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Elizabeth Woodcock Headlines Session 2 of the Healthcare Management Educational Series

Alerus | DEC 15, 2015

Practical Advice for Making a Medical Practice Profitable

The 2015 Healthcare Management Educational Series resumed Thursday in Minneapolis with featured speaker Elizabeth Woodcock. An expert in medical practice operations and revenue cycle management, Ms. Woodcock is a nationally recognized figure in the business of medicine, and her presentation was equal parts passion, practicality, and humor.

A Medical Practice's Most Valuable Asset? Time.

Ms. Woodcock has dedicated her career to helping medical practices improve their profitability, serve more patients, and serve them better. Accomplishing those things requires everyone in the practice to better manage what she believes is the most precious asset of all: time. Is it a good use of time to have employees struggle with archaic scheduling systems that hardly anyone can understand? Why do practices force patients to spend so much time in a waiting room? Have you ever noticed the curious absence of clocks in exam rooms; how can a physician stay on schedule that way?

Ms. Woodcock approached these questions and more with a lively delivery that brought the subject to life for the audience. She offered simple, practical solutions - don't resort to telling patients to come 15 minutes early to their appointments, think about reworking your scheduling templates to be user-friendly, don't schedule new patients (whose appointments tend to take longer) at the beginning of the day because appointment length ripples through the rest of the day. And by the way, put some clocks in your building. In other words, examine your practice and understand how you can improve the use of your time.

Managing Workloads

Balancing the limited time of physicians with the necessity of maintaining access to quality care was a consistent message. Practice managers should monitor their physicians' productivity to put their skills to the best use. Underproductive physicians are an issue, but overproduction is an issue as well, Ms. Woodcock noted. When a physician (or any employee) has too much on his or her plate, productivity drops. They reach a point of diminishing returns - stress, dissatisfaction, and similar feelings interfere with performance. In a medical practice, an overloaded physician has to refuse patients, which in itself takes time, and therefore costs the practice money, she said. Putting physicians in a position to maximize productivity is a key to success.

Improving Profit By Improving Collections

Ms. Woodcock encouraged the audience to think about time and expense together, using the bill collections process as an illustration. The old collections methods used by many practices are so poor that they amount to "begging people not to pay," she said. Practices spend heavily to send statement after statement to patients, in her experience sometimes 20 or more. Think about how much time and money that costs. So practices should invest in a better way to collect from patients, and her ideas were again practical: ask patients to make their co-payments, train team members to be better at requesting payments, hire the right people who understand how to collect, and accept all forms of payment. This sort of basic, real-world advice permeated Ms. Woodcock's entire presentation.

HMES Session 3 in January

The third installment of the four-part HMES event takes place Thursday, January 14, with keynote speaker Nate Moore, who will discuss how improving business intelligence and information access can help medical practices thrive.

The Healthcare Management Educational Series is sponsored by DS+B and Alerus. For more information or to register for an upcoming session, visit the DS+B website.

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