If you’re like most physicians, your goal is to make your medical practice more efficient, which will ultimately reward your profit margins. The reality, however, is that you probably spend a significant percentage of your day reviewing test results, entering data and writing prescriptions. According to a survey by Advisory Board, doctors spend only 27 percent of their days with patients. Meanwhile, your office staff is busy too, setting appointments, managing the schedule, handling patient paperwork, and verifying insurance coverage.
The changes to health insurance plans in recent years haven’t made managing an efficient practice any easier. Patients are up against higher co-pays and deductibles. In fact, the average deductible has risen from $303 in 2006 to $1,478 in 2016, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Since many health insurance plans have limits on coverage and the providers they’ll cover, patients also must carefully select their doctors—a process that’s more difficult with confusing insurance cards, directories and policies.
To avoid bringing on new patients who are out-of-network or have lofty financial obligations every practice is forced to invest time and money into pre-approvals. A process that can be both complicated and frustrating to navigate.
Here are some tips for you and your staff to cut time spent on administrative work and insurance obstacles, resulting in more time and attention to patients. These simple strategies are easy to implement and you should see benefits right away.
1. Send patient intake forms in advance
The time it takes for patients to fill out intake forms and your staff to input the data can be more wisely used on seeing more patients. Instead of having patients fill out intake forms when they arrive, collect information you need ahead of time to ensure everything is complete when they arrive.
2. Verify insurance information beforehand
Office administrators spend nearly a quarter of their time dealing with insurance, typically making multiple calls ahead of an appointment to ensure a patient’s insurance information is valid and avoid the dreaded scenario of an out-of-network patient showing up. Zocdoc’s new Insurance Checker digitally collects and verifies patient insurance information, modernizing outdated and time-consuming processes, and leaving more time for patient care.
3. Open the lines of communication
Today’s patients demand an easy, streamlined healthcare experience. According to a survey commissioned by NRC Corporation, 79 percent of people are more likely to choose a provider that allows them to make appointments and register, as well as offers the option to pay bills online, on a mobile device, or at a self-service kiosk. Using technology is also the best way to ensure patients show up for their appointments on time and are covered by their providers.
A patient portal allows you to send and receive secure messages, share vital information, send prescription refills, collect and ensure accurate patient data and send appointment reminders. Likewise, an SMS software can help you quickly and easily confirm appointments.
4. Switch to EHRs
Switching to a cloud-based electronic health record is one of the best ways to improve efficiency in your practice. EHRs allow you to easily access patient records, streamline the patient intake process, insurance and billing workflows, improve reporting accuracy and prevent errors and provide real-time updates of lab and imaging reports.
5. Have a reoccurring team meeting
Creating a regular huddle helps your medical practice as smoothly as possible. It can help keep your staff motivated and not wasting valuable time on unnecessary tasks. It’s vital that you have a mandatory staff meeting once a week or even every day before office hours to continuously make minor improvements and allow for you to address issues in a timely fashion.
Have an agenda, talk about each staff member’s expectations for the day and talk about any problems that have surfaced. If staff members need additional training on patient intake forms, insurance verification, taking accurate notes or on how to perform certain procedures, assign a senior member to train them. Be sure to take notes about questions or problems that you can’t address during the meeting so you can follow up later.