It might be the toughest message a practice management consultant has to deliver to a physician client: you’re just not working hard enough. 

When doctors bring us in to analyze their practices’ profitability problems, they usually expect us to find they’re over-staffed, or that their building expenses are too high, or that their billing service is inadequate.  And, to be sure, we do often find those problems. But, it’s just as often the case that we find that the physicians are seeing many fewer patients than they thought.  And, when we show the doctors data comparing their visit volume against other practices in their specialty, we’ll hear, “but we’re so busy!”

 How is it possible that we can walk into a practice and see underutilized exam space and know immediately that visit volume is an issue, while the physicians simultaneously feel — truly believe — that they’re operating at capacity?

This is the phenomenon I like to call ‘faux busyness.’  The physicians feel busy — fully occupied — but the real number of patients they’re seeing tells a different story.  The sad thing about faux busyness is that it’s just as tiring as the real thing, but a lot less profitable.

What are some of the causes of faux busyness?  Here are a few:

  • Provider calendars with gaping holes — so that the physician is in the office all day, but not seeing patients much of the time
  • Providers scheduled in multiple places for partial days — adding transit time and scheduling hassles to every day
  • Layout issues, inconsistently prepped exam rooms, and other issues that require physicians to be moving around the office too much — cutting into possible visit time

Is faux busyness cutting into your practice’s profitability?  There’s only one way to find out: start digging into data.  Analyze your scheduling processes to determine if they include unnecessary complexity.  Make sure your staff understand the importance of booking next-available appointments.  And look to benchmarks to reality test your patient volume against comparable practices.

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