Business Consult: Cutting costs: Find savings to help your practice survive tough times

May 1, 2009

Revenue is flat, even dropping, at many dermatology practices. The recession that began last year is leading more Americans to cut back on preventive care, as well as elective procedures and treatments.

Key Points

With the outlook for reimbursement uncertain, now is a good time to look for more ways to cut costs in your dermatology practice. It's time to look for cost savings, small and large.

Lease, rent payments

If you own your office or are locked into a long-term lease, consider subleasing space you don't need.

If you've run out of space, consider alternatives before buying or leasing more. Open at 7 a.m., work through the lunch hour and close at 6 p.m. These additional hours will be a hit with patients, and they will give you three "free" hours a day.

Telecommunications costs

"Bundling" is a hot-button word for physicians, but it can produce savings on local, long-distance and wireless telephone costs, as well as other communication services. Service providers are offering discounts to businesses that combine Internet connection, long distance, cellular telephone services and other services.

At the same time, make sure you're not paying for services you don't need, such as unlimited nationwide long-distance minutes or voice mailboxes you never use.

Do you still have the best available rates for cell phones and pagers? Do you need a pager, or can your smartphone serve all of your needs?

Vendor contracts

Are you still getting the best price and value on business insurance, professional services, medical and office supplies, and equipment? Check competitors' prices and see if your current vendor will renegotiate.

Is your collection agency or electronic claims transmission carrier still offering the best rates around? Are you getting good value?

Scrutinize benefits

Talk to your benefits agent. Look for ways to ease the rising cost of employees' health insurance, such as passing premium increases to employees or raising deductibles.

Survey employees to see what benefits they value the most. Maybe you can cut or reduce term life insurance or trim down the disability package.

If the cost of personnel management is a drain, consider outsourcing employee management, including benefits programs, to a professional employer organization (PEO).

Investigate all invoices

Each month, put at least 10 of the invoices that you pay under the microscope. Are you getting what you are being charged for?

Call the vendor and ask to speak with a sales representative. Explain that you are re-evaluating all of your services, and ask if they can reduce their fees or charges. Within a year, you should be able to get through all of your vendors in this manner.

Insurance premiums

Can you change deductibles? Are you taking advantage of all of your malpractice insurance carrier's discounts, such as taking risk-management courses? Is your practice large enough to self-insure? Look into outsourcing billing, transcription, even some front-desk operations. Is handling these processes in-house or out-sourcing them the better option?

Research vendor performance carefully before making any out-sourcing decisions.