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5 tactics to optimize a medical practice's revenue and performance

These are the areas experts recommend that practice leaders, or hospitals that own medical groups, should focus on to improve operations.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Whether solo small-town pediatricians or multispeciality groups owned by a large health system, medical practices all face certain challenges. But there are ways to optimize revenue and performance by taking a more structured approach.

American Medical Group Association Vice President Rose Wagner recently outlined five that the AMGA recommends.

[Also: The 5 lowest-value care services and what providers can do about them]

First, practice and system leaders must have a thorough understanding of each site's financial performance. Wagner said that means building the budget from the ground up instead of basing it on last year's performance. Use both internal and external benchmarking comparisons to pinpoint gaps in each main expense category, and layout plans of action to address those gaps, as well as each line item, to boost performance, and monitor performance on a monthly basis.

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"For revenue, start with historical wRVU production and factor in growth opportunities based on solid plans, such as an increase in office hours," said Wagner.

[Also: 5 ways hospitals can buffer financial losses from Medicare]

Second, when it comes to operations, a thorough review should be performed to root out inefficiencies. Establish baseline metrics and formulate plans to eliminate those issues. Measuring cycle time, monitoring patient satisfaction, and reviewing telephone management reports are a few areas in which to start, Wagner said.

Third, patient access is key. Wagner suggested gauging how much time it takes to book both a long and a short appointment for each provider, as well as the extent of the backlog and clinical contact hours per provider for both specialty and primary care, and look at CG-CAHPS scores for access to care benchmarks.

"Develop strategies and plans to decrease wait times for patients, such as working down the backlog and supplementing the care team with advanced practice clinicians," Wagner said.

Succeeding at that will require staff to be versatile and able to work with any provider so cross-train them to cover for different providers, and standardize processes and exam rooms for greater efficiency.

Fifth, Wagner evoked the old adage that you can't improve what you don't measure. So pick useful metrics that will accurately reflect the work being done and establish dashboards to monitor performance.

"Getting 'back to the basics' allows for a structured approach to reviewing and improving operational performance. Engaging the staff, measuring and monitoring, and developing action plans are key to ensuring the greatest opportunity for success," Wagner added.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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