5 keys to an efficient physician practice redesign

It's becoming more and more apparent that physician practices must make some strategic changes to stay viable. But given the time, expense and disruption that practice reinvention creates, you want to make sure you get it right.

One expert working to help practices set realistic and productive goals for the future is Bruce Bagley, M.D., senior advisor to the professional satisfaction and practice sustainability effort at the American Medical Association (AMA). Here are some of the key ideas about making changes that Bagley has shared at recent industry meetings:

  1. Rally the team, not just the star player. Physicians cannot be solely responsible for ensuring medical offices meet their goals, as is typical in "hero-based" models of traditional practices, Bagley said at the AMA's interim meeting last week. And when support staff are empowered to make a bigger difference in patient care, it not only relieves pressure for physicians but also drives practice improvement, FiercePracticeManagement reported previously.
  2. Give telehealth a chance. As long as the office visit is physician practices' central commodity, providers won't be able to get off of the nonstop treadmill they're fighting to keep up with today, Bagley told attendees at the Medical Group Management Association's (MGMA) 2015 conference in October. He said most calls to physician offices are "negotiations for appointments," adding that there are a number of alternatives, such as secure email and video consultations, that could meet patients' needs.
  3. Involve patients in your redesign. Practice management experts have long recommended conducting patient satisfaction surveys. The problem with this approach, Bagley told MGMA attendees, is that survey results for the most part don't drive change. To truly engage patients in practice improvements, create a patient advisory panel to get customer insights on potential changes before you make them.
  4. Foster physician leadership. "In the future, if we really want change to work, it's going to have to be physician-led," Bagley said at the AMA meeting. That doesn't mean that every health system or practice has to have a physician CEO, he noted, but that, "there has to be enough clinical input and physician leadership at all levels of the organization, so it remains a clinical enterprise and not just a financial one."
  5. Prioritize population health. To make a productive impact on costs, practices should identify the top five percent of their patient panels that drive the most expense, Bagley said at the AMA meeting, and focus on interventions that meet these patients' needs. But to make sure these patients are actually getting the interventions they need, leveraging point-of-care registries is an essential next step, he said at MGMA.

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