Take advantage of opportunities to boost your practice's bottom line

August 1, 2011

There's no better time than now to take a fresh look at opportunities to boost your bottom line. Whether it's saving money or earning more, these missed opportunities may be right under your nose. Regardless of the size of your dermatology practice or its position in the local healthcare market, you are likely finding the margin between revenues and expenses is getting narrower and narrower.

Key Points

There's no better time than now to take a fresh look at opportunities to boost your bottom line. Whether it's saving money or earning more, these missed opportunities may be right under your nose.

Undercoding. Although the increase in the utilization of electronic health records has helped dermatologists code appropriately for services rendered, this area of your practice continues to be an opportunity. Each fall, be sure to review the new procedure codes released for the coming year. Turn to your professional association to glean knowledge about codes that will impact the specialty of dermatology.

Vendors. It's a challenge to pinpoint any specific category, but opportunities exist even in the most penny-pinching practice. Gather up all the invoices for your various vendors - everything from the copier to the trash service. Divide the pile into twelfths, and spend the first day of each month calling those vendors to discuss pricing. Even if you can shave 2 percent off your medical supplies, phone bill and so forth, the savings will add up quickly. Be sure to review employee benefits, as there are often reductions available, particularly if you alter your benefits and/or shift some of the financial responsibility to employees.

Staff. If there's ever been a time to make sure you are the right size, it's now. Many dermatology practices are like families: While there are significant advantages to being close-knit, sometimes there is a price. Often, this cost comes in the form of highly paid employees who stopped adding value to the practice years ago but have remained loyal to the practice. If you're spending $100,000 on a staff member who is not performing, don't expect them to walk away. (They're not fools, and remember, it's not just the $100,000 salary - throw in another $25,000 to $35,000 for benefits, office supplies, equipment, etc., to figure how much money is going out the door.) Give them every opportunity to step up to the plate; develop a three-month performance-improvement plan with specific goals. At the end of the time period, measure their success. If they haven't met their targets, it's time to release them.

If you don't do this, more employees are going to take advantage of the on-the-job "retirement plan" that they perceive you developed for the loyal-but-nonproductive employees. If you don't have a particular employee who is a problem, at least double check to make sure that no one is taking advantage of overtime. In a busy dermatology practice, overtime may be necessary, but it's not uncommon to see an employee or two who needs the extra money and realizes that taking care of their messages, for example, after the day is done pays them twice as much as they make during the day.

Remember, human beings can look busy eight hours a day. Make sure your employees are working at optimal productivity during their workday and not storing up work to gain from overtime pay. Require tight supervision of overtime, or employees will take advantage of it.