Improve finances without squeezing expenses

February 1, 2007

Looking at your practice's monthly finances, focusing on big expenses, and wondering how you can cut them is a response typical among urologists concerned with a shrinking bottom line.

It's time to think creatively. Start by considering what services you might provide for your patients, how patient visits are handled, and how well you manage your day at the office. Maybe it's time for a reality check.

Here are five questions that will guide you in exploring hidden opportunities to improve finances:

Submitting insurance claims is an area where I frequently see opportunities for improving the bottom line. When insurance claims get kicked back to the office because they contain errors or they are incomplete, it takes staff time to research the information, fix the claims, and resubmit them. Not only does this cost you money, but it also slows down cash flow.

Are you an accomplished urology CPT coder? Coding errors are another example. Make sure the urologists and billers in your practice know everything they should about coding urology procedures and evaluation and management services. If you aren't certain, there's a good possibility you are leaving money on the table that should be in the bank.

Do you delegate tasks that don't require your expertise? It has been my experience that some urologists either are reluctant to delegate or simply aren't in the habit of doing so. Remember, if you are performing tasks that someone else in your office has the skills to do, you are misallocating time that could be dedicated to seeing more patients. If you are doing tasks that your nurse is capable of completing, let her do them. It just might mean that you could see two more patients each day and could make your nurse more productive, as well. The same is true if you are handling business tasks that could be off-loaded to administrative staff.

Do you work in "real time," completing each visit as patients arrive and not stockpiling tasks related to patient visits? Many physicians wait until after they finished their morning patients to complete charting for the morning's visits and to take care of phone calls that occurred during the morning. Then they repeat this procedure at the end of the afternoon.

This doesn't make the most of your day, and it tends to steal your lunch hour and to leave work unfinished when it's time to leave the office. As a result, you feel that you are never caught up.

Charting as you go is faster, eliminating the need to review your notes and mentally revisit the encounter. Best of all, it is likely to result in less staff overtime and it gets you out of the office on time.

In addition, dealing with virtual patients-patients who do not come to the office, but who also need your attention-are better dealt with throughout the day. Doing so results in better patient service and fewer repeat calls and eliminates that stack of work at the end of each clinic session. It gives you the opportunity to give instructions to your nurse so she or he can get things moving while you are in the exam room with your patients. Remember, time is money, so make the most of yours!

Do you look for new ways to increase your income stream? Depending on the size of your urology practice and the clinical needs of your patients, you can do a number of things to increase income to the practice, such as offering ultrasound or adding a provider with a specialty that complements your services, such as urogynecology.