If you’re in the business of owning medical practices, you’ve probably heard the term “healthcare consulting” before. Healthcare consulting firms work with health system and hospital-owned medical practices to improve efficiency, optimize everyday operations, better meet patient needs, and increase the bottom line for the health system.
Several years ago, a colleague and I were presenting market research to a large audience of employed physicians and administrators. A few minutes into the presentation, a physician in the middle of the hotel ballroom raised his hand and said, rather adamantly, “Don’t call my patients customers! They are not customers, they are patients!”
Healthcare organization decision-makers often struggle with the question of whether or not to bring in an interim executive (often referred to in more general terms as an interim manager). One of the major barriers to this decision is cost.
This concern about cost makes sense, particularly if management views an interim as nothing more than a warm body to serve as a placeholder during the search for a permanent executive.
However, if you bring in the right interim manager—a seasoned executive with a proven record of improving performance and driving change—the benefits of engaging an interim manager can far outweigh the costs involved. In fact, the right interim executive can provide a return on investment that exceeds the associated fees and expenses several times over.
Working in a healthcare system can often feel like entering a time vortex. Tasks you think should take a day to complete realistically take a week. Projects on a 90-day timeline conclude after a year. Though technology has increased the pace of life, making actual progress seems to take longer.
In the 16 years I’ve worked in healthcare, I’ve found that many delays are due to departmental silos. Each department does what is necessary to make budget, protect staff from layoffs, and mitigate patient and physician complaints so they can fly under the radar as long as possible. This seems to be especially true in the modern age of healthcare mergers and acquisitions. Though multi-department leadership meetings exist, they often do little to build trust among team members.
To accomplish team objectives and decrease project timelines at one healthcare system, I found the best approach was to break down these silos myself. Below are four common-sense ways to cross departmental divides and improve communication in your healthcare system.
One of our clients, a large hospital-owned physician practice network, needed to quickly improve their financial performance. Their Rapid Improvement Plan included goals designed to speed up the cash collection process, maximize opportunities for reimbursement, improve coding and documentation at the clinics, and increase provider productivity. Sound familiar?
With these goals in mind, we convened in a conference room with about a dozen key players, including practice managers as well as representatives from information systems, finance, revenue cycle, and managed care. The two of us from Halley—a revenue cycle expert and an operations expert—began engaging the group in a conversation regarding the overall performance of the physician practice network. In our passion and enthusiasm for the topic, we seamlessly worked together throughout the discussion, even to the point of finishing each other’s sentences. This was just a normal day for us, supporting one another in our roles, and we didn’t give any thought to the impact of what we were modeling. But for the leaders sitting around the conference table, our synergy was a revelation: This is how it should work. This is the partnership of operations and revenue cycle in action.
As hospital CEOs take on more of a market manager role, it is crucial for them to build and sustain relationships with employed and private practice physicians in the community. We all know that referrals follow relationships—and that all relationships atrophy over time—so hospital executives need a coordinated way to proactively visit with physicians on an ongoing basis.
One way you can assist your CEO to stay focused on physician relationships is by creating an executive rounding program, where hospital or healthcare system executives meet with targeted physicians on regularly scheduled visits.The following steps will help you on your way to building an executive rounding program that is both meaningful and effective.
As a consultant in physician network management, I regularly recommend that healthcare systems contract with an external expert to perform quarterly audits on coding and revenue cycle metrics for their providers.
Because if you’re not monitoring metrics, you’re leaving money on the table. And not just a few hundred dollars.
One example of a revealing metric is the adjusted fee-for-service collection percentage. When we find that a client has not been monitoring this metric, we perform the calculation and often discover that they are leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table.
Implementing an effective operational governance model is a galvanizing first step on the pathway to developing a high performing physician network. Once this model is in place and physicians are taking an active role in the governance process, it is time to take a closer look at your medical practice network’s level of operational performance.
Below we’ll examine four key questions that can help your physician and executive leaders gain valuable insight into how your physician network measures up to a high performance standard in today’s demanding healthcare environment.
On my last day of a recent interim management engagement, my client team members escorted me to a wall in their office where they’d posted reminders of the work we had accomplished together. During the course of my interim assignment, this team and I had spent many hours developing strategy, designing workflows, and creating policy—in other words, implementing change. My team expressed their appreciation for my influence and vowed to return to this wall often to consider the question “What would Luanne do?” Although I would no longer be with them, they wanted to remember and sustain the change we had effected.
Organizations increasingly acknowledge that recruiting an interim manager is one of the most flexible, immediate, and effective resourcing solutions for access to top talent while they search for permanent leadership. An interim manager is an experienced executive resource who is engaged on a temporary basis and may be called on to assist an organization with building infrastructure, implementing change necessary for improved performance, restructuring an organization, or overseeing a critical project.
However, not all interim managers are considered equal. For healthcare organizations and medical networks, here are a few things you should expect from the best interim managers—those executives who have a proven track record of improving performance and driving positive, lasting change for their clients.
Topics: Interim Management
With population risk shifting to healthcare providers, interest in patient-centered care is increasing. Healthcare systems that have not yet done so should examine the benefits of having their owned and affiliated primary care practices become formally recognized as patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs). For some organizations, achieving this recognition involves a significant commitment to change, both with regard to workflows and to the organizational culture at large—but in most cases, the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial work required.
If you’ve considered pursuing formal PCMH recognition for your hospital-owned and affiliated PCP practices—and even if you haven’t—here are three reasons you should take action and work toward achieving this status.