Five Ways to Sharpen Your Bonesaw

Lynn Homisak, PRT, CHC

January 7, 2018

image Are you feeling like you’re no longer generating the revenue you used to, even though you’re working harder? The phone isn’t ringing as much as it once did and patients are scarce. Now you’re wondering what you can do (short of standing outside with a sandwich board attracting new patients) to bump up those profits?

If you are like most physicians, the decision to practice medicine was not only for financial gain. Yet while exceptional patient care remains your primary goal, your practice is a business and businesses thrive on profitability.

According to Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, now is the perfect time to “Sharpen your Saw” (7th Habit) and continue to strive for improvement. NOW, when you are likely to be most vulnerable to making changes and fine tune some of the approaches that no longer work to your satisfaction.

This is a favorite business acumen. You are given three choices; move forward, remain still, or slide backwards. If moving forward is your preferred direction, consider these simple strategies and tap into some newfound profitability along the way. There is absolutely no reason you cannot achieve what are hardly mutually exclusive objectives; great health service and financial rewards. Here are five ways to help you get started:

  1. Create written treatment protocols
    Written protocols serve many objectives. Revenue opportunities are most often missed when you are exhausted, rushed, or sidetracked. By creating and following a visit-to-visit treatment plan you are less likely to overlook procedures and associated DME, supplies, and products that effectively match up with that activity. A treatment plan which you have determined to be most successful in the care delivered to your patients. Besides helping to keep you on track, protocols also allow a more anticipatory staff. The entire team will know in advance how to properly prep both room and patient. This supports improved patient flow, fewer interruptions, and keeping that schedule on time. Time is money. Plan the work, work the plan. Start small; create a protocol for a single condition – and build and add others as you go along.

  2. Recall your patients
    A successful recall program starts with educating patients followed by consistent follow up. Don’t just dispense – show patients you care about their progress. Recall your orthotic patients every 6 months and your therapeutic shoe patients once a year. Don’t have the time or internal resources to dedicate to proper recall? Consider outsourcing. One such company to look into is mylocalbeacon.com. All recall is done via digital marketing after initial set up – no hassles. Welcome to the digital age! (Disclaimer: I have no financial affiliation with mylocalbeacon.com).

  3. Perform Falls Risk Assessments on all patients with symptoms of instability
    While the primary condition for a patient’s visit is your focus, don’t ignore or dismiss the obvious. If your elderly patients demonstrate difficulty when rising from a chair, have a slow, tentative pace, wobble, rely on walls or walking aids for steadiness, or experience an overall lack of balance, it is in the patient’s best interest for you to address it. Staff can play a major role in helping to identify these patients by observing these very noticeable signs and relaying the same to their DPM. They can also be trained to conduct a simple “Get Up and Go” test to further confirm some instability issues. If positive, the DPM can appropriately follow up by conducting a falls risk assessment; then introduce and recommend a therapy or an appropriate device that will help reduce that risk. The objective, of course, is to offer the support these patients need to prevent a more serious injury. Ethical use of AFOs offer financial profits for the practice; however, the real value is in knowing you’ve improved your patient’s quality of life.

  4. Perform CDFEs on all your patients with Diabetes
    The Podiatrist is an integral part of the health care team, they are responsible for providing their patients (with or without Diabetes) a thorough examination and comprehensive foot care. Since patients with Diabetes are more susceptible to ulcerations, toe, foot, or limb loss, this extended evaluation (also a billable service) is a no-brainer. It is unlikely that these “at-risk” patients will get this same treatment elsewhere, so your role as their foot care provider can make a real difference in their life. CDFE is all around beneficial, for patients and practice, do not overlook it.

  5. Utilize staff more as physician extenders
    Sadly, effective staff training remains a low priority in too many practices. Yet having a trained staff to take many of the non-invasive patient care tasks off the doctor’s plate can be extremely profitable. Trust me when I say they can do more than just clean rooms, room patients, and make appointments. Qualified staff have potential to participate in active patient care and generate revenue right alongside the physician IF they are properly trained and given the opportunity. By delegating appropriate tasks to the least paid person who can do the task well, everyone benefits! Patients receive convenient, effective care by professional staff supervised by their trusted DPM; waiting times are diminished; patient flow is improved; patient-doctor-staff bonds are strengthened; and yes, profits are realized. There are many excuses why doctors fail to delegate hands on care, none of which hold water if the individual they delegate the task to is properly trained and capable of producing a satisfactory outcome.

Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.

– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Lynn Homisak, principal owner of Seattle-based SOS Healthcare Management Solutions, is an award-winning consultant and management coach well-known for her skills in developing and facilitating successful practice management strategies for Podiatrists and their staffs. Her contributions to podiatry have earned her the 2010 Podiatry Management Lifetime Achievement Award and induction into Podiatry Management's Hall of Fame. In addition to authoring a column and serving as Editorial Advisor for Podiatry Management Magazine, Lynn writes a monthly online blog for Podiatry Today. She also serves as Lead Practice Management Consultant for OHI’s Central Casting Program.