Speaking at a recent media briefing, he said too much time is spent on administrative duties, which impacts negatively on the financial sustainability of a practice and might even influence the quality of services rendered to patients.
“The administrative challenges are numerous, one being the 36 different implementations of the professional dispensing fee mock-ups by medical schemes. Because the process is complex and practices are penalised for overcharging, practitioners tend to err on the side of the lowest common denominator, which ultimately impacts negatively on his/her bottom-line.”
In addition, to keep their practices running smoothly, doctors often have to work extended hours, which has an impact on their personal lives. As a result, some are opting to leave the healthcare profession. SA cannot afford this, because of the dire shortage of qualified doctors, added Da Silva.
To compound the dilemma, the economy is taking its toll on patients’ indebtedness and the doctor very often gets paid last, if at all, noted Da Silva. Studies have shown that bad debt increases from 10%-16% between January and December.
But by working smarter – not longer – and understanding the two industry forces at play, namely administration and treating patients, doctors can eliminate these potential threats, said Da Silva. He demonstrated how doctors could increase their monthly net income by as much as 29% by implementing a number of relatively simple administrative measures. These include optimising patient appointments, improving billing and minimising bad debt.
Optimise patient appointments
Studies show that on Mondays, the majority of doctors are 100% booked, but by Friday, appointments dwindle down to only 68%. A simple solution is to schedule non-urgent repeat visits and screening tests away from busier days, explained Da Silva.
This allows for the addition of at least one new patient per day. By adding just one new patient per day, doctors can increase their net income by as much as 9% per month.
Our research shows that many doctors do not bill for consumables such as needles, syringes, injectables, tests (urine, blood, glucose) or procedures (nebulisation, pregnancy) because of the complexities of the various medical schemes’ claim rules,” said Da Silva. Billing correctly, he showed, can add 10% to the average claim value.
Minimise bad debt
Da Silva advised that patients’ records are confirmed at every visit to ensure that information is current. Incorrect patient information often delays medical scheme payments. In addition, he noted, billing should be done in real-time to ensure that claims are paid within 14 days, which is the current industry standard. There should be systems in place that allow patients to immediately settle their copayments.
Systems to make payment easy (internet banking or multiple payment points) also have the potential to minimise bad debt. The implementation of some of these recommendations can potentially increase net income by another 10%, noted Da Silva.