Is your practice as productive as it could be?
With packed schedules and profits to sustain, few physician business owners have enough bandwidth to adopt a new process or program. New protocol can be especially unwelcome in businesses already inundated with interference from insurance companies, administrators, and government agencies.
These same businesses are also experiencing extreme staffing shortages, according to a recent report by the Medical Group Management Association that states physician-owned practices have lost 40% of their support staff since the start of the pandemic. Though these practices seem to have the least time and flexibility to adopt new ways of working, this mix of stressors creates a dire need for an increase in overall efficiency and productivity, which can be achieved through new talent management processes.
Whether specialty or family-owned, a physician's practice utilizes a unique business model where earnings rely mainly on the owner's success and client relations rather than the employees'. According to the AMA, physicians in a practice can work between 61 to 80 hours per week; these extensive work hours and demanding requirements from their business can hinder long-term sustainability.
While physician interactions drive a practice’s profitability, an integral web of medical assistants, RNs, front desk and customer service coordinators, and accounts billable professionals are utilized to facilitate patient retention and profits.
These tasks that the staff is responsible for should be the priority when looking to enhance productivity by increasing the efficiency of their completion or removing the work altogether through automation or outside assistance.
Here are four essential steps to building a more productive staff and practice.
First, understand the goal and how to measure progress.
To successfully boost productivity, it is vital to understand what should be measured; what does a “productive” practice mean? It is important to measure productivity through traditional Key Performance Indicators like revenue, but it is also essential to track employee-related metrics, such as turnover and retention. Tracking employee-related metrics through tools such as employee surveys can allow leaders to understand potential employee burnout and other risks.
An owner’s workforce is their most precious resource, as it can be expensive and difficult to replace. To safeguard this resource, any systems put into place to boost productivity should measure and help maintain a healthy work-life balance. While increasing productivity is essential for any business’s bottom line, it should always be based on a people-first approach to ensure long-term, sustainable success.
Next, review job duties to ensure that employees are practicing to the level of their license.
Physician-owned practices succeed in part because of the indisputable amount of dedication and diligence from their owners. This can sometimes lead to physicians being too integrated in all aspects of the business and working on tasks beyond patient care. This reduces the efficiency of the entire business.
To avoid this, owners should ensure employees understand their job responsibilities and establish trust in their expertise. This can be done regularly over time through transparent and constructive one-on-one and department meetings.
When employees understand their direct role and the roles of the rest of the team, owners can spend time focusing on big-picture progress and patient care.
Utilize automation in your daily practices.
Once a practice’s goals are outlined, and each employee, including the leading physician, is focused on their direct responsibilities, the company can successfully optimize its processes and implement tools to automate their routine practice.
EHR systems are ubiquitous in physician practices, but there is often an opportunity to unlock functionality in these systems to optimize processes further. Taking a deep dive into current workflows in EHRs can help to highlight extra steps in the process and isolate role-specific work. Workflows within the EHR can then be redesigned around current employee roles.
Client reminders regarding upcoming appointments, scheduling and new patient forms should also be automated to further reduce time coordinating and sending patient-facing notifications. Scheduling and check-in tools can be quickly incorporated into a practice’s current systems to enable the gathering of accurate patient data, save additional time at the front desk and bolster patient loyalty by providing a low-effort and timely experience.
Integrate third-party professionals.
Outsourcing tasks to freelance health care professionals who may work from home or remotely is an optimal option for furthering productivity on a tighter budget. They can execute specialized or repetitive tasks that are bogging down the full-time, in-office staff. Also, third-party health care professionals tend to be a more affordable option, as they don’t require full-time benefits or office space, and their hours can be flexible according to the ebb and flow of patients.
As demand in the industry continues to grow and businesses are looking to increase their profit margin, a consulting agency is another great tool to consider. These agencies can develop personalized plans to increase productivity. They are optimal partners as they take the burden of implementing these plans off the owners, mitigating potential setbacks and ensuring long-term success.
Determining what productivity means to a practice, ensuring employees work at the level of their license, automating daily tasks, and engaging outside professionals are all pivotal in developing processes that will solidify the long-term success of a physician-owned practice. Laying the groundwork for a productive work environment does not have to be an added burden to physicians. Instead, it can be a seamless system to grow employee loyalty, patient retention, and profitability.
Meg Underwood is the Senior Managing Director, Strategy and Performance, at Ankura.