Collaboration among key attributes of successful medical practices
In the years that I’ve spent working with medical practice administrators and executives, I’ve learned one important lesson: When you’ve seen one practice, you’ve seen one practice.
Medical practices are vastly different in many ways, depending on their location and the population of patients they serve, as well as their size, structure and specialty. Although these differences are significant, there is plenty of common ground. In my experience from connecting with colleagues in organizations near and far, there are certain characteristics shared by strong, dynamic practices that meet the needs of today’s patients.
Practice executives and clinicians collaborate strategically: Collaboration between clinicians and practice executives is paramount for designing the organizational, technological and patient-engagement systems that enhance care and improve outcomes. Although they are not directly involved in clinical care, practice executives help create the systems and processes that make that care efficient and effective and help physicians devote the maximum amount of time to patient care.
Successful practices understand the business of care delivery—how to bridge business and clinical functions to provide safe, efficient and effective care to better engage their patients. Strategically aligning these functions and working as a team help to ensure practice success.
Business decisions are driven by data: Successful medical practices infuse data into everything they do and benchmark their organizations with national metrics and indicators. Not only do the practices understand and monitor the many metrics that payers require, they also use industry data to develop physician compensation plans, monitor the cost of running a medical group, compare their practice’s revenue to that of similar practices, and assess their staffing models, among other things. For example, according to the MGMA Performance and Practices of Successful Medical Groups: 2014 Report Based on 2013 Data, medical practices that have been deemed “better performing” indicated that they collect receivables more quickly than their peers and assess patient satisfaction in their practice more frequently than practices without the designation.
The Medical Group Management Association also observed that “better-performing” medical practices reported a lower patient no-show rate (4%) compared with others (4.25%) and reported less bad debt due to fee-for-service activity per fulltime-equivalent physician. Having financial benchmarking data and practice performance information readily available can help physicians and practice executives make data-driven decisions, which positions the organization for long-term success.
Practice leaders are committed to life-long learning and certification: Successful practices employ boardcertified medical practice executives who are motivated to elevate the administrative and clinical excellence of the practice.
They are led by executives who are committed to life-long learning and seek new information and resources, pursue networking opportunities and gain expertise that helps their practice to innovate. In this period of industry change and uncertainty, it is critical to build a clinical and administrative team that is nimble, poised to grow and willing to work diligently to drive longterm sustainability.
Practices invest for changing times: While practice administrators and executives face incredible challenges, the environment offers flexibility to explore technologies, processes and tools that can increase efficiencies and improve operations and patient outcomes.
This doesn’t necessarily require a large investment; rather, successful practices constantly apply lessons learned to meet the needs of patients. This might be investing in a patient portal that sends automatic alerts to patients who need a prescription refill, helps track a patient’s progress in losing weight, monitors glucose or blood pressure levels, and gives reminders and access to resources and information. It could mean devoting 10 minutes to Googling the practice name to be sure that business hours and directions are accurate online. These may seem like small tasks, but successful practices invest in their future by devoting time and resources to enhancing their patients’ experience.
Small, large, urban, rural, single-specialty, multispecialty, independent or aligned—these are only a few of the settings in which physicians are delivering care to patients. While each might be unique in some ways, successful practices that meet the needs of today’s patients use data to drive business decisions, are staffed with a sophisticated team that collaborates effectively, and plans, prepares and invests for the future.
Todd Evenson is MGMA vice president of data solutions and consulting services.