5 Out-of-the-Box Strategies for Increasing Orthopedic Practice Profits

Practice Management

Here are five strategies for improving orthopedic practice profits outside of the daily routine. 1. Incorporate cash services and attract patients with coupons. Physicians and providers have a hard time turning a profit from Medicare patients and some private insurers because reimbursement rates are so low. As a result, more specialists are trying to build a cash-based system that attracts patients who are willing to pay a little extra for these services. "The whole purpose of my business model is to convert the practice to attract the cash patient," says Dr. Connor. "There are patients who see healthcare as something they want to improve their athletic performance."

There are several services orthopedic and sports medicine specialists can add to their practices that will increase its value. From a medical prospective, adding extra equipment to perform procedures such as platelet-rich plasma injections or fiberoptic arthroscopy gives patients additional options if they choose to pay more out-of-pocket. There are also several non-medical services sports medicine practices can add to bring in additional patients and revenue. Dr. Connor's practice includes equipment to perform nutritional analyses, cholesterol monitoring, C-reactive protein monitoring and the "Bod Pod" to perform body mass indexes, among other services.

For cash services, his practice has issued coupons for discounts. "We have worked on some different coupons for cash-based services, whether it's the body fat analysis, monitoring or platelet-rich plasma injections, to bring patients into our practice for non-payor based services," he says. "Patients really respond to that."

2. Connect with old and new patients through newsletters. Stay in touch with patients by sending practice newsletters. Include patient stories focusing on the relief of pain after treatment. If you want to include information about a new procedure or technology, find a way to relate it to the patients through a personal story. "Human interest is where you are going to gain more readers," says Ms. Rocks. The newsletter can be electronic, which saves paper and mailing expenses.

Patients come to orthopedic surgeons because they are in pain, and fear goes hand-in-hand with pain, says Ms. Rocks. Providing patients with scenarios of cases where other patients with similar conditions recovered and had good outcomes helps ease their nerves. "You have to reinforce that you're trustworthy," says Ms. Rocks. "Scenarios help patients see how the physician can help them, whether through surgery or another type of treatment."

3. Improve your social media presence. Having a social media presence through blogs or a Facebook page can make your practice more accessible to web-savvy patients and create a two-way street for public interaction. David Geier, Jr., MD, is an orthopedic surgeon and director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Geier started a blog in early Sept. 2010, which he updates with information regarding sports injury treatment, prevention and wellness.

On his blog, Dr. Geier responds to patients' questions. Through a disclaimer, he clarifies that his response contains general information rather than a specific diagnoses or individualized treatment advice. Those who submit questions know ahead of time that Dr. Geier may feature them in future blog posts. He also encourages people to reach out to him via Twitter and e-mail, and shares the locations of his practice.

Professionals should figure out why they are using social media in the first place. Information sharing, cost-effective advertising, community outreach or customer service are just a few purposes a social media presence may serve. Dr. Geier wanted to increase his communication with the public, helping them learn about sports injuries in a conversational, easy-to-understand way. Through his blog, he also schedules public speaking engagements and shares recent research findings.

4. Develop a relationships with current and potential referring physicians. Forming a relationship with primary care physicians is one of the best ways to increase patient volume at your practice. "The first thing you need to do is personally have physicians go out and meet referring physicians," says Peter Althausen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Reno Orthopaedic Clinic and chairman of the board of directors of The Orthopaedic Implant Company. "You would be shocked at how many primary care physicians don't know what the specialists look like."

One way to coordinate a face-to-face meeting with several primary care physicians in your area is to host an educational luncheon. Have each orthopedic surgeon give a presentation about their subspecialty, such as going over MRI for shoulder surgery or when to get epidural instead of recommending surgery for back problems. The lunch also fosters an environment where the physicians can get to know each other. "The surgeon is able to shake hands with the primary care physician and their staff," says Dr. Althausen. Bring the practice office manager to the lunches to ensure your practice will be easily accessible for the primary care physicians.

5. Incentivize employees to keep a close eye on revenue cycle management. Not keeping track of the accounts receivable and billing process is one of the biggest mistakes orthopedic practices can make, says Nancy Moore, president of NBP, a practice management support company. "Often, the physician trusts employees to do the best job possible to manage the A/R and billing process, and sometimes it's not being handled well," she says. "Employees should be educated every year about reimbursement changes and carrier level changes. You also have to have good oversight from the management."

The trained employees who handle the revenue cycle responsibilities should be compensated appropriately because these employees are controlling the practice's cash flow. "In oversight, employees really need to be held accountable, incentivized and rewarded for good work," says Ms. Moore. "This doesn't always happen, especially now when it's tough to get reimbursement, but at the same time you can't cut corners." Orthopedic practices should set solid goals for the revenue cycle managers, such as maintaining the A/R greater than 120 days at 15 percent or lower of total A/R, a net collection ratio greater than 95 percent, and incentivize employees with compensation when goals are met.

Related Articles on Orthopedic Practices:

6 Features of Effective Orthopedic Group Websites

5 Strategies for Patient-Centric Orthopedic Practices

8 Strategies to Prepare Orthopedic ASCs for Success

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