Improving your practice's performance, service

January 1, 2010

If you are serious about improving performance and increasing the level of service provided in your urology practice, it's critical to follow some basic tenets: stay informed, monitor performance, provide leadership and direction, and maintain accountability.

This article outlines the steps you can take in 2010 to boost performance and service.

Stay informed about performance

It's the beginning of a new year, and it's a good time to set the groundwork to monitor performance throughout the year. Select at least five benchmarks and review the practice's historical performance for 2009 compared to national benchmarks such as those available through the Medical Group Management Association or National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants.

Here are a few typical benchmarks practices monitor:

Once you've gathered the data, graph it and look for variables. This is an important step for projecting expectations for 2010. Also, before setting performance goals, consider factors that may affect the numbers and your projections. For example, if a new physician recently joined the practice, the overhead will obviously be higher than normal until he or she reaches an expected level of productivity. On the other hand, if one of the physicians will be slowing down or retiring, revenue goals will need to be adjusted accordingly.

If the practice plans to open a satellite office, there will be some one-time capital expenses, and overhead will be increased until the patient base expands. You can also expect to spend additional dollars on marketing a new site or new provider.

Examine where the money comes from. Review the top 10 Current Procedural Terminology codes by utilization for each physician for the prior year, and assess the variables in coding patterns. You may have a physician who excels in a particular procedure and is reimbursed well, but the volume for it has been historically low. Think about a reasonable goal to set for increasing the number of cases and what strategies might be employed to reach the desired volume.

When practice leadership is a management team (physicians and lay managers), sharing a common vision and supporting and respecting staff, good things happen. Staff will take the lead from you, so provide consistency in leadership principles and style. Give staff direction, communicate well, and be fair. This means paying staff what they are worth, giving them a job description that clearly defines their responsibilities, and providing regular performance reviews.

It's management's responsibility to let staff know what is expected of them and to hold each person accountable to a specific performance standard. A meaningful performance review includes feedback from the employee, so be a good listener. The information you get back is invaluable in providing a healthy work environment and building and maintaining a solid work force.

Bolster customer service

Next, grow your practice from the inside out by making sure the practice performs well when it comes to customer service. Compare new patient visits each year to make sure the practice is growing. Keep an eye on attrition that is a result of patients transferring to another physician-an indicator that your service is not up to par. If this is the case, conduct patient satisfaction surveys for quantitative feedback and new patient interviews for qualitative feedback. Implement a well-designed questionnaire that gets to the information you want to obtain.

Once you have the results, conduct a brainstorming session with staff to determine what actions can be taken to improve service. It's also important to review physician referral patterns to determine whether any shifts have occurred that need to be further analyzed and remedied.

Staying informed and taking appropriate actions is a big-picture issue. This becomes more apparent when new competitive forces enter the marketplace, government mandates emerge, or legislation is proposed to potentially change the future of medical practices. It is important for physicians to stay informed about politics and community issues. If there are actions you can take today to better prepare for tomorrow, take them, whether it's reviewing and renegotiating insurance contracts, aligning with other practices, expanding referral sources, or becoming more active in the medical community and AUA. There may be things that seem out of your control, but remember, it's your practice.

ModernMedicine NETWORK

EDUCATION

Management consultant Keith Borglum, CHBC, offers some tips on keeping practice supply costs down. See:
http://www.urologytimes.com/save/

COMMUNITY

Have you ever hired or considered hiring a practice consultant? Join the discussion here:
http://www.urologytimes.com/consultant/

Judy Capko is a health care consultant and the author of Take Back Time- Bringing Time Management to Medicine . She can be reached at 805-499-9203 or judy@capko.com
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