Medical practice management deals with many variables, but the most challenging issue may be the continuing uncertainty in the future of health care. As political leaders continue to debate changes, providers must find ways to not only survive but also to prosper in an increasingly unpredictable environment.
Medical Practice Management: Dealing With Uncertainty
When it comes to thinking about the future of healthcare, it’s easy to get distracted by all the discussion. The key is remember your goals and to focus on achieving them. Some helpful strategies include:
It may seem obvious, but when there is uncertainty, the best thing to do is to become as certain as possible. Information is power as they say, and that’s why governments invest billions in intelligence gathering activities. You have to make this the same priority. Trade associations such as the AMA are always useful, but try to get to know individuals involved with the discussions and debates in our nation’s capital. Develop sources that may be overlooked by others. You might hear something that gives you insight into a coming trend, and that gives you a head start in reacting.
Medical practice management in a time of uncertainty requires we focus on the factors we can influence. One of these areas is customer loyalty. As a health care provider, you probably already know that customer loyalty actually plays a greater role than in other industries. As long as financial incentives are not too great, many patients will stay with doctors or facilities they trust, even when their cost burden shows increase. The best thing you can do is to make sure you and your staff provide the best care possible.
To do this, there are a number of issues to consider, but one important area is medical inventory management. “I’m sorry we’re out” will not help build customer trust or loyalty. It pays to invest in tools such as inventory management software that tracks real-time data. This helps make sure your supply cabinet is always stocked, but not overstocked. The days of pencil and paper (and even spreadsheet) are gone except for the simplest offices. There is no substitute for technology that can track item flow, monitor expiration dates and PAR levels, and even tell you when it’s time to reorder.
Don’t Spend, But Spend
As discussed above, you definitely want to reduce costs such as wasted inventory that was allowed to expire, or lost items that leave the supply closet but are not tracked. As we’ve seen, however, implementing controls requires investing in the necessary tools and systems. No one likes to spend money, but strategic investments can put your business on a healthier footing for long-term success. Sometimes it’s in the worst of times that we most need to spend money. Today we have powerful software that is both affordable and easy to use, especially in the area of inventory management. Think about the tools that might help you succeed, and implement them.
Medical practice management is not easy, and you may want to consider hiring a consultant. This is another pet peeve of business owners, because it requires they admit they don’t know everything, and that they need help. But there is no substitute for good outside advice. An outside observer can see things we can’t, and is able to frankly tell us what needs to be fixed. Their ideas may surprise or even disturb us at first, but may point us in a direction that may be useful. In the end you still decide which recommendations to follow, and it can’t hurt to have options.
Be Willing to Change
As you do your research and get advice, it may become clear that a change is needed. Perhaps you need to move your office to a different part of town, or perhaps there is service you provide that is just not working out for you financially. Most people are afraid to change, but sometimes a strategic pivot is what your practice or facility needs. Another way to say it is that sunk cost is the worst reason to keep doing something. No matter how much you have invested in that ancient X-Ray machine, if its maintenance and supply costs are too high, then it’s time to let it go and put it on your tax-deductible expenses list.
Do Your Taxes
Which brings us to our final point. Do your taxes, or more specifically, understand your taxes. Take a look at the new federal tax changes that were recently passed. And of course, talk to an accountant. There may be deductions and advantages that you’re not aware of, but that were provided for your benefit. Make the most of your tax bill, and see it not as a depressing reminder of limits, but as a chance to learn and even think about possible new directions in how you run your business.
As uncertainty in healthcare continues, effective medical practice management will be key to keeping your goals in view. Proactive steps and vigilance can help your practice maintain a path of healthy performance for years to come.