Quickly available appointments give the practice a competitive edge over primary care physicians and urgent care centers, as patients realize they can conveniently access an ENT specialist. Additionally, Dr. Friedman offers reduced fees and bundled services for patients without insurance.
Explore this issue:April 2010
Lion advocates improving a practice’s bottom line by monitoring employee downtime, using software that ties accounting to practice management and tracking the source of referrals versus the cost of getting referrals. “For example, many physicians take out lots of ads in local publications but they don’t capture information on what brought new patients in, so they don’t know which, if any, of their ads are cost effective,” Lion explained.
On the collection side, he advises being flexible about fees with cash-strapped patients, offering payment plans and making strong efforts to collect overdue bills rather than writing them off.
Linda Pophal, a management consultant in physician practice management, advises otolaryngologists to take a close look at drop-offs in volume and to position themselves to best meet patient needs. She outlined several scenarios. Some patients may need services and be unaware of it, she explained. Others may need elective services, have the financial wherewithal to receive such services, but are unaware the physician can provide them. Still others have health needs to be addressed, know the physician can meet them, but choose to forego treatment because of financial considerations, she said.
Pophal advises maintaining relationships with all these groups of patients and communicating a willingness to find solutions to their economic distress. She emphasizes surveying patients’ perception of your practice’s quality and value and addressing any issues that detract from customer satisfaction. “Providers need to understand what quality and value in a medical encounter means to their patients. Reaching new patients means generating positive word-of-mouth referrals, which are directly tied to a focus on quality,” she said.
The Power of Big
Practicing in large groups may also protect otolaryngologists from a downturn’s impact. Economies of scale, smoother cash flow, and high productivity from each doctor specializing in one or two procedures make a difference.
Michael Stewart, MD, chairman of otorhinolaryngology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center said the ENT faculty, 19 strong, is weathering the recession well. “While patient volume and revenues had been growing faster pre-recession, both were still up in 2009 and we’re tracking ahead to date in 2010 compared to last year,” he said.