Posts Tagged practice management software

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Your Practice Management Software Is Only As Good As Your Practice Management

The Robot Practice Manager

 

A colleague of mine has been part of a well-known PM/EMR company’s software support team for 10 years. She often tries to steer people to me when she cannot solve a client’s problems with a software solution. Even though she was once a practice administrator herself, she is a software support person now and the problems she sends to me cannot be solved with software. “Mary Pat,” she asks me, “Why do they think I can solve their practice management issues? All I am empowered to do is to help them use the software.”

Earlier in my career (before EMR) I heard someone call “Practice Management” software “Billing” software and I remember being offended for some reason. I thought “Billing” was such a narrow description of what PM software did – but they were right. That software is meant to deal with everything billing. It all comes down to billing – whether it is the actual billing/claims management itself, running reports to diagnose billing problems, or capturing recalls so patients get reminded to come in for a service and…get billed. Before you unload on me in the comments let me be clear that I am not saying that healthcare is all about billing, I am only saying that Practice Management software was developed to handle the financial side of the house.

Practice Management software cannot “do” practice management. It cannot figure out your workflow so you capture data in the most efficient way, and it cannot analyze your reports and tell you what to change to increase efficiency or decrease overhead. It certainly cannot tell you the best way to schedule, or how much to charge your self-pay patients. It is only a billing tool.

I have worked in healthcare long enough to have helped practices go from manual billing (you typed or hand-wrote claim information on a 1500 form and mailed it in) to their first practice management system. I did a lot of practice management consulting even though that’s not what I was there to do. I had to get them in shape on paper so they could handle the software. I had to get their workflow optimized so the software would make things better – not worse.

An implementation of Practice Management software is not intended to do anything but set-up the system and train you to use it. Sometimes that perfectly rosy future the salesperson paints is nothing like the painful first steps (and cash flow jam) of a new system. An implementation will not fix the issues that are existing in your practice that have nothing to do with the functionality of your billing system.

 

Your Practice Management Software can:

    • Automate your registration process so patients can register and check-in online, or at a kiosk in the practice.

But your Practice Management Software cannot:

    • Train staff to greet patients and make them welcome in the practice.

 

Your Practice Management Software can:

    • Check the patient’s eligibility for active insurance coverage.

But your Practice Management Software cannot:

    • Automatically choose the correct insurance company/payer to attach to each patient account (one of the biggest problems I hear about in the field!)

 

Your Practice Management Software can:

    • Calculate the days since the patient’s last physical, the days left in a global period or visits left in annual cap. 

But your Practice Management Software cannot:

    • Help the patient understand their benefit plans and understand their financial responsibility.

 

Good practice management has a lot to do with attracting, training, coaching and retaining the right staff, as well as providing them with the tools to do the job you hired them to do. Getting the software right is a must, but don’t expect your software trainers to be able to solve any of your staffing, communication, workflow or cultural problems. That’s up to you, the Practice Manager!

(Photo Credit: baboon™ via Compfight cc)

Posted in: A Career in Practice Management, Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance

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10 Ways to Get More Out of Your PM, EMR or Any Medical Software

Training

Most of us learn just enough about software to get done what we need done at the moment.

Unfortunately, when we continue using software at the same preliminary level, we can’t get every drop of value out of the system that we’ve paid dearly for.

Do yourself and your group a favor by using one or more of these 10 ways to get more out of your system.

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Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Electronic Medical Records

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The Benefits and Drawbacks of Managing a Private Practice vs. Managing a Hospital-Owned Practice

The doctor's office on Transylvania Project, L...

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Ownership

Private practices are organized in a corporate model where the physicians are shareholders, or where one or more physicians own the practice and employ other physicians or providers.   Private practices are almost exclusively for-profit.  Physician practices are organized into corporations for the tax benefits as well as protecting the owners from liability judgments.

Hospitals can be for-profit, not-for-profit or government-owned.  For-profit hospitals make up less than 20% of the total hospitals in the United States.

Financial Models

Private practice owners take a salary draw, split any receipts after all expenses are paid, and generally distribute receipts monthly or quarterly.  This leaves very little at year end to be taxed through the corporation.

Hospitals that employ physicians typically guarantee a salary and offer an incentive plan where the physicians earn more for seeing more patients and/or being more productive based on work Relative Value Units (wRVUs).  Hospitals may or may not use a practice expense and revenue model to measure the margin.

Benefits of Managing a Private Practice

  1. You get to do everything, so if you like or want to learn about HR, marketing, finance, IT, contract negotiation, revenue cycle management, facility management, and lots of other stuff, you’ll get to do it in a private practice.
  2. You are the top position in the practice, so you get to put your imprint on the practice.  You can often be more creative.
  3. Physicians can be very laid-back and practices can maintain a more relaxed, family-like atmosphere.
  4. Decision-making can be straightforward and swift, so you can help your practice to be nimble in response to news events, trends and new ideas. If your practice decides to become a concierge practice or stop or start taking a particular payer, so be it!
  5. You may find it easier to get a foot in the door and start your management career in a private practice as physicians don’t always hire managers using traditional means.  A recommendation from another manager, a consultant or a physician may be enough to get you started.

Drawbacks of Managing a Private Practice

  1. You report to the physicians who may not have business expertise and may fight you on your well-founded recommendations.
  2. There is no internal career path – you’re at the top in the practice.
  3. Physicians will make less money every time a new non-revenue generating position is added or any time equipment needs to be replaced – expect them to be generally slow to respond to capital expenditure needs, especially if they cannot see that any new revenue will come from the expense.
  4. When physicians “eat what they kill”, taking home the dollars they personally earn less their expenses, they can be pitted against each other and have conflicting priorities.
  5. Your practice could be purchased by a hospital and you could find yourself out of a job, or your job radically changed.

Benefits of Managing a Hospital-Owned Practice

  1. You report to a management professional who should understand the business and be supportive of your well-founded recommendations.
  2. You will receive support from other hospital departments: the Human Resources department will screen, orient and provide benefit support to your staff; the Information Systems department will provide and maintain your practice management system, EMR system and other hardware and software; and the Accounting department will pay the bills and write the payroll.
  3. You may be able to climb the career ladder and manage multiple practices, or become the Vice President of Physician Practices, or the COO, CFO or CEO of the hospital.
  4. You will get to interact with managers of other departments and broaden your hospital knowledge and understanding of the care continuum.
  5. You can learn a lot from the process of preparing for and living through a JCAHO (a.k.a. “The Joint Commission”) visit.

Drawbacks of Managing a Hospital-Owned Practice

  1. Hospitals use different terminology for charges, adjustments and receipts and work on the accrual system instead of the cash system, which most private practices use.  It takes time to understand and distinguishes the terminology and process differences.
  2. The entire system will be in a tizzy on a regular basis getting ready for a JCAHO (a.k.a. “The Joint Commission”) visit.
  3. You can expect to have much less autonomy in a hospital system and there may be more red tape involved in getting even simple requests filled.
  4. Hospital administration may find it difficult to relate to the perspective of the hourly staff and it could be frustrating to balance the needs of the staff and the needs of the organization.
  5. Because the hospital is the big-dollar earner, the needs of the clinics may be second, third or fourth down the line in importance.

What do you see as the benefits or drawbacks of your private practice or hospital practice job?

Posted in: A Career in Practice Management, Physician Relations

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