and your patients.
- Keep Patients Up-to-Date
Having an informative website that can communicate information to patients assists in both marketing and patient satisfaction. Post an FAQ page on your website (or provide printed material) that is up-to-date and that indicates how to refill prescriptions, get care after hours and schedule appointments.
In an increasingly consumer-oriented patient relationship, health care practices and physicians can be affected in many ways by various issues that are important to patients. It is not clear whether patient satisfaction necessarily equals better health, but satisfaction certainly affects patient retention.
Related Read: Three Keys to Providing Terrific Patient Service
Paying more attention to these details can help your practice be more successful and provide more holistic care that incorporates an understanding of the patient as a consumer of the health care experience.