Providers are often caught in a time crunch
Many long-time doctors have the same complaint: there’s less time to spend with patients and perform critical medical tasks than in previous years – with much of the blame laid on EHR and its documentation, a more complex regulatory environment and fluctuations in payer standardization with more complicated requirements among payers.
For example: a medical assistant (MA) has a 10-minute triage requirement to reduce demands on the provider’s time, using up 250 minutes (25 patients a day); an additional six-minute follow-up for prescriptions, testing or consultation adds up to another 150 minutes. With a half hour lunch, there’s no time for phone calls or personal time during an eight-hour workday.
Is that 10-minute triage necessary for escorting to an exam room, refilling prescriptions, checking vital signs, and so on? Consider timing the experiences to see what happens during that time frame. Do this for multiple patients in one day, with random assessments on different days. You may find that the assistant is doing the same tasks as the physician – if so, how to avoid redundancy?
Managing Providers' Time More Efficiently
Begin by evaluating the need for providers against the current workloads: time the processes and tasks as well as who does what. If you find that there is overlap between duties and clinical as well as office personnel, consider refocusing staffers’ time on the most essential work. This may also mean reassigning tasks and responsibilities either to take better advantage of a particular employee skill set or to simply consolidate similar jobs.
Because your biggest office expenses are usually providers and their staff salaries, if there is more overtime being worked it’s time to assess if your staffing levels are at the right “mix” between clinicians as well as front and back office personnel.
- Remember that over-staffing is as undesirable as being understaffed: one will result in too many staffers doing the same tasks, while the latter means overtime for over-worked staff.
- Delegate and reassign tasks among qualified staffers to optimize their training and career goals. Having a daily briefing that includes all staffers where tasks are delegated and free up the physician for tasks making better use of his or her expertise.
- Improved front and back-office efficiency raises quality of care outcomes by educating and engaging patients, according to Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) consultant Cindy Dunn.
- Consider hiring a medical scribe to handle the ongoing EHR documentation during the course of an office visit allowing you to focus on the patient, not the computer.
- Using technologies such as web portals to streamline scheduling and confirming appointments and advise new patients on which documents to bring for a first visit can save staffers time and increase the office’s efficiency. The goal is to get patients into the examining room faster, where you can spend more time interacting and improve care outcomes.
Keeping Staffers Motivated at Their Work
For many practices, reimbursements have been dropping while expenses are rising, making it harder than before to award pay increases, even when factored into the yearly budgets. A recent survey found that 13 percent of respondents were obligated to freeze salaries, with staffers of some practices even having their pay cut.
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that there’s not enough work for these staffers – on the contrary, the survey showed that 36 percent were experiencing increases in their workloads, with many employees performing dual – or more - roles within the practice.
So, what to do if it looks like the numbers just aren’t adding up for pay increases for staffers?
- Be frank with employees about performance evaluations and raises.If there’s a chance that a raise won’t be forthcoming due to circumstances not in the employee’s control, they need to be told this either during the evaluation or in staff meeting as well as assured that the situation is temporary and a raise will be implemented as soon as the practice is reasonably able to do so. This is especially true if your practice has awarded raises in the past and staffers have come to expect them and plan their finances accordingly.
- Offering “perks” that convey appreciation and recognition are always a good idea, even when raises are also offered. Perks could include gift cards, lunches and other tokens of appreciation that won’t break the bank, as well as help boost morale by making the office an enjoyable place to work.
- Flexible scheduling, including working from home, can be a boon for staffers with young children or those caring for elderly family members.
- Boosting cross-training to add value to the staffer’s skill sets as well as reduce slowdowns if a staffer is unexpectedly off work.
- Be sure to point out that there are other benefits for working for your practice: having healthcare insurance and other benefits, for example, can remind employees to look outside the paycheck.
Your trained, experienced staffers are one of your practice’s best assets: a good employee may be difficult and time-consuming to replace, so make it a priority to ensure that they feel like valued team members. If your practice is having issues with “income versus outgo”, you may want to consult with a practice management firm to uncover hidden costs to be trimmed, while raising revenue from increased reimbursements.
Experienced Practice Management/ Billing Service can Optimize Your Time and Income
M-Scribe has been in the business of helping practices of all sizes and specialties with billing, documentation and other practice management tasks since 2002. Their experienced consultants can help you focus on areas that need more attention and work on an action plan to increase reimbursements so revues will be sufficient to meet all ongoing expenses, including employee raises.
Contact M-Scribe at 770-666-0470 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential, no-obligation analysis to learn more how we can help your practice get and stay on track to maximize revenues while meeting care outcome and regulatory compliance criteria.