Current business and care delivery models, even if combined with innovative or sustainable technologies, will not lead to future success. Practices must create new care delivery and business models while incorporating technological advances to effectively compete today and in the future. New payment models, disruptive technology, and care delivery vehicles (e.g., e-visits, home monitoring, retail clinics), along with changing consumer demands for immediate access and transparency, require medical practice transformation. Here are the top 10 steps you should be taking now to transform your medical practice in order to succeed now and in the future.
1. Create a profile of your current and potential patients
Who are they (e.g., age, sex, payer mix)? What is their health status? What are their priorities for their healthcare (e.g., convenience, access, relationship, continuity of care)? How do they want their care delivered? Perhaps through e-visits, urgent care, face-to-face visits, telemedicine, or e-mail? How do they want to communicate (e.g., e-mail, texting, phone, patient portal, face-to-face encounters)? Identifying who your patients are will allow you to tailor your practice to meet their needs.
2. Assess your market
What are the demographics (e.g., ages, sex, income, health status) of your service area, and how fast is it growing? What do consumers want from their physicians? What do employers want from providers? Where are payers going with their payment models? What are your competitors doing to position themselves for the future? Who else might come into your market? Market knowledge should inform your practice redesign efforts as you move to meet the needs of patients and payers.
3. Examine your practice from your patients’ perspective
Assess your practice from top to bottom as if you were a patient. Use patient shoppers and patient focus groups to understand their perspective and expectations. Scrutinize your patient satisfaction surveys for useful data on patient needs and wants. Identify the amount of value-added time (the amount of visit time spent in actual interaction about the patient’s care) versus non-value added time, and perform cycle time studies to identify reasons for long wait times. Target patient cycle time at 30 to 40 minutes for a routine visit, and value added time at 75 to 80 percent of the visit total. By examining your practice from the patient’s perspective, you will be able to identify the gaps and develop a roadmap to transform your practice.
4. Create process excellence to drive patient, provider, and staff satisfaction
Document and analyze your work flows for all key operational areas, including patient scheduling, check-in, vitaling, exam, check-out, and patient follow-up. Identify waste, duplication, and barriers in each operational function and develop revised workflows that reduce process variability. Focus on process excellence, ensuring that every step in the process is meaningful and leads to better care. This not only will improve patient satisfaction but motivates providers and staff because it eliminates unnecessary steps and increases direct patient care time.
5. Develop patient-directed, convenient access points to your practice
Based on your patient profile, develop the access points your practice requires to meet the needs of your patient population. Be able to offer same day patients appointments so they do not go elsewhere. Implement a robust patient portal with interactive email and scheduling capabilities. Offer e-visits, text messaging, expanded hours, and/or develop relationships with urgent cares. Create an environment that allows the patient to choose the method in which they will access care with convenience and ease.
6. Change your care delivery model to facilitate population health management
With the move to fee-for-value reimbursement and the new demands of patients in this technological age, providers need to use teams more effectively to meet patient needs. Based on your patient’s needs, determine what type of team will be most successful in managing your population of patients. Consider the use of medical assistants, care managers, social workers, and health coaches to create the support network required. For example, if your practice has a high volume of chronic care patients, consider a high-touch, high-contact delivery model with the use of care managers and health coaches to continuously engage patients in their care. For panels with high commercial, healthy populations, increase the use of advanced practice clinicians, offer e-visits, and expand hours to provide easy, convenient access. Ensure that all team members are working to the top of their license and skill sets to maximize efficiency and physician support.
7. Assess your current business model based on what is necessary to succeed in a fee-for-value world
Assess your capabilities to provide high quality, effective, affordable care not only today, but three to five years from now. Analyze your practice’s cost structure, and identify the profit formula that will allow you to compete. Based on the needs of your patients and resources required to manage your population, identify the profit margins, reimbursement, and volumes required to meet your business goals. Analyze your payer contracts and explore fee-for-value payment model options with your payers that build on your strengths as a practice. Understand the total cost of care for your patients so you can be part of the solution in bringing them the care they deserve in a cost-efficient manner. Ensure that your compensation models effectively align with practice goals and critical success factors.
8. Optimize your use of data to enhance care, ensure accountability, and achieve your goals
Create your practice’s value proposition for the future, and use it to guide your practice metrics and dashboard reports. Apply integrated technology and automated dashboards to track and report on practice performance, including quality measures to maximize pay for performance dollars. Use the electronic medical records (“EMR”) to proactively prompt you about a patient’s care needs. Utilize real time prompts to remind physicians of needed preventive and chronic care during the patient visit so needs can be immediately addressed. Implement a patient registry to manage patients with chronic diseases and consider the integration of home monitoring and diagnostic equipment in your care model. Gather data on your use of ancillaries, and assess if you are following best practices and only performing tests and procedures when necessary.
9. Implement strategies to foster patient “stickiness” to your practice
Focus on creating patient loyalty. Use texting, email, and social media to maintain contact outside of the face-to-face visit. Provide your patients with the information they need to stay healthy on a regular basis through texting, email, and phone calls. Develop your patient portal as the “go-to” site when they have questions by making patient education materials readily available on the portal, including the provision of links to reputable internet sites. Explore the creation of a phone application that can provide patients with a ready source to answer their immediate health concerns so they don’t have to go outside the practice’s sphere of influence. For example, the application could be linked to a branded call center which could provide an immediate response to health questions and concerns.
10. Optimize the use of technology
Utilize technology purposefully to allow providers more touch time with patients and make sure your technology works for you, not against you. Assess EMR efficiency by counting the number of clicks, screens, and typing required per task; observe physician and staff as they use the EMR and record extra steps. Work with your EMR vendor to decrease extra steps and streamline the data entry process. Note variations in the use of the system and train providers and staff in the most effective and efficient processes. Implement other technology such as automated appointment reminders and easy payment tools through the use of text, email, and phone. Use your patient portal to decrease call volume by activating patient scheduling, referral management, prescription refills, lab notifications, and pre-registration and check-in features. Consider the cost benefit of each technological feature and ensure that, once the feature is enabled, it is optimized to work for the practice.
Start now: make transformation a priority to ensure you successfully achieve your practice’s value proposition. Do not wait until your payers change how they pay, retail clinics proliferate in your community, your practice is losing patients or physicians, or you are losing money. Practice transformation does not occur over night. It takes time and hard work. To succeed in the future, you need to lay the foundation now.
Ms. Corneliuson is a senior manager with GE Healthcare Camden Group and has over 13 years of healthcare management experience. She specializes in physician integration strategies, practice assessments, operational improvement, care and workflow redesign, and compensation arrangements. She is the co-author of The Governance Institute’s signature publication for 2012, Payment Reform, Care Redesign, and the New Healthcare Delivery Organization. She has a strong background in physician practice management with experience in medical foundations, provider-based clinics, and specialty hospital settings. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.