When we analyze practices that are not as profitable as they’d like to be, the physicians that hire us usually expect us to focus on expense cuts. But while we sometimes find over-staffing, outdated service contracts or other expenses that can be shaved, more often than not, the critical issue is on the revenue side: productivity and visit volume.

Providers don’t usually like hearing that they need to be more productive.  They may be nervous that they’ll end up on a treadmill, running from patient to patient.  Or they may feel sure that they’re already seeing as many patients as they can — and even more than their peers.  If they’re aware of workflow problems in the practice, they will also be concerned that the number of patients they can safely and efficiently see in a day is limited by the strain on their processes — not by their own efforts.

Changing providers’ minds about productivity and workflow isn’t always easy (and you can see why they’d be nervous).  But there are a few tools we rely on that physician partners and practice managers can use, too, if you find you need to book your providers more fully, including:

  • Workflow analysis.  This is perhaps most important. A thorough analysis of your workflow can spotlight problems that are beyond providers’ control but that impact their ability to see more patients in a day.  Are there bottlenecks that cause providers to wait as patients wend their way through the practice to the exam room?  Are providers wasting time looking for supplies and tracking down MAs?  Get a handle on these issues before asking providers to be busier — and be sure to explain the issues you’ve identified, ask providers to share any issues they see, and implement solutions before hitting the gas on booking patients more aggressively.
  • Productivity benchmarks.  Today there is great data available to help you understand how your providers’ productivity compares against comparable practices — and to illustrate to your providers where they rank.  For a quick review of productivity based on weekly visits, the Medscape survey can’t be beat — and it’s free! MGMA and even some specialty practice management associations do full expense and revenue surveys that provide deep data on charges and revenue per physician.
  • Staffing benchmarks. Industry surveys also provide insight into staffing levels — if your back office staffing per provider is low, that can inhibit productivity, so knowing whether your providers have adequate support is essential before you ask providers to do more.  And committing to add back office help — and train them to provide great support — will go a long way to reassure providers that the entire burden of additional productivity won’t rest on their shoulders.

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