Every time a doctor is forced to leave an exam room to hunt for lab tests or X-rays, it cuts into productivity and revenue. Those same precious minutes are lost when the exam room isn't properly or uniformly supplied.
A few simple, common-sense techniques, such as ensuring that a doctor has everything needed close at hand when seeing a patient, can save enough time to translate into tens of thousands of dollars annually in increased revenue for primary-care practitioners, one expert says.
"If you look at the average doctor today and chart the time spent in those unproductive periods, it can amount to an hour or more a day," says Betsy Nicoletti of Helms and Co., a Springfield, Vt.-based healthcare consulting firm. "That means at least two office visits, sometimes three office visits a day, and that net revenue can amount to $35,000 a year, conservatively," she says.
Nicoletti will talk about improved efficiency during a session called "Increasing Physician Revenue (and the Bottom Line)," a 75-minute breakout session Monday, Oct. 22, from 9: 30 a.m. to 10: 45 a.m. The session will be repeated from 4 p.m. to 5: 15 p.m.
She says the session is "aimed at increasing productivity in a physician's office-and increasing revenue."
The most fundamental element of efficiency and productivity, Nicoletti says, is proper patient flow, beginning at the moment the doctor starts office hours.
"Doctors don't make money unless there's a steady supply of patients in the exam room," she says.
But a few seemingly minor items can seriously hamper productivity, including the time the doctor spends outside the exam room, searching for X-rays, charts or test results. Time is also lost, Nicoletti says, when a busy physician is forced to search for supplies because exam rooms aren't all set up the same way or because charts are poorly organized.
"Sometimes it's a staffing issue," she says. "If it means staffing up a little bit, sometimes they have to spend a little more. MGMA statistics have shown that physicians who have higher incomes have higher staff costs."
Nicoletti says she also will examine a few other measures that have proved successful for many primary-care physicians.
They include opening a walk-in clinic from 7: 30 a.m. to 9: 30 a.m., with one member of the medical group seeing typically simple, acute cases-most of them involving children. "They tend to be quick (visits) and a great builder of patients," Nicoletti says. "Parents love it, and you can generate additional revenue."
She also suggests that doctors attempt to forge a relationship with midsized to large local employers, offering to provide pre-employment physicals. "You go to the employers and negotiate a deal," she says.
Among other ideas, Nicoletti recommends appointing one member of the medical group as a hospitalist, freeing the rest of the physicians to concentrate on office visits and inpatient procedures while a single specialist concentrates on hospitalized patients.