Matters you need to fix in the coming year
New Year’s resolutions for your business really could boost your income in 2022. Simon Brignall suggests ten for independent practitioners to consider
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
GOOD INTENTIONS come in many guises. It could be to lose weight, stop drinking or to do more exercise. As we commence 2022, it is time to make our new year’s resolutions; but where did this custom begin? It is said that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make new year’s resolutions, over 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to conduct recorded new year celebrations although for them the year began in mid-March as this was when the crops were planted.
Most sources state that the practice of making moral promises at the beginning of our calendar year dates back to the Roman times. Romans worshipped the god Janus, who had two faces, allowing him to look forwards and backwards at the same time. One face would reflect on past events and the other face would look forward into the future. Romans used the image of this deity of transitions and changes on
the first month of their calendars, which is why the name January is derived from him. In the year 153bc, the Roman senate fixed the start of the calendar new year at the first of January. The tradition has been around for millennia, so there must be some benefit in having your own New Year resolutions. And so why not for your business?
As it is the time of good intentions, why not take this opportunity to review the way you operate the financial aspects of your practice? Implementing these resolutions really could make a significant impact to your profit line, and even if you only adhere to a few of them over the next 12 months, you will still see the difference they make.
Outlined on the opposite page are my suggestions for you to consider including as part of your financial New Year’s resolutions.
1. I will review the way my work is being billed to ensure I am compliant with the rules and regulations communicated monthly from the Clinical Coding and Schedule Development group (CCSD).
Keep abreast of the CCSD’s monthly changes and establish whether they affect your specialty and possibly your income.
Practices commonly make billing errors as a result of being unaware of the changes. It is good practice to establish what rules each insurer adopts, because they can choose their own variants.
2. I will ensure I regularly review my procedure fees.
This is important if you bill to insurance guidelines, as the rates constantly change and are not often communicated clearly.
You may be charging less than you could or more than you should. Practices still make incorrect assumptions, leading to issues with insurance companies or lost revenue.
3. I will make sure my work is invoiced as soon as possible.
Some major insurers now enforce time limits for submitting invoices and if you miss the deadline, they will not pay.
Late invoices can be an indicator to patients of poor service and a major contributor to their dissatisfaction. They can also often lead to bad debts.
Delays in informing patients that there is still a shortfall to pay means that they assume that their invoice has been settled – resulting in a bone of contention when they are asked to pay.
Invoices sent late to patients can also be ignored, as they think you are not serious about wanting payment.
4. I will make sure that my price structure/policy is clear and that my patients are made aware of it before commencing treatment.
A clearly defined and well documented price structure that is communicated as part of a patient’s registration form is vital in the modern practice.
This will ensure there is no room for ambiguity when it comes to settlement, as it can include a clause outlining their obligation should their insurance company not settle their invoice in full.
Fee and payment terms transparency is of paramount importance and it is also a key requirement of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Private Healthcare Information Network.
5. I will ensure my practice has a robust process for chasing outstanding invoices on a consistent and continual basis until they are fully paid.
Failures in this important area mean continued high levels of bad debt. Almost every practice that joins Medical Billing and Collection (MBC) has an outstanding invoice backlog, with some going back years.
Debt levels are typically over 20% of turnover and sometimes have reached between 50-100% of annual turnover.
On average, we achieve bad debts of less than 0.5%, which is a significant improvement on their current arrangements.
6. I will make myself aware of any patients that don’t pay so I can decide if I want to continue seeing them while they have outstanding invoices.
If you do not have a procedure for problem payers, you will end up regularly throwing money away. Visibility around this key area means you can take steps to police this more effectively.
When we take on a backlog of outstanding invoices, there are often patients who have built up debt over years. Practices continued to see them despite never being paid.
7. I will ensure I have key management information on my practice to allow me to make informed decisions for the future.
This vital area is often overlooked and can mean that the wrong assumptions are made. All practices should have information that shows where their patients are referred from, the volume of patients seen for each insurer and how much of their income comprises of self-pay and other patient payment types such as embassy and medico-legal.
Consultants should have a good understanding of the practice’s finances. This means they know what is happening to the revenue that is generated each month, similarly for payments received and information about outstanding invoices.
Without access to real-time accurate data, it is difficult to understand which direction your practice is going, and it is very easy to come to the wrong conclusions.
At MBC, we provide our clients with access to a market leading dashboard and reporting tool that can provide access to all the above information and more on a 24/7 basis.
8. I will make sure I spend as much time as possible focusing on my core skill set – treating and looking after the patient.
Running a private practice is not easy and many tasks do not fall naturally into a consultant’s skill set.
If you and your secretary are able to focus on the medical side of the practice, this will, in turn, make you more money, because you are focused on what you do best rather than spending time on tasks that can be easily delegated.
Take stock and consider what elements of your practice could be outsourced, enabling you to generate more revenue.
9. I will ensure I have a robust secure IT infrastructure in place to deal with my practice’s administration.
This can be a common weakness in many practices and is often only highlighted when it’s too late.
Enjoy the peace of mind that you get from knowing that your business is on a secure platform and that your data cannot be lost.
There is an increasingly wide range of options available to you to facilitate this, so it should not be difficult to implement and you can always ask your colleagues for recommendations.
10. I will consider whether I should join thousands of other doctors who have outsourced this crucial element to a professional billing company.
For most consultants, the billing and collection side of their practice is very difficult to manage and when done wrongly it often results in consistent financial losses and frustrations.
Outsourcing could be the best and simplest resolution you make this year to resolve all the issues I have highlighted and guarantee your practice is future-proofed against what lies ahead.
Simon Brignall is director of business development at Medical Billing and Collection