Make your practice excel

February 1, 2010

It's your job to constantly seek ways to improve performance.

Wrong. It's your job to constantly seek ways to improve performance. Here are a few pointers to help even the busiest urologist get off to a good start in 2010.

Review the numbers

Of course, it's critically important to examine revenue trends and to determine whether each physician (and the practice as a whole) is reaching expected revenue projections, based on past performance and practice expectations.

Review staffing ratios and staffing needs, including overtime trends. If overtime is increasing, this is a good indicator of inefficiency in scheduling and time management. The typical urology practice requires 2.47 full-time equivalent (FTE) support staff for each FTE physician, according to the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consults.

Review employee performance to make sure it meets your expectations. Is morale where you want it to be, and is everyone getting along? Does management do a good job of keeping staff motivated? If not, productivity will likely slide and turnover will rise. A 5-year rolling average above 15% is an indication of an unhappy staff and an inability on the part of management to provide the support they need.

Encourage the practice manager to discuss his or her concerns and frustrations. This provides a forum to give needed support, resolve problems, and plan for the future. The practice administrator will seek inspiration from the urologists and should see them as an ally in a desire to make the practice the best it can be. Open communication and reviewing key performance indicators are essential pieces to making this a reality.

If there are downward trends in any of these performance areas, taking progressive action will be essential to improving performance. It may mean plugging revenue leaks, giving staff more direction and incentives, reducing expenditures, or examining how to improve the revenue cycle to better manage accounts receivable.

The first quarter of each year is an excellent time to review the prior year's performance. Which goals were achieved and which ones were abandoned? Were any of them sabotaged, or were a couple of them just too ambitious to achieve? It might even be that newer, bigger problems or opportunities emerged. Regardless, it is this process that will help you understand the practice better and determine what goals the urologists and the manager would like to achieve for the practice during the current year. These goals should be put in writing and reviewed each month to see how well the practice is progressing.

Keep an eye on patient service

Without patients, there is no practice. Too often, urologists tell me their patient service is better than good when there are factors that contradict this. Check to see if any of these warning signs apply to your practice, and give yourself an honest report card:

These eight points are vital in measuring how patient-centric a practice really is. If any of these factors are present in your practice, do something about it.

Improving practice performance never stops. It requires a nurturing environment that seeks to progress and be among the best. It also requires commitment, good communication, and taking decisive action to overcome what isn't right. At the same time, recognize what you do well and appreciate it. Thank the manager and staff for their contributions to your success. This, in turn, will motivate the team to continue to strive for excellence.

Judy CapkoJudy 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