The children have gone back to school and summer is over—the season, if not the heat. Many offices see an ebb and flow to their practice volume during certain times of the year and summer can be one of the more relaxed times. The pace of activity usually accelerates going into fall. Along with your regular schedule, there is an abundance of conventions, seminars and trade shows you can attend. You have your choice of courses for continuing education or additional training and certifications.
Many people are accustomed to making resolutions as they celebrate the New Year. Where business is concerned, the end of summer almost seems a more appropriate time for this process. Evaluating the different facets of your practice at this time of year can provide the time and resources to adequately research and plan any changes or additions you might wish to implement in your practice.
Several basic questions should be considered when assessing diagnostics in your practice. Honesty is the best policy when answering. There is no pass or fail, just the opportunity to gain insight to improve your practice and the health of your patients. It may be helpful for your associates and staff to also provide responses.
1. What diagnostic equipment do you have in your office?
2. What diagnostic procedures and tests do you regularly use?
3. Are you taking the full and best advantage of your current diagnostics?
4. For each of the tests or procedures, can you answer the following:
a. What information will be gained?
b. How will that knowledge help the patient?
c. Do you know how to document the necessity for the procedure?
d. Do you document and use the results from the test or procedure?
5. Are you being reimbursed appropriately for the diagnostic procedures you bill?
6. Are there “new or improved” procedures or equipment available?
Compare your answers to the first two questions—do you have diagnostic equipment in your office that you do not use regularly? If you have equipment not being utilized, consider why you no longer use it. Was the equipment difficult to use? Did it take too much time, or not provide useful information? Were there problems when billing for the test? Was the equipment ever used on a regular basis? Are there diagnostics you previously used regularly but, now, do not? Why not? If you were able to resolve or correct the problems that led to your rejection of the test or procedure, would you reconsider its use? Is there a habit in your practice of acquisition and abandonment? (Shiny toy syndrome!)
Questions three, four and five should be correlated to each other as well. If you and your associates are not able to provide appropriate answers to all aspects of question four, it is doubtful you are realizing the full potential of diagnostics. Lacking sufficient necessity and documentation, it is also likely reimbursement is being denied or requires additional time and effort to collect. Billing and collections staff should have the same information about diagnostics readily available to them, especially for tests or procedures you bill. There is a general consensus in diagnostic collections; more expensive procedures require submission of more documentation of necessity and efficacy in order to obtain payment.
You now have an idea of the equipment, tests and procedures that have proven most beneficial to you and your patients. In your evaluation, did any patterns develop? The results allow you to recognize strengths as well as weaknesses in your diagnostic protocols. What resources are available to correct or improve the deficiencies in your existing systems? Would training or certifications help? Many seminars and courses are available for fall and winter. Do any of your vendors make in-service presentations available to you and your staff that could provide additional training or documentation? These are just a few suggestions.
And lastly, of course, new and improved equipment is available. Your review may show the benefits of new or upgraded equipment or implementation of advanced diagnostic procedures in your practice. Your analysis can help prevent repeating the same types of mistakes and will enable you to take the full and best advantage of diagnostics for your practice and the health of your patients.
Ms. Plank has an extensive background in medical and facilities management. During the past 15 years, Ms. Plank has provided technical and management services to healthcare providers, specializing in radiology and neurology. She is currently the Vice President of Corporate Services for Practice Perfect. Contact her at [email protected], or visit www.dahan.com.