4 Inexpensive Ways to Boost Orthopedic Practice Profitability

Laura Dyrda -  
Here are four inexpensive ways orthopedic practices can increase profitablity.

1. Update referring physician on their patients. When a general practitioner or other physician refers their patient to you, keep them updated on the status of the patient, says David Shrier, CEO of HCPlexus, a company that maintains the "Little Blue Book" referral database for physicians. The referring physicians appreciate knowing how their patients are responding to treatment and following up with their medical conditions. "Communicating about the patients helps the referring physicians feel good about the referral they just made," says Mr. Shrier. Keeping these lines of communication open with referring physicians strengthens your relationship with them and will encourage future referrals. You can also send "Thank You" letters to the referring physicians. "People don't get enough personal notes any more," he says. "This is going to help the referring physician feel like his or her patient is being taken care of." Include the practice name on the letter and address it directly to the referring physician to personalize the message.

2. Coordinate confirmations with scheduling systems. When a patient does listen to the appointment reminder and confirms the appointment, the practice should be able to immediately populate their schedule with that appointment confirmation. Physicians and practice employees should use a method  that can immediately post results to their calendar and identify the gaps in the appointment schedule and fill them quickly. "When an appointment is set out, Patient Prompt populates the scheduling system in real time," says Claude Waknine, director of business development at Patient Prompt. "The technology connects with the existing scheduling system automatically."

3. Make effective use of office space.
The building in which a practice is located can affect profitability almost as much as the operations that go on inside of it. According to Curt Mayse, a principal with LarsonAllen, many orthopedic and spine physicians love big buildings, thinking that a bigger space is a better space. At the same token, many physicians choose to remain at a cramped space when it may be wise for them to expand their practices. Both of these missteps can cause problems for a practice's profitability.

"Physicians need to consider the scope and the layout of a facility that can effectively manage the caseload they have," Mr. Mayse says. This means that office space must be large enough to comfortably accommodate the patients a practice will see in a day but not too much that there is wasted space. By paying too much on rent or limiting the number of patients a practice can see because of lack of space, the costs can add up over time, according to Mr. Mayse.

4. Treat all patients like VIPs. There are a few simple things the practice staff can do to improve the patient's entire experience at the practice and make them feel like VIPs. Make sure the staff smiles at the patients when they arrive and throughout the visit. Ask the patients questions and make sure they have everything they need, and provide them with things they've forgotten. "Customer service is very important," says Bal Raj, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Beverly Hills (Calif.) Orthopedic Institute. "If the patient needs to have their MRI but didn't bring it, my clinical staff will get the MRI."

This treatment should remain consistent throughout the patient's experience and recovery. Dr. Raj's staff calls the patient within a week of treatment or surgery to make sure the patient's imaging has been taken care of and they understand their physical therapy. The staff also asks if the patient is having any problems and, if they do, helps to solve them.

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