Where is the rust you can remove from your clinic?
In this edition of “The Wired Practice – Practice Pain Relievers,” Dr. Neil Baum discusses how doctors can re-engineer their practice to be more efficient and have a positive effect on finances, patient care and possibly even on patient outcomes.
It can be a long journey to getting the most out of your practice of medicine. But there’s a very easy first step, which is to ask yourself: Where is the rust that needs to be removed in my clinic? Every practice has at least a few rusty parts.
In my observations, I found many practices are on autopilot and do things just the way it was done decades ago. But so much has changed in just 10 years, let alone in 20 and 30 years. Ledger cards have been replaced by computerized billing, and paper charts have gone the way of electronic medical records. Our new focus is on moving from volume to value and from hiding costs to transparency.
So let’s discuss the concept of de-rusting your practice. This usually takes re-engineering the practice. I can further assure you that de-rusting and re-engineering can bring multiple benefits, from enhanced finances, improved patient care and perhaps even better outcomes.
Medical practice management enhances processes
Start by considering every step in your clinic’s processes. Is each essential? If you look closely, you can probably eliminate 25 percent of unnecessary processes. No doubt some steps exist simply because you or someone else has been doing it that way for years, even without proof of effectiveness. You may find that you’re paying unnecessary overtime that doesn’t provide any value or enhance patient care. You may identify processes that were a good idea years ago but now does not serve any useful purpose.
For example, the algorithm for evaluating hematuria by a urologist used to require two or three office visits. Now with good education of primary care doctors and patient education from a practice’s website, the evaluation can be accomplished in one visit. This is a win for the patient, the doctor and the insurance company. The same concept can be accomplished for patients with incontinence, patients wishing to have a vasectomy, or evaluation of the patient with a history of kidney stones. This same process management can be accomplished for nearly every practice.
Get more done in less time by working efficiently
Re-engineering means obtaining greater output with less input. It may mean reorganizing job descriptions. You need to find ways to have people work more efficiently and as a result, you can increase productivity and lower costs, too.
Ask yourself how your processes can be simplified, downsized, outsourced, or better yet, eliminated completely. When you can delegate an action to one person, you have eliminated babysitting multiple staff members. That way, one individual takes on the ownership for the entire process. More often than not, charging one person with the sole responsibility signals confidence in him or her and subsequently elevates his or her performance.
For example, you might consider organizing or delegating all inventory responsibility for the practice to one person who conducts inventory management once a week, instead of ordering supplies or equipment every time something runs out. This reduces telephone calls, shuffling lots of paper or computer entries, which often saves several hours a week that can be used for other activities or patient care.
Finally, one of the best ways to de-rust and re-engineer is to examine your priorities. Many doctors place their practice at a higher priority than their families. This is frequently not a good idea, as the lack of a successful family life will almost certainly harm your practice. Remember, as you climb the ladder of success, make sure your ladder is facing the right wall.
Bottom line: Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.” Nothing could be more applicable to the healthcare profession than the concept of change. In a medical practice, re-engineering is the act of bringing about effective, positive change. The times are forever changing. Make sure you are a changin’, too.