Staying Independent? 3 Smart Tips for Your Practice

February 28, 2017 by Antonio Arias, MBA, CHBME

Topics: Meaningful Use Stage 2, Practice Management, Medical Billing Company

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, becoming a hospital-owned practice is an increasingly tempting offer for many independent practitioners. Small practices that cannot afford to invest in information technology, reporting, and other population health capabilities are at a disadvantage as more of their revenue is placed at risk under performance and value-based contracts.

Having an ally on their side to navigate those issues – as well as to help them manage an ever-more complex regulatory landscape, challenging employment environment, and changing patient expectations – can certainly be an asset to struggling practices. But going ‘owned’ comes with plenty of drawbacks, too, including a lack of provider autonomy and many restrictions on how a medical office operates as a business.

To maintain an independent practice, today’s doctors and medical practice managers need to think beyond ‘business as usual.’ Providing top-notch care and customer service is not enough to help medical offices survive and thrive; it takes more thoughtful and strategic thinking for practices to see financial success amid continuing healthcare-industry challenges. Consider how the following five tips can help your practice maintain its independence.

Enhance Your Focus on Revenue Growth

Especially around the holidays, when staff bandwidth is limited, medical practices often prioritize their resources around existing concerns and issues: Managing the existing patient workload, meeting year-end guidelines, and so on. What gets lost along the way in that approach, however, are more forward-looking issues.

To stay independent, today’s practices need to prioritize growth. When was the last time you sought out new ways to expand the patient base? How much are you investing into online marketing, referrals, and other income drivers? I employed practice isn’t for you, be sure to plug more substantive time and resources into developing growth-focused tactics in Q1 and Q2 of 2017.

Reduce Your Overhead

As mentioned in the introduction, new costs related to technology and reporting are creating emerging financial challenges for medical practices. And that’s only part of the problem: According to a recent Physicians Practice survey, overhead costs at large are going up while personal income is staying the same (40 percent) or going down (28.7 percent).

To lower their overhead costs, organizations must take a concerted look at where their money is going and find ways to reduce individual, line-item expenses. For example, can you negotiate better service contracts, rent less expensive office space, or access cheaper malpractice insurance?

Find Smart Partnerships

Independence shouldn’t mean that your practice operates in a vacuum. If one of the key benefits of operating as an employed practice is having an ally, then it’s up to independent practices to create their own alliances!

Consider finding new referral partners, sharing space with well-aligned practices, or joining a network of independent groups in your area. (ACOs can help practices establish care-coordination networks without needing to become hospital owned.) And stay on the lookout for merger opportunities – by joining up with another practice, you navigate today’s healthcare challenges with a partner, not an owner.


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