A few months back, we shared a link to HARO ("Help a Reporter Out"), a wonderful service that distributes daily inquiries from journalists from all sorts of publications -- we've seen everything from American Medical News, Medical Office Today, to national magazines like Parenting and Best Health, to national television outlets like CNN and Fox News. The service also features queries from local news stations, websites and publications, too. Are you thinking, so what? Well, the wonderful thing about HARO is that, unlike ordinary PR work -- i.e., the slog of pitching, pitching, pitching to reporters -- when you respond to a query on HARO, you are actually helping the reporter. Meaning the reporter wants to hear from you and hear what you have to say. Getting your name and your practice's name and point-of-view out in the media has tremendous value. The audience will perceive you as an expert selected by the journalist to comment on the subject. This can elevate your image versus others medical practices in your specialty in your area. And don't let lack of time during the day hold you back from responding! At least when the story is for print or web, the reporter will usually allow you to answer via email, instead of by phone or in person during business hours. We do email 'interviews' all the time with reporters here at Capko & Company. This also gives you more time to think about your answer -- if you're concerned about coming up with your best response on-the-spot. We often share items from HARO that we think will help our client practices and other friends -- if you don't want to receive the daily HARO emails (3x), join our email list (see sidebar) and you'll receive the tidbits we send out that are relevant to your practice.
The Harvard Business Review has a great tip today, entitled "Always Say Yes to Networking." I love this tip because it emphasizes how important it is to maintain personal connections with the friends and associates in your network -- and to think of networking as the process of keeping in touch and maintaining relationships, not just meeting up for the purpose of job-hunting or other goals. Most of the physicians and medical office managers and staff we work with do little or no networking at all. This is such a missed opportunity. Staying in contact with your network is great for your morale and your perspective -- not just your job prospects. It's harder, perhaps, for medical professionals to break away for coffee or lunch with a friend or colleague. But, social networking can help -- I'm personally so grateful for the friendships I've rekindled using Facebook. Find whatever ways work for you to keep in touch with the people you've met along your journey. Read the HBR tip here.
If you haven't had a chance to read all of our 13 tips for 2013, here is the full list: Master the deductible re-set [commit to less bad debt in 2013!] Analyze your E/M code distribution [reduce audit risk, bill for what you've earned] Cash management quick tip [copays are not petty cash!] Patient service=patient care [the dreaded patient service conflation situation] Review maintenance contracts [don't let auto-pilot become auto-overpay] Get educated [lifelong learning: not just for clinicians] Reach out to local employers [you've got more than one customer] Manager's report card [everyone needs feedback, goals and recognition] Analyze payer performance [remember that you decide which payers you will accept] Engage staff with better meetings [such a simple idea, so much opportunity for upside!] Review payer contracts [it's okay to admit they've been stuffed in a drawer -- just pull them out and read them] Review your directory listings [don't miss out on free promotion -- or let errors online impact your revenue] Make haste slowly [take on important challenges with care -- and get help to jumpstart your planning!]
Do you find yourself and your medical practice in a state of emergency when changes in the market arise? Do you have long-term personal, professional or financial goals that are in your head, but no plan to make them real? Are you relying on gut -- rather than metrics -- to know if your practice is on track or in decline? Too many private practices are winging it -- leading to bad decision-making and unnecessary panic in response to market events, and under-performance and delayed goals because there was no road map to achieving them. Don't let this be your practice. Make 2013 the year you take control of your practice by developing a strategic plan. It's easier than you think, and operating from clear planning will not only help your practice become more stable and more profitable, it will improve the morale of everyone on your team. Get started with an honest, data-driven assessment of your practice. Tools and activities that can help: SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis Benchmarking Modeling (i.e., scenario testing) Mission and goal-setting -- for one year, five years, ten years If you've got team members that are experienced and currently underutilized, these activities can be a great way to improve your practice. On the other hand, if you're barely keeping up with your day-to-day activities, but understand the value of strategic activities - including how it can free up your time - Capko & Company can help. Furthermore, while our tailored consultations improve financial performance, they're also fun for physicians and staff - resulting in an improved work environment and better morale. We look forward to hearing from you.
If the doctors in your practice have been practicing for a while, odds are you've already got listings in the Vitals.com and Healthgrades.com, the largest online physician directories. However, there's no guarantee that those listings are correct -- in fact, it is not unusual for these sites to contain incorrect details such as defunct addresses and phone numbers grabbed from older public resources. The listing for one physician we worked with recently even had the medical school he attended incorrect. The good news is, it is usually easy to 'claim' your listings on these sites using their automated self-identification processes. Once you've claimed your listing, you can change all the details -- and add others that can help promote your practice, such as a photo and a link to your website. Besides checking out your physician rating site listings, the start of a new year is a great time to review your health plan directories as well. Make sure that you're listed properly in all the plans you accept -- including verifying the 'accepting new patients' information. And, don't forget to check that you've been removed from directories of plans that you've dropped -- to avoid any out-of-network surprises for patients that can turn into uncollectible bills for your practice. And don't forget about Google+ (aka Google Places) -- this easy to use listing process is a great way to get additional exposure for your practice and its website, with a link back, space for photos and the opportunity to add custom text about your practice and your philosophy. Customized listings stand out dramatically versus unedited ones -- and it's all free!
So, if we asked you where your payer contracts are, you could tell us, right? And you'd know when you last reviewed them -- and when the next renewal period comes up? Or, are they ... at home, in a closet, where they've been (untouched) for several years? Are they ... 'somewhere around here'? Well, we're not surprised. Many of our clients have tucked their payer contracts in a drawer, only to forget about them. So, don't feel TOO bad about this -- but, feel just bad ENOUGH to resolve to change your habits now! Reviewing your payer contracts annually -- before they end/automatically renew -- is more important than you think. Many contracts have evergreen provisions that can make extension of your current rates mandatory -- even if you would have been eligible for an increase. We've worked with practices that have foregone years of increases because they didn't realize their rates would remain unchanged if they failed to contact the payer at renewal time. (Even when rate increases seem negligible, several years worth of them add up to significant foregone profit.) There also may be provisions in your contracts that you've forgotten about that can lead you to inadvertently fall out of compliance -- which can lead to unexpected reimbursement problems down the road. Bottom line: set a tickler to review each of your contracts a month or so before they renew. (And, if you can, try to reset your contracts so that they all renew around the same time -- so that you can do your review in one fell swoop.)
Most practices have an underutilized resource - namely, their employees' ability to identify and solve problems. As practices deal with the day-to-day business, it's all too easy to fall into a routine-inspired complacency. To establish some positive momentum, make a point to ask each of your staff to identify problems and possible improvements - and give everyone an opportunity to contribute their ideas during your regularly scheduled staff meetings. We think you'll be surprised at the sources and quality of ideas that emerge. Be generous with your appreciation and praise and you'll see a staff that is happier and more motivated than ever.