5 ways to improve your medical practice in 2011

Here are five things that you should have on your 2011 To-Do list.

1. Start electronic prescribing. What have you been waiting for? The EMR/EHR? (See number 4 below.) Electronic prescribing can work in a stand-alone (no EMR/EHR) environment. Work flow can be modified, and you will benefit tremendously with additional nurse time available to you after the nurses realize how much phone time they save each day.

Ask your current practice management system vendor what solutions they have for e-prescribing. Ask other physicians what they are doing. Ask for help. Just start!

2. Participate in the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI). Physicians who participated in this voluntary pay-for-reporting program from Medicare have received incentive payments in the past couple of years. What does that mean to you? You may be leaving money on the table by not participating. Go to www.cms.gov/pqri/ for information on registration and the quality measures for reporting.

The future of reimbursement change is going to be focused on data management and reporting. Get the PQRI incentives while you gain experience in collecting data and reporting data.

Your initial efforts at creating reports with the new data may take more effort and time than expected, so be patient and find the tools that make the reporting process efficient for your practice operations.

3. Get interactive with your website and initiate patient portal services. Invite your patients to register to receive lab result reports via your portal. Publicize and promote services available via your website that can improve service to your patients by transitioning their requests from the telephone to web transactions. Let patients request appointments and change appointments on your patient portal website. Promote same-day turnaround on prescription renewal requests that don’t require an appointment if made via the portal. Start an “ask the nurse” service on your portal and guarantee two-hour responses — on the portal.

Have you ever tried to get through to your practice using the same phone lines your patients use? Get off the phone and get on the portal!

4. Select and implement an EMR/EHR. No one should be surprised that EMR/EHR implementation is on the list of the top five things to do in 2011, but you may have been surprised that it is not number 1. But moving it down the list should actually make implementation easier.

If you’re anxious or unsure of how to integrate technology into your practice, you are more likely to be successful by taking a stepping-stone approach to implementing change.

Get your fingers wet on your technology trek by starting with a patient portal or PQRI or even e-prescribing (see numbers 1, 2, and 3). Your practice will reap operational benefits of a patient portal while also delivering improved service to your patients — the customer of your practice.

After adopting one or more of the less-invasive technology tools, you and your staff will be better prepared as you consider work flow changes to more effectively adopt an electronic record.

Start in your own community and investigate solutions that may be offered by your affiliated hospital. Visit practices that you have referring relationships with to see how they have integrated an EHR into their work flow.

Be patient, but persevere on your path to full electronic record keeping.

5. Optimize staffing. Examine your staffing levels and benchmark to other practices. Look at specialties like yours. Compare yourself with those that are using an EMR/EHR. Look at FTE (full time equivalent) numbers in total as well as by type of position. Compare yourself to other practice productivity benchmarks.

And remember, “optimize” does not equal minimize. Optimized staff levels mean that your practice has the right number of people performing in the right roles to realize your production and profitability goals.

It is not about just one number, but how the combinations of indicators deliver the bottom line. In fact, better performing practices often have higher per-provider staffing numbers than other practices.

So, that’s my recommendation for your top five for 2011.

Get started, get ahead, get ready for the next change coming.

Rosemarie Nelson is a principal with the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group.

Originally published in MedPage Today. Visit MedPageToday.com for more practice management news

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