The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group, recently stated that the average doctor spends at least 20% of his time on uncompensated tasks, a figure that has nearly doubled in the last decade due to a flurry of new rules and regulations. For the average family practice physician, that equates to roughly $60,000 a year in lost revenue—even higher for other medical specialties.
Fortunately, there are things doctors can do to cut down on their unpaid work and spend more of their time on revenue generating tasks. See if any work for your practice situation.
Streamline the referral and prior authorization process
Every medical practice is familiar with the economic burden of the patient prior authorization process; a more recent survey showed that physicians spend between 15 and 20 minutes per authorization, especially with more insurers requiring a peer-to-peer call for many procedures. For many small to medium sized practices, assigning these tasks to a single staff member makes good financial sense. If your prior authorization volume warrants, you may even want to hire someone specifically to manage the process, even on a part-time basis. A cost-benefit analysis will likely show that the new staff person is an overall cost savings to the practice—and it’s certain to reduce the paperwork aggravation for providers.
Re-evaluate your documentation methods
Many providers have moved to various digital documentation methods in their daily practice, whether that’s voice recognition, point-and-click template driven notes, or keyboard entry into an electronic health record. The approach for many, however, has been to accept whatever the EHR vendor recommended at the time the system was implemented—and that may not be the most efficient for each individual provider, especially for specialty procedures with documentation-heavy medical necessity requirements. Some practices have moved to a scribe model of documentation. Although a scribe may cost between $10 and $17 per hour, he or she can easily improve a physician’s daily productivity by 10% or more, more than covering any salary costs. Physicians who have moved to this model also report improved overall documentation and fewer denials, an additional boost to your practice’s bottom line.
Be prudent about uncompensated family conferences
A provider can’t bill for his time talking over progress, treatment goals, or other issues with family members unless the patient is present. As any physician can attest, these family phone calls and impromptu meetings can easily consume 20 or 30 minutes each. To turn these conferences and calls into compensated care, invite family members to join you in the patient’s scheduled face-to-face visits in the office or at the hospital or nursing home where the patient is being treated. Of course, this isn’t always practical, but providers who make a conscious effort to encourage these joint visits can significantly reduce the amount of unpaid time spent meeting with their patient’s loved ones.
Triage your EHR portal messages
Many practices now use an electronic health record with a patient portal as a way to eliminate barriers to communication between patient and provider. The problem comes when doctors are stuck handling routine inquiries about things such as insurance coverage or medication refills—a process that can consume up to 30 or 40 minutes per day for many providers. Assigning a non-credentialed staff person to the task of triaging all incoming portal messages ensures that routine tasks are handled at the lowest possible level and provider time is reserved only for those messages requiring his or her time.
The bottom line
Sometimes, something as simple as keeping a clock on the wall behind the patient during an office visit is enough of a boost to keep providers focused on time, but for most, a more systematic approach to increased productivity is required. Contact the experts at Health 1 if you’d like to know more about how to get compensated for more of your time!