5 ways to boost your bottom line in 2015

Last week's top story, "Practices' top financial challenges of 2014 turned out to be a hotter headline than I'd predicted. Perhaps the popularity of that story speaks to the adage that bad news travels fast. Or maybe its appeal is in helping practices recognize they are far from alone in their struggles.

But if you are reading your weekly issues of FiercePracticeManagement, chances are it's because you still have a practice to manage. And if your practice is still running amid today's challenges, you must be doing something right.

In fact, a lot of physician practices do alot of things right. And as adversity and uncertainty have forced practices to become more robust, I've noticed common traits among those who succeed. So if looking back on some key trends of the past couple years is any indication, here are five ways (in no special order) you can make good things happen for your practice going forward:

  1. Grow your team, but hold it together with strong glue. Practices hire nonphysician practitioners (NPP) in droves, and for good reason: Adding layers to your clinical team allows you to take on more patients in a time- and cost-effective manner. But simply hiring more providers without a clear plan for how everyone will complement one another can leave practices in the same position or worse. A team isn't a team just because you call it one. Put effort into building it right and keeping it strong.
  2. Make expenses work for you. In the same vein as optimizing the performance of your team, make sure your investments serve their purpose. And avoid the common mistake of trying to save your practice by slashing costs. As Marc D. Halley, president and chief executive officer of Ohio-based interim-management and consulting firm Halley Consulting Group, once told me: "So if you're looking to save the world or save a practice by cutting costs, pretty soon you're cutting muscle, and then you're reducing productivity. Where you win or lose the game in a medical practice is on the revenue side of the balance sheet."
  3. Connect with your patients. Another recent story that hit a big nerve with readers offered the business case for "hardwiring humanity" into healthcare interactions, as described by Bridget Duffy, M.D., chief medical officer at Vocera Communications in San Francisco  and former chief experience officer at Cleveland Clinic--the first person in the country to hold the title--at this year's Medical Group Management Association annual conference. This story relates to the recurrent theme about the importance of clinician empathy and communication skills. Among the practices I've spoken with recently, those most connected with their patients are able to do so by finding the right balance between personal touch and automated technology.
  4. Take care of your own (aka be a better boss). As is true with any business, your clients (or patients) are not your only customers. If you want your employees to treat your customers well, nurture their needs as professionals and as people. Many practice professionals who end up managing people are not initially hired to do so; they need training and support in order to sustain this cycle whereby the company takes care of its people and its people take care of the patients.
  5. Make burnout prevention a priority. Finally, it should go without saying but too often doesn't: The first patient physicians should make sure is emotionally and physically sound is the one they see in the mirror. This message is not fluff; it's life or death. Healthcare organizations need to support their doctors' wellness. Case closed. - Deb (@PracticeMgt)

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