Connections for Success

 

01.21.21

Seven Steps to Handle a Down Economy
Kelly H. Buchheit

The COVID-19 pandemic has had many ramifications. One of these has been a down economy that has affected many sectors of our society — including medical practices. Physicians have felt the effects as patients have lost jobs and health insurance, been reluctant to visit doctors’ offices because of fear of infection and shifted to saving instead of spending. Here are some strategies to help weather the storm.

Related Read: Staying Solvent — and Maybe Even Profitable — in Tough Times

Take active measures

Medical practices should take the following steps to help them handle the economic downturn:

  1. Have a Marketing Mentality
    Just as consumers scale back spending in a down economy, many businesses, including medical practices, may consider scaling back their marketing expenses. In general, it is the wrong time to scale back marketing. The best approach is to fine-tune your marketing strategy, focusing on providing positive messaging to existing patients while reaching out to new ones. Remind your patients that you are here for them and that taking care of their health and wellness is an essential need — not an indulgence or something to postpone.
  2. Decide Not to Lose a Patient to a Competitor
    Ensure all patients have access to you and your practice, that you are providing top-notch care in a safe environment and that you have made it as easy as possible for them to make an appointment in a timely fashion.
  3. Set Your Practice Apart
    Target your marketing to inform potential and current patients about the overall experience you are providing. In a consumer society, people look for the best deals and convenience, but they are also attuned to how their experiences make them feel. Pay attention to the element of patient experience and ensure that you are offering the best care possible. Get to know what your patients value most about their health care.
  4. Add Value to Your Patient Visits
    There are numerous ways to interpret the term “value-added,” including going the extra mile for patients. But another concrete way of adding value is to reinvent your practice to be as comprehensive as possible. In other words, it may not be enough to simply focus on a patient’s chief complaint. Within the context of appropriate care, conduct a full exam to look for problems or issues that might be “subclinical,” in the sense that the patient may not be aware of them. In addition to increasing patient visit value for your practice, this is beneficial to the patients as well.
  5. Emphasize Patient Satisfaction
    This encompasses providing the highest level of care possible and finding out what your patients value. So much of it comes down to customer service. People might want faster and cheaper, but when they come to a physician’s office, they want to get better faster. They want to be seen on time. They want you to listen to them and provide the services they need while demonstrating an understanding of their problems.
  6. Focus on Patient Customer Service
    Communication between doctor and patient is an important physician competency. Patient satisfaction is linked to good physician-patient communication. The most obvious aspect of this is bedside manner, but you need to be attuned to all your practice’s communications and ensure that they reinforce how you want your practice to be perceived by the patient.
  7. Make Sure Your Accounts Receivable are Under Control
    Although this should seem obvious — whether in a boom or a bust economy — make sure that you are getting paid what you are owed. Accounts receivable (AR) involves the outstanding monies owed to your practice and is also a measure of how long claims are overdue. Claims over 90 days should be less than 20% of your total AR. Days in AR is the average number of days it takes to collect the payments due to the practice. A high-performing medical practice’s billing is typically 30 days or less in AR. The average is 40 to 50 days and 60 days is below average.

Related Read: How to Handle Collections Reasonably and Compassionately

Heal your practice

At some point, things will get better. The pandemic will fade and the economy will begin to recover. Your patients may get used to the new protocols dictated by the pandemic, such as telehealth visits, which will lead to permanent changes in the way you deliver care. By taking steps toward a lean, efficient practice that is focused on a superlative patient experience, your practice can come out on top regardless of circumstances.

For more information about financial and other assistance available to health care providers, please contact Kelly Buchheit at kbuchheit@orba.com. Visit ORBA.com to learn more about our Health Care Group.

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