Is your urology practice ready for the challenges of 2010?

December 1, 2009

Managing a medical practice is a business proposition, and part of doing it right is being prepared for a new year.

Start by looking at what internal changes have occurred during the year by asking these questions:

Sometimes, meeting annual goals will cause a shift in other key factors. For example, if a goal was to add a new physician to start offering urodynamics and this physician was brought into the practice in the second quarter, trends such as production and expenses will be affected as the new physician gradually increases his or her production.

Examine your budget to determine whether certain types of expenses far exceeded the budgeted amount during the year. Then you can either take action to reduce those costs or adjust the 2010 budget to reflect a realistic expense expectation.

Since the highest expense of a typical urology practice is staffing, urologists and managers are recognizing the need to automate more processes to improve staff efficiency, reduce errors, and control staff costs. Automation of some functions is not terribly costly, and the return on investment is recognized within a short time. An automated appointment reminder system and a program to receive electronic payments from payers are two good examples of fast, inexpensive practice automation.

Other technology requires a substantial investment, which may take longer to recoup and experience a cost savings. An electronic medical record is the most obvious example. If you are planning to adopt an EMR system in 2010, you will need to understand the temporary impact of lower productivity that occurs when planning for the transition, preparing documentation templates, and learning to document on the EMR in real time. This is apt to result in longer work hours and/or a temporary reduction in revenue. These issues and the financial investment in the EMR service are important to evaluate before deciding whether to adopt an EMR system.

Plan for the future based on what is happening now. The practice's financial performance and market position in 2009 should guide decisions about where the practice's leaders want the practice to be in a year or two. This strategic process will explore how realistic goals are in terms of the practice's financial and emotional commitment and what risk factors are involved.

If this plan involves moving into uncharted territories, proceed with caution. Perhaps more detailed analysis will be required before making a final decision. This is particularly relevant in an unpredictable economic or political climate.

Consider physician transitions

Other considerations when planning the next year include physician and staffing issues. Whether it's adding a new physician or mid-level provider or preparing for a urologist's impending retirement, these adjustments need to be reflected in the plans for 2010. This requires a frank and open discussion among the physicians. Do not assume you know what your partner is thinking, what his or her plans are, or whether those plans are being reconsidered based on the economy, the business climate, or personal reasons.

Proper planning for the practice's future requires a thorough review of practice performance, each physician's professional plans, and how the marketplace and the practice itself have shifted during the past year. These issues should not be taken lightly or put on the back burner; they should be front and center as 2009 ends and your urology practice begins preparing for a new year.

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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Modern Medicine NETWORK

TOOLS

Management consultant Keith Borglum, CHBC, offers some tips on keeping the appointment calendar full. See: http://www.urologytimes.com/fullschedule/

EDUCATION

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