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21st Century Tech Tools for the Business-Savvy Doctor

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It's always been true that physicians need to have business knowledge, but it's even more essential in today's ever-shifting regulatory and economic environments. Here are 5 tools to help doctors stay afloat.

Years ago, fresh out of training, I joined a small group of docs. After getting my bearings, I became aware, and told my partners that we were not just a medical practice, but we were also a business. And we should be run like one if we were to do the best we could for our patients, our employees, and our families.

They were shocked. Truly shocked. And that appraisal is far more true today than then. In what I loosely call “the Golden Age” of private practice, a doc could be successful and remain blithely untroubled by many of the business burdens that bedevil us today. One study recently showed that as much as 30% of a typical doc’s day today is consumed with administrative duties, in lieu of patient care.

Computerized records and billing, mountains of forms, careful HR practices, regulation and oversight by insurance companies, workflow analysis, marketing (online and otherwise), prior authorization, focused accounts receivable awareness, soaring costs of everything coupled with reduced reimbursements, just to name a handful of problems common today, have qualitatively and quantitatively altered how we think about what we do in medicine and how we go about it.

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And of course, to reiterate my ongoing primary theme, we are essentially untrained for any of this. If you are in a large group that has staff to do most of these things, do not think that your lack of direct involvement relieves you either of the ultimate responsibility for all of this or even the need to be conversant with it. Being an effective doc in solo, small group, or large group practice simply requires that we acquire skill sets that we were not trained in.

No wonder so many of us feel overmatched, dissatisfied, and demoralized. This does not help our patients, our families or the bottom line.

But there is a growing universe of help for us, although largely post-training. Consultants, publications like PMD, classes, etc. all can help.

In fact, here are a few down-and-dirty tips to ameliorate things a bit. A study cited in “The Week” showed that installing a surveillance system at the so-called “point of sale,” i.e. check out desk, saw a reduction in errors and an increase in revenue. It’s probably a good idea to install cameras in this day and age for security alone.

IT help is becoming critical. If I did not have a really competent geek on call I would have been dead in the water long ago. If you do not have such an expert readily available, Goboomtown.com or Geekatoo.com can provide instant help, according to Fortune magazine.

Can’t free up an already overworked staffer to run things around town? Postmates.com can supply a courier quickly, Uber-style, to deliver whatever needs delivering or picking up.

How about general business advice on a specific question, quickly and affordably? Clarity.fm can connect you with vetted experts on any number of business questions.

One of my pernicious problems used to be getting temp staff when an illness or vacation threw a monkey wrench into our busy schedule. One possible resource for quick temp help cited by Fortune is Wonolo.com.

I think I hear Charles Darwin whispering in my ear “Adapt or die!”


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