How long to keep paper copies; Severance pay following layoffs; If romance blooms in the office; How's your group's bottom line; Telling staff that you want to sell
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Q:Although our office is computerized, we keep hard copies of our daily deposit journal, unpaid claims, patient bills, explanations of benefits, phone messages, and practice analysis reports. Do we really need to keep all of this? If so, for how long?
A: Discard the daily deposit journals after you reconcile the bank statement with your computer record. You can toss claims and bills as soon as proper payment is made and credited to the accounts. Keep EOBs for two years. File phone messages in patients' charts. You don't need to store hard copies of monthly practice analysis reports if you have the right computer software.
You need electronic copies of your electronic files, too. Copy your computer files daily and store the tapes or disks at an off-site location so that you'll have backup in case of a fire or system malfunction.
Q:Escalating costs and declining revenues have forced me to cut two staff positions. Should I offer the laid-off employees severance pay? If so, how much?
A: Many practices pay two weeks' salaryin lieu of giving two weeks' notice of terminationto any worker let go for any reason other than violation of office policy. You're not required by law to offer anything, however.
Q:Our group's office manager started dating a patient a few weeks ago. So far, the situation hasn't caused any problems, so I'm reluctant to intervene. But I'm worried about losing the patient to another practice if something goes wrong in this relationship. Should our group have a policy forbidding staffers from dating patients?
A: You can'tand shouldn't try tocontrol whom your employees or patients date. Even if that means they end up dating each other. The most you can do is include a statement in your office policy manual that discourages employees from pursuing romantic relationships with patients. In this particular situation, you should remind the office manager not to discuss other patients with her date.
Q:How much should our suburban pediatric practice expect to collect on billings? How much should office expenses eat into collections?
A: Your group should aim to collect 96 to 98 percent of what you bill, after accounting for third-party payers' deductions to your fees. Office expenses for pediatric practices typically run between 55 and 60 percent of collections.
Q:When should I inform my staff that I'm putting my practice on the auction block? I'm worried that they'll jump shipand reduce my sale valueif I tell them too soon.
A: Clue them in after you've struck a deal. Introduce your staff to the buyer as soon as possible to ease the transition and any fears they may have about their job security.
Do you have a practice management question that may be stumping other doctors, too? Write: PMQA Editor, Medical Economics magazine, 5 Paragon Drive, Montvale, NJ 07645-1742, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (please include your regular postal address). Sorry, but we're not able to answer readers individually.
Kristie Perry. Practice Management Q&As. Medical Economics Aug. 22, 2003;80:80.