Between new rules for reimbursement and uncertainty about what will happen next in health care legislation, it is a good time for providers to review their plans for maintaining short term financial stability and profitability in the years ahead.
Here are a few suggestions you may find helpful.
Have a backup plan for your cash flow.
If you anticipate possible delays or smaller payments while you are making the shift to value-base reimbursements, or would simply like to buy some time while your staff gears up for the new requirements, a line of credit could be the answer.
National Bank of Commerce President Patrick Carlton said, "While it's always good to have savings to cushion changes in cash flow, you can also save yourself a lot of stress by having a line of credit in place. The best time to get one is before you need it. Even if you don't need it now, you may want to talk with a banker to get a sense of how much you would be likely to qualify for as of now."
There may be other ways you could benefit from a line of credit. You can use it for supplies and bring the payment date closer to the date you are reimbursed for the services that used them. If there are unexpected repairs or equipment to replace, you can deal with it immediately without delays in your schedule.
Invest in the right tools for the job.
The ability to quickly capture and track data is a key part of documenting diagnosis codes and medical necessity. If your IT software can't keep up, you may find it difficult to be properly reimbursed.
Some of the more sophisticated medical software is now using artificial intelligence to help providers in new ways. While capturing data about a patient's condition, it can offer support for physician decision-making by matching symptoms, conditions, medications and flagging potential interactions. Some software can search past notes for patterns that suggest problems may be developing. One of particular interest to the VA is a program that alerts the provider to an increasing risk of suicide.
"There are times when investing in the right tools can save money in the long run and open up new opportunities," Carlton said. "If it coincides with a time when you need to conserve your capital or use it for something else, a business loan may be an option. Talk with your banker, preferably someone who is familiar with the business side of health care."
Treat your patients like customers.
For personal service businesses like health care, referrals from patients who have had positive interactions with your practice is one of the most effective ways to attract new patients and build future revenues.
On the other side of the coin, negative interactions with a provider or staff can cost you not only your present patient, but also the potential patients who hear their story or who read negative reviews on physician rating websites.
From physician to front office, good interpersonal skills are an important asset in building strong relationships with patients. Keeping the lines of communications open is also essential. If a patient doesn't understand a bill, there should be an easy way to talk with someone who can explain it. For patients living on a tight budget, unexpected bills can be distressing, so they tend to appreciate an estimate an out of pocket costs that is as accurate as possible. Medication costs and alternative options may also be another important conversation.
If patients don't understand their conditions, how to take medications or to follow their doctor's instructions, having a patient advocate who can explain and answer questions can be helpful. Patients should also feel free to call in if they are experiencing side effects or a new medication isn't working.
Managing expectations is another important part of building a good long term relationship. When patients have a realistic understanding of goals, there is less chance of disappointment.
In addition to treating patients like customers, it's also good to treat employees like members of the team. Regular training updates, including fine-tuning patient interaction and customer service, can make a good team a great team to stand behind you.