In today’s harsh healthcare environment, wouldn’t it be great to get practice management advice from a real expert? Someone who knows how to generate revenue and profits in good times and bad?
Billionaire Warren Buffett has compiled a pretty good track record. Based on his public comments and well-studied approach to investing, here is some of the advice he might give to an owner or manager looking to grow a practice…
1. Add value instead of cutting costs
Mr. Buffett is known as a classic ‘value investor’ – ”Buy a business, not its stock,” he often says. For a practice faced with shrinking reimbursements, the answer isn’t to cut care and resources. It’s to find cost-effective ways to add value. You may not have the funds to buy a fancy new piece of equipment, but for most practices, the opportunities to add value are everywhere.
Shorten wait times. Give more eye contact. Create less paperwork. Deliver better outcomes. Create no surprises. Offer plenty of personal, one-on-one time.
The way to create that added value is to lock in best practices throughout your office. For example, your front desk staff knows they should follow up with missed appointments, but do they every time? Your clinicians should get their documentation done within 24 hours, but how often does your A/R get held up?
Find the tracking and flagging features in your practice management system that lock in these best practices…AND USE THEM. (And if your system doesn’t have those features, give us a call.)
2. Choose substance over style
Mr. Buffett is famous for driving cheap, used cars. He’s never moved his headquarters from folksy Omaha, Nebraska. ‘‘The farther one gets from Wall Street, the more skepticism one will find as to the pretensions of stock-market forecasting,” he once said. Substance over style is a hallmark of his success. The same can work for you.
When other practices add fancy furniture and artwork to their waiting rooms, you can cut wait times with simple tools like an online patient portal. Instead of spending a fortune on letterhead and postage to remind patients about appointments, you can add a highly effective text messaging system. Remember that you’re not the only one worried about rising costs — your patients are paying higher premiums, deductibles and copays than ever. They are sure to appreciate a focus on simple efficiency.
3. Worry only about what you can control
Even a billionaire has his limits. Mr. Buffett can’t control the overall condition of the economy…so he doesn’t worry about it. ‘‘As far as I am concerned, the stock market doesn’t exist. It is there only as a reference to see if anybody is offering to do anything foolish.’’
In the same way, practice owners have little control over the horrific state of claim reimbursements. Yet they continue to fret over a situation that is out of their control. They switch from one billing system to the next, looking for a magic solution to denials and underpayments that simply doesn’t exist.
After all, even the best billing system can only generate claims for the work you’ve done. Real revenue comes from building a solid referral network…optimizing the value of every referral by eliminating no-shows and early discharges…and working more productively. Focus on the tools that can help you leverage the realities within your control – like a solid scheduling solution and EMR system.
4. Understand your practice
One key to Mr. Buffet’s success is the due diligence he puts into every investment decision he makes. ‘‘The market, like the Lord, helps those who help themselves,” he once said. “But unlike the Lord, the market does not forgive those who know not what they do.’’
In the heat of daily practice ownership, it’s easy to lose sight of the landmarks that should be guiding your most basic practice decisions: reimbursement rates by referrer, payor or procedure; no-show rates and the reasons behind them; wait times; outcomes; resource utilization. It’s understandable that practice owners don’t always have these numbers; it’s unforgivable when they don’t go out and get them.
Every patient that walks through your door offers you two incredible opportunities: the chance to enhance a person’s health and to get paid doing it. To the degree that you fail on either of those counts, you’ve missed out on an opportunity. Understanding when that happens — and why — makes your practice a better place for you, your patients and your staff.
Mr. Buffett is always careful to point out that what he has accomplished is not because of any unique skill other than the discipline to act rationally. “What we do is not beyond anybody else’s competence. It is just not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.’’
Amen to that!