Getting Ahead 5 Ways to Capitalize on Your Time if You Aren't Pursuing Meaningful Use

by Jeff Mongelli

The boxer Mohammed Ali made famous his antic of waving a glove off to the side of his opponent. The instant his opponent reacted, he would jab at the opening he created. The tactic of creating a distraction in order to capitalize on it, or to seek personal gain, has been with us for centuries. Currently, we?re experiencing a similar opportunity within the healthcare industry. I?m specifically referring to Meaningful Use ? aka, ?The Great Distraction.? Hundreds, if not thousands, of practices nationwide are preoccupied with the tasks required to meet Meaningful Use. For many of those practices, the efforts to bring their businesses along have required full-time attention. But what if you?re not pursuing Meaningful Use? Now is your chance to capitalize on your time while your associates are distracted.

Here are five things you can do to improve your business while your competitors are burdened by Meaningful Use: Increase Your Presence and Address Cost Reductions

1. Survey your patients

For as little as $25 per month, services such as Survey Monkey ( can send custom surveys to your patients. Surveys can be used for patient feedback on their experience with you, to ask about additional services you may offer, or to ask if they have friends that could also benefit from your services.Surveys provide a number of benefits. For example, soliciting feedback shows interest in your patients and helps them feel more valued. Surveys represent an easy, time-efficient and cost-effective way to reach out to your patients.

2. Create a monthly newsletter

Although newsletters require more time and effort to develop, they are also a unique opportunity for you to converse with your patients in a friendly, personal manner. Newsletters can be electronic or printed; and both offer advantages and disadvantages. We recommend utilizing both when possible. Numerous services exist to facilitate your newsletter needs, including content providers. Services such as Parthenon (www.parthenonpub. com) can handle the graphics, content, mailing and fulfillment for you. Most companies that send out newsletters create a baseline template and stick with that format. This enables you to reduce the amount of time it takes to keep the newsletters going, while at the same time providing your readers with a consistent format (i.e., branding) that will become familiar to them.

3. Improve your web presence

This is an ideal time to focus on your website. Many of you have realized your website is not exactly the Field of Dreams ? just because you built it, doesn?t mean people will visit. Improving the content and overall attractiveness of your site can improve your visitors? perception of your practice. Improving your search engine presence will ensure that people find you. But managing your web presence goes beyond just creating a search-optimized, informative and appealing website. When was the last time you searched for your name? As a physician, hundreds of sites have your information available to viewers. In many cases, those postings may also include patient feedback ? some legitimate, some not. Whether it is reputation management or correcting erroneous information, such as an address or phone numbers, a complete web presence game plan includes making sure the information others find when searching for you is accurate and complete. Managing your web presence proactively should be high on your list of tasks and should be revisited at least quarterly.

4. Review operational efficiencies

If you haven?t done so already, now is the time to refine your operations to improve your cash flow. We encourage our clients to rethink every step of their patient encounter ? from appointment setting to payment collection. If you find yourself saying, "Well, we?ve always done it this way,? then there is room for improvement. With all of the changes in medicine, it?s inconceivable that previously established norms will still yield the best possible results. Ask yourself how you are handling patient reminders, patient registration, and claim submissions. All of these tasks can be automated for less than the labor costs required to do them manually. Additionally, many patients prefer to have reminders texted to their phones where they can have a record rather than a call from your office, which they may forget they received. These are just a few general examples. Without question, if you physically walked the path your patients take, or follow the path of your office workflow, you?ll discover areas where you can make improvements. Some may only be minor, but when it comes to efficiency, most gains are incremental. It?s the sum total of the effort where the true benefits can be realized.

5. Review office operating costs

While your fellow physicians are dealing with the additional documentation requirements necessary for Meaningful Use, you can use that time to review your office operating costs. For example, when was the last time you took a good look at your practice location?s lease agreement? Reviewing this, arguably one of the most important of your monthly expenses, may uncover opportunities for negotiation when it comes time ?to renewing your contract. And if you?re still paying long distance charges, there are a number of alternatives that could all but eliminate them from your overhead. Sure, maybe your patients are all local, but your vendors most likely are not, and if your staff is communicating with them, then you?re incurring charges that could either be reduced or eliminated. Services like Vonage can be added to your existing phone service and be used to replace your long distance carrier. Similarly, Internet pricing has come down significantly in the past few years. If you haven?t reviewed this lately, you may find you could dramatically increase your speed, reduce your costs or, potentially, both.

By no means are these five suggestions comprehensive, but they are all examples of easily accomplished tasks you can focus upon with the time you are not spending chasing Meaningful Use. While your competition is mired in requirements, take advantage of their distraction by leveraging your time to increase your bottom line.