Having an efficient admin process can lead to a better patient experience and a more profitable practice. The fact is, satisfied patients pay on time and refer other patients. It makes sense then to invest some time in streamlining your practice processes so that patient and staff experiences can be improved. Once refined processes are in place, doctors and employees can turn to these when experiencing challenges. It will allow admin staff to focus on their respective areas without intervention, therefore freeing up the doctor to focus on treating patients.
We discuss a 5–step plan below that could help you launch an improved admin practice process.
1. Conduct an operational process analysis
Conduct a detailed review of your current operational processes which can be broken down into:
- Patient visit (from check-in)
- The clinical event
- The billing cycle (from patient check-out, through the reimbursement process, to payment posting)
This process involves looking at each step, who is currently in charge of each step and how it affects the overall costs and productivity of the practice. It is important that daily activities do not become an unconscious flow of activity, but rather a series of deliberate actions that are clearly assigned to specific individuals.
2. Eliminate any steps which do not work
A bottleneck is a blockage to increased output, for example, patient paper work might go missing regularly – this is a bottle neck to productivity. Or if you find that patient appointments are not being booked or missed; this is a bottleneck to productivity. Identify any bottle necks and resource/time wasters in your processes. It’s important to get clarity about what works, what needs improvement and which processes are a waste.
Ask yourself these questions to help you identify potential bottlenecks in your processes:
- Does the process produce consistently optimal results, or does it fail often and/or require constant correction?
- Is the process robust enough to meet the demand, or does it result in a bottleneck?
- Does your process have the potential to adapt quickly to fluctuations, or not?
Eliminate any steps that do not add value.
3. Assess the state of technology at the practice
Medical technology is on the rise, and many healthcare practitioners have not yet embraced software services to eliminate bottlenecks in practice admin. The fear about using technology is that practice administrators might become obsolete in their roles. This is not the case. Most medical technology is being created to support and not replace practice administrators.
For example, at Healthbridge we use cloud technology that streamlines admin processes to support practices.
By looking at the patient journey at each stage: from booking an appointment, to check-in, the clinical event, payment and reimbursements, practices can partner with a digital software which can make the process easier at each point. To run a profitable business you have to run an efficient business. Therefore, any time spent on administrative tasks which could be performed more efficiently by software, is an unnecessary waste of valuable & scarce resources.
4. Continuously research patient patterns
Looking at what the data says in terms of healthcare trends and what patients are looking for can be a big help in creating really efficient practice admin. For example data tells us that millennials (1980’s to early 2000’s) under the age of 35 are now looking for healthcare which is collaborative and personalised. For example, they want to be able to reach for their mobile phone to book appointments.
With this knowledge practices can reduce their admin process by implementing mobile technology into their practices and communicating with patients personally. This avoids the hassle of paper work and lost files. It saves time, creates a better patient experience and an easier work process for admin staff.
5. Create an efficient payment and reimbursement process
Private practices are businesses, and businesses need to be productive in order to make money. It follows then that being efficient in your collections admin can play a role in what you see on your bottom line. The problem for some practices, which only collect payments from patients, is that they don’t have the necessary processes in place to collect efficiently– particularly when it comes to collecting straight after the consultation. Remember that the chance of collecting from a patient drops by around 16%1 as soon as they leave the practice.
If your practice sees medically insured patients, you could consider contracting-in to medical aids to help minimise your cash collections process. There can be considerable benefits to contracting in with medical aids, and many medical professionals choose to do this, despite the costs and the difficulties involved. What contracting-in means is that the practice takes on the task of submitting claims to medical aids and being paid directly from the schemes. As opposed to dealing directly with the patient who has to claim back from the medical aid themselves.
If you are going to rely on medical aid payments, you need to ensure that you have the right technology and supporting staff to ensure claims are sent swiftly with minimal errors. Sending your claims while the patient is at the practice will allow your staff to collect from a patient directly after a consultation.
A private practice is essentially a private business. So you should make business decisions about how to save costs, be more profitable and create a better patient experience. Having an efficient admin process must not be underestimated, as this can lay the foundation to running practice operations optimally and successfully.
- Ferkovic, T.J. (2016) Waiving copays puts you at risk for fraud. Available at: http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/modernmedicine/modern-medicine-now/waiving-copays-puts-you-risk-fraud(Accessed: 26 October 2016).