The healthcare industry has often predicted that independent physicians will become an endangered species, and there’s no question that a growing number of physicians have chosen employment over private practice in recent years. A 2019 survey by the AMA found that slightly more physicians (47%) were employed in 2018 than those who were self-employed (46%).
However, that data indicates that a large percentage of physicians continue to be more heavily reliant on practice revenues and success than employed physicians (who are often salaried and protected by the hospital system). These ‘independent’ or ‘affiliated’ physicians often need revenue-enhancing strategies even more than their employed colleagues, while typically having less access to the tools they need to make revenue capture easier and more compliant.
If you’re a physician affiliated with a hospital or health system, there’s perhaps never been a time when having point-of-care solutions that accurately capture revenues while minimizing audit risk was so important. COVID-19 hurt most physicians’ bottom lines in numerous ways, cutting net revenues by 4.5% in 2020, reducing elective procedures, and shrinking patient visits in general. And EHR-based solutions simply don’t lend themselves to accurately capturing complex charges or being useful in care situations beyond hospital walls.
We suggest five ways to optimize the financial viability of independent physicians and indirectly the hospitals with which they’re affiliated.
1. Implement intuitive charge capture tools at the point of care
Independent physicians may practice at facilities with different EHRs or systems that don’t communicate with their own practice management system to help them account for their patients. Moreover, EHRs typically fail to capture complex, typically higher-dollar, charges and can be cumbersome to use. Mobile tools that automate much of the charge capture process and that can seamlessly integrate with hospital EHRs and other tech systems make it easy for physicians to immediately and accurately capture charges even when rounding at multiple facilities or delivering sub-acute, outpatient, or home care. Advantages of this approach include:
- Tracking all patient care episodes via real-time census and appointment data feeds
- Cutting through the complexity of medical coding with automated menus that prioritize the codes you need
- Avoiding denials that cost you time and money
- Reducing reimbursement turnaround times to improve cashflow and plan more accurately
2. Reduce missing bills and reconcile charges based on clinical documentation
Automated charge tracking and analysis tools are critical to help you quickly uncover and address gaps in your revenue stream. Thorough documentation that supports your coding is essential today to reduce the risk of reimbursement delays, denied claims and other penalties, and audits. Look for tools that can:
- Lighten clinician workloads with automatic prompts and intelligent code filters
- Alert providers to possible missed bills through in-platform chat, visual indicators, and push notifications
- Automatically identify and prevent missing charges based on clinical documentation feeds
- Automatically identify and assign missing bills to the provider that created notes without corresponding charges
- Assign missed encounters to the providers responsible and drive their resolution via mobile push notifications and secure messages
3. Optimize staffing to adapt to volume shifts
Many independent physician practices lack the right tools to appropriately flex their staffing levels to meet shifting volumes. That can make it impossible to hit productivity targets. Having intuitive dashboards that display hard data based on what physicians themselves have entered. This enables you to get a true representation of their workload and productivity and can help physicians who may focus more on the times they were understaffed and fail to recognize how often they were overstaffed.
COVID-19 put a spotlight on this issue by exaggerating normal volume swings. Early in the pandemic, in addition to its intuitive dashboards, Ingenious Med developed new COVID flags to help practices identify areas where volume was surging as well as new telehealth codes to capture the growth in telehealth revenues.
For more information, see our blog post Ingenious Med: Supporting a Comprehensive Productivity Optimization Program for a Top U.S. Physician Company.
4. Track, prove and improve value with real-time analytics
Make sure your platform enables providers and administrators to share credible, real-time data that lets you:
- Evaluate and standardize productivity performance among individual providers as well as across teams and practices
- Prove practice value to hospital partners and payers
- Quickly identify and address charge and revenue-cycle flow issues
- Engage and align providers by providing performance metrics that identify areas of opportunity with real-time mobile and web-based dashboards
- Track role-based key performance indicator (KPI) data visualizations across multiple metrics (including charges captured, RVUs, LOS and readmissions)
For a deeper dive on this topic, you may want to read the following posts:
How to Harness the Power of Data to Improve Physician Productivity, 5 Ways to Increase Revenue with Healthcare Business Analytics, 5 Questions to Ask About Revenue Cycle Analytics.
5. Take advantage of automation and intelligent workflows
Automated, intelligent tools are enjoying more widespread adoption as their utility becomes apparent. Ingenious Med’s MasterCoder is a step-by-step tool that uses semi-coding automation to reduce coder workload and improve coding speed, accuracy, and compliance and is the first of many new tools we’re developing to help our customers automate repetitive tasks and streamline their workloads as much as possible.
One benefit of COVID-19 is that it helped to foster a recognition among affiliated and employed physicians that they must work together to manage patient care more cost effectively and in a variety of settings outside the hospital. Having the right tools is an essential component of financial viability and will help independent physicians and the hospital they’re affiliated with become and/or remain providers of choice.
Learn how Ingenious Med can help you get and keep all of the revenue to which your practice is entitled, optimize productivity, and prove how you’re helping your facility partners achieve their goals. We offer embedded integrations from market-leading EHRs that can help you work smarter.