In today’s medical practice, providers and staff face constant regulatory and administrative burdens. With all the competing demands for time, it is often the health of the practice that ultimately suffers. Whether the practice is new or established, it is important to periodically perform a complete and unbiased assessment of the practice operations. A practice assessment provides an opportunity to identify areas for improvement and seek ways to increase or sustain growth. It entails a detailed assessment and plan that is accurate, comprehensive and forward-looking to significantly improve your company’s performance.
Catching Problems Early
A practice assessment begins with a data and documentation request, followed by interviews with providers and staff and time spent getting to know the practice. During this initial phase, the objective is to examine the operations and identify key pain points for the practice that require immediate attention, such as a lack of proper policies and procedures or understanding a recent shift in culture.
Staff and providers must be equipped with the resources and skills necessary to carry out their duties and function as a high performing team. An assessment is meant to provide the insight and tools necessary for a tune-up of the practice, not to place blame or point fingers for any inefficiencies or lack of structure that may be contributing to lost revenue.
Staffing is a major contributor to the well-being of a practice and the single largest expense category for most businesses. The consequences of hiring challenges can further drive expenses, reduce productivity and diminish work quality. It is important to understand the roles and functions of the team to ensure staff are properly deployed according to their abilities.
The internal systems and structure of the medical practice are directly tied to the policies and procedures detailing how, when and by whom certain functions are to be performed. Indicators that a practice may lack this structure and need improvement include high staff turnover, lagging collections and poor patient and staff satisfaction.
Staff productivity and process improvements goals are often aligned with staff requests for more training or feedback on their performance. Staff evaluations must be performed annually, at a minimum. Regular staff meetings and training opportunities should identify areas of focus, such as customer service, revenue cycle, governmental regulations, or leadership development. Lastly, staff should be rewarded and paid appropriately based on their experience and the value they add to the practice.
Practices must have the proper financial controls and policies in place to mitigate expense mismanagement and embezzlement. Every medical practice puts itself at risk by not instituting strict internal controls to protect the practice from revenue loss and potential employee theft. There is no guarantee employee dishonesty will be avoided. However, having proper controls in place will help mitigate risk and provide proper documentation in case further action is needed such as a police investigation, lawsuit, or insurance claim.
Basing Decisions on Known Data
Practices are becoming increasingly data-driven organizations. Investments in electronic medical records and practice management software have increased the volume of data generated by a practice. The practice assessment will evaluate if the organization is optimized for utilizing data and technology to drive continuous process improvements.
Are back-office administrative functions properly automated? Are staff using the best technology tools and procedures to manage their areas of responsibility? These best practices for the industry reduce the likelihood that back-office functions create delays or constraints on the ability of the practice to deliver high-quality care.
For practices without data analytics capabilities, Aldrich is able to provide recommendations and solutions to streamline the data acquisition process, allowing more time to interpret and make decisions based on the data. Combining disparate information systems and data sources can lead to impactful and actionable insights into your medical practice. Data analysis and benchmarking to industry standards are great ways for practices to gain a deeper understanding of where they are, where they want to be and how to get there.
Keeping Focused on the Big Picture
While undergoing a practice assessment it is important not to lose sight of the company’s mission and vision. These details may seem inconsequential or minor but have a significant impact on the culture of your organization. Culture sets the tone for the work environment and helps attract the right talent.
With the culture in mind, staff education and training keep your staff equipped to handle challenges and changes in the field. Branding, marketing and new patient acquisition will all be reflected in the culture of the practice and how it is viewed by the outside world. Communication, staff meetings and training make your staff feel included and remind staff that continual process improvement is about removing waste and inefficiencies, not positions.
Physician owners set the vision that drives the practice down that defined path. Improve the lines of authority and set clear pathways for staff to feel heard. Tell stories using data. Act as an evangelist for the practice to drive referrals and patient satisfaction. Experiment with projects to add value, yet create structure and accountability around what you’re doing. By leveraging people, tools and data, practices can ensure they have the proper structure for success.
Having an objective third-party assess a practice provides valuable insight into the health of an organization’s operational, human resources and financial management, risk and compliance, and governance. This will allow the practice to focus on understanding the drivers of financial performance, both financial and nonfinancial. A successful practice assessment should be tailored to the needs of the practice and provide actionable items and recommendations that serve as an essential piece of the strategic planning process. Catching problems early, basing strategic decisions on known data and keeping focused on the big picture are the cornerstones to success.
The expense of a practice assessment is often offset by identifying missed revenue streams, underperforming payor contracts, or fraudulent employee activities. If you would like to discuss practice assessment options or engage with our team, connect with us below. We’re ready to help move your practice forward.