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8 Steps to Protect Your Independence

Tuesday, April 10, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Written for AAOE by Susan Feury, MBA, Ambulatory Practice Solutions, GE Healthcare

 Learn more by visiting GE Healthcare at the AAOE 2018 Annual Conference at Booth #201.

Healthcare is changing, and remaining an independent practice is becoming harder.  Here are eight important steps you can take to protect your independence:

1. Adopt a culture of continuous improvement. To quote Matthew Bishop, “The pace of change will never again be as slow as it is today.”  Our most successful independent orthopaedic practices look for evidence of adaptability when bringing new providers and staff into their practice and then design their operating mechanisms and rewards systems to reinforce continuous improvement.  

2.Increase clinical and operational productivity.  As fee-for-service payments decline, increasing patient throughput is one way to protect your independence.  Our most efficient practices periodically conduct process flow studies to identify the provider, staff, and physical plant bottlenecks unique to their practice and re-engineer workflows to optimize productivity.  With the support of a flexible EMR, one of our orthopaedic practices nearly tripled exam room utilization for recheck patients and decreased x-ray cycle time by almost 50 percent. These improvements saved $800,000 in construction costs and enabled throughput for rehabilitation and physical therapy to increase by 49 percent (Ortho Northeast Case Study).

3. Communicate with your clinical community. The ability to efficiently exchange clinical data with other healthcare systems in your community will help your practice thrive.  New connectivity capabilities are increasing visibility of our independent practices among providers in neighboring health systems, which can help drive referrals. We’ve learned that efficiently integrating external clinical data into the native workflow can help providers save an hour each day (Seamless Clinical Data Integration ebook) in chart reviews, enhance care quality, and reduce total medical expense, all important to your long-term success.  Ensuring referring physicians are informed in a timely fashion about the patient’s care and any follow-up required helps create a virtuous cycle to grow your practice. 

4. Strengthen financial performance. Every dollar counts.  Our strongest independent practices do two things well: (1) submit claims that meet the particular requirements of each payer, which optimizes payments received; and, (2) submit clean claims – the first time – to accelerate their payment cycle. They do both by starting with an integrated EMR and practice management solution, analyzing their financial data to understand trends, and leveraging automation to more efficiently ensure accuracy, completeness, and compliance with payer rules.  To put it in perspective, one of our orthopaedic practices went three straight years without a single clinical denial for incorrect coding (Children's Scoliosis and Surgery Associates Case Study) and another reclaimed $0.5M in underpayments (Ortho Northeast Video).

5. Attract and retain top clinical talent. Some orthopods may feel that the burden of independence is too high and opt to become employed by a health system. However, independent practices that create a supportive environment and empower providers to efficiently practice in the way they prefer can attract industry leading providers who want to take orthopaedics to the next level.  Provider satisfaction is a key contributor to staff and patient satisfaction and ultimately the health of your practice.

6. View patients as customers. The healthcare industry is shifting toward consumerism. With the commercial world rapidly changing around them, patients expect a more personalized experience, greater respect for their time, and a better patient experience overall.  Word-of-mouth referrals are important to your business success. Our successful independent orthopaedic practices regularly survey their patients and leverage email automation to encourage ratings on relevant social media sites.  Comments like “The whole process of getting the XRAY, NP and MD discussion was very efficient” can help drive referral traffic to your practice instead of your competitor’s.

7. Transform to value-based care.  Delivering exceptional clinical outcomes at a low cost while absorbing increasing levels of financial risk will require significant changes – changes in operating models and staffing levels, compensation and rewards systems, performance metrics, and technology. Establishing a team dedicated to leading the organization through that change – and backing that team with executive level sponsorship and support – is  critical to success.  A formal change management model can help ensure change is successful and remains permanent.  Implementing a flexible technology that can grow and change with you, and that supports mixed payment models as well as full capitation, are important for a successful journey. 

8. Find a trusted partner.  You may be an independent orthopaedic practice, but you are not alone.  An experienced EMR vendor with both technology and healthcare expertise will help you navigate the twists and turns as the healthcare industry changes.  Finding a vendor that measures their success by your success is one way to reduce the burden of independence on your practice today and help you thrive in the future.

You are in charge of your own destiny. With proper planning and the right resources at your disposal, you can successfully protect your independence. 



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