Doctors and Business: 4 Challenges Facing Medical Practices

Doctors and business go hand-in-hand. But it’s not exactly the first thing you learned about at medical school, is it? 

Nor should it be! You didn’t get into medicine because you wanted a doctorate in business. But if you’re running—or helping to run—a medical practice, then you might be getting just that from the University of Real Life.

Doctors and business are represented by a medical office buildingThe fact is, a medical practice is a business. So in the real world, doctors and business often must go hand-in-hand. 

But it can be a challenging relationship.

In the future of this blog, we’ll chip away at many of the common business challenges that doctors face, examining some of the topics we hear about from our clients regularly. 

In some cases, we’ll dig deeper, sharing the solutions we’ve found as we tackle the business of practice ourselves – or in tandem with our partners.

For today, let’s kick off with an overview of 4 key business challenges that doctors and practice managers bring up most often. Beginning with:

  1. Technology
  2. HIPAA compliance
  3. Leadership & staff development
  4. Billing Gaps

Technology

Let’s play Designated Survivor for a minute. 

Let’s pretend there’s an office fire. Everything goes wrong; everything is gone. And you’re the one who must deal with it.

Are you prepared for that?

We recently went through this exercise as part of a technology assessment. We mapped out the worse-case scenarios and navigated them, making changes and cloud-based upgrades to help ensure our systems are set to survive.

Why? And why does this matter to you?

Well, we did it because smart, up-to-date technology is an essential aspect of keeping our clients’ data – as well as our own business – safe and protected.

And it’s important that you take technology seriously for the same reason.

Today’s tech world offers as much opportunity as threat. And smart businesses leverage all that opportunity to protect against the threats.

Great technology partners are a perfect first step in exploring where you might need to improve. Sound expensive? Fear not. In our experience, bringing a technology partner in can actually help reduce overall costs – as well as risk.  

“The patient experience relies on data just as much as the health care provider. However, the challenge is always merging new sources of information with old tools and systems. When done properly, responses are faster, treatment plans are more accurate, and cost savings justify the investments.”  

– Eugene Khazin, Principal at Prime TRS, an IT consulting firm in Chicago

If you’re not sure where to begin, get in touch. We’d be happy to recommend a few potential partners. 

HIPAA Compliance

When we bring up the topic of doctors and business, you might think, “Oh good. Let’s talk revenue. Or management. Or…anything but HIPAA!”

This isn’t the topic that everyone wants to deal with. Nor does anyone want a HIPAA audit. But you’re not immune. No one is. 

Source: i.t.Now Inc.

So if an audit comes your way, are you ready? Can you afford it?

If you can’t answer “yes” to both those questions, then it’s time to get your HIPAA house in order.

Here are 3 more questions you might not know the answers to:

  1. Are you a business associate?
  2. Are you a covered entity?
  3. If you’re a business associate, are your covered entities HIPAA compliant?

Because guess what: your covered entities’ status can affect your business. And the ownness is on you to verify their compliance.

Sorry. We didn’t make the rules.

For example: it’s up to the company who owns our billing software to ensure their software’s compliance. However, it’s our responsibility to confirm this company’s compliance at least once per year. 

And the confirmation process doesn’t just involve a phone call and a verbal “yes” or “no.” This is the Department of Health and Human Services, folks. They like their rules and forms and…you know the drill.

Our recommendation? Keep focused on serving your patients and hire an outside expert whose primary focus is keeping up-to-date on all the nitty gritty details of HIPAA compliance.

They’re likely to reveal needs and vulnerabilities you never even knew you had. 

Besides, if you ever did get audited, would you want to rely on your own risk assessment and internal audit? Or on industry experts who have done this countless times – and never failed an audit?

As with anything, if this isn’t your area of expertise, outsourcing is the best way to go.

Not sure where to begin? Our focus is medical billing, but we’d be happy to connect you with an expert in the field. Get in touch, and we’ll recommend one of our favorites.

Leadership & Staff Development

In the areas of leadership and staff development, one of our secret weapons is executive coach Bill Munn. So we deferred to him for a few quick tips about running a business and managing people.

Management coach Bill Munn discusses 3 key topics for doctors and businessHere’s what he shared with us: 

“Despite fabulous education and expertise in the field of medicine, a great many medical practitioners discover, upon running a practice, that they have much to learn about the world of business. 

Well, here’s a fast-track tip: at the end of the day, business success is all about people. The people you serve and the people on your team.

But as busy as you are just keeping up with the knowledge of an expanding and sophisticated medical field, you likely don’t have time to learn everything there is to know about leadership. 

There’s a lot we could talk about here, but with limited space, I’ll distill it down to 3 highly effective tips for leading a business and motivating people:

1. Vision

People want to feel a part of something important. This is what vision is all about.

As a business leader, part of your role is to 

  •     Set a clear vision for your organization
  •     Constantly remind your people of that vision 

If you don’t already have a vision, not to worry! The medical field often yields very meaningful, motivational vision and mission statements. So you’ll likely enjoy creating yours. Don’t delay getting started, because the effect is huge.

But having a vision is not enough. You must constantly reinforce it. Never skip an opportunity to motivate your people with that positive picture of how they can contribute to making a difference in people’s lives.

And each time you’re aware of your people doing anything that supports or furthers that vision, encourage them with accolades and positive reinforcement.

2. Autonomy

Often, the importance of autonomy is best understood by considering its opposite: micromanagement.

People hate to be micromanaged. 

When you ask someone to do something, don’t hover over them, managing every detail and every move they make. If you do, they’ll infer that you don’t trust them or think much of their abilities.

That’s anathema to motivation and—by extension—productivity and effectiveness.

3. Growth

Finally, people want to be developed. They want to improve their mastery. They have a strong desire to get better

Your people want to feel that you are investing in them. So give them regular training, coaching, and tools for improvement, so that they can feel that growth.

There’s so much more we could discuss, and you can of course dive much deeper with any of these topics. But these 3 focal points will make an enormous difference in engaging your people and spurring them to truly make a difference in the patient experience.”

Billing Gaps

It’s a sad truth that in many cases, doctors could be doing the exact same amount of work and bringing in significantly more income from it.

It’s just a matter of closing the billing gaps. Are you really getting the biggest bang for your buck?Flowchart outlining the Lifecycle of a Medical Claim 2

When we kick-off with a new client, we study their accounts for billing gaps. And often, we find many different types of issues – including some that have gone unnoticed for years. These include things like

  • Incomplete info: If the claim coming through isn’t clean and verifiable, it’s money lost. Missing and incomplete information is a common, solvable problem.
  • Incomplete or improperly coded claims: E.g., a patient comes in for a flu shot and the office fails to bill for the administration code.
  • Staff auditing: Who audits your office staff’s work? Who’s overseeing billing? In most cases, the person who (often inadvertently) creates billing problems is the same person responsible for oversight. In other words, there’s no system of checks and balances in place. So money is lost.
  • Underworking of accounts receivable – aka “the detective work”: Busy offices don’t have time to follow up on claims that get stuck or mishandled. (And even clean claims get stuck and mishandled.)

So, let’s say you have certified coder(s) who know how to properly code encounter forms. Great! 

But there’s a good chance they aren’t the same people who excel at getting on the phone and aggressively pursuing the detective work of finding out what’s inhibiting the processing of outstanding claims. 

Every step in the billing cycle requires people with specific skills, knowledge, and personalities.

Again, a team of expert specialists will save you time and make you money.

What’s Next for Doctors and Business?

We love to talk about doctors and business – and the business of medical practice in general. Let’s set up a time to discuss yours.

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