Steps to Reducing Practice Waste, and Increasing Productivity and Profitability

Any mention of money and people’s ears seem to perk. Work, for the money, on the other hand, seems to stifle a person’s desire to embark on the profitable journey.

“Money here.”

“What’s that, you say? Money? Where?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked. By taking the following simple steps, by performing the following tasks, you might be able to save your practice time and money.”

“Tasks? ‘Might?’”

“Right.”

“How much?”

Shoulder shrug…

“See ya.”

The above over dramatization is courtesy of yours truly. Stellar dialogue, wouldn’t you say? Among my many talents. I’m actually a playwright. No, really. Published and everything.

Anyway, getting to the point, it seems that not matter where we turn, in this new healthcare environment where there seem to be opportunities for ‘49ers where ever you turn, someone is trying to tell you how to produce more profitability or efficiency for your practice.

Despite the zingers, there really are a few good pieces of advice out there that do seem to make sense, but, yes, you’ll need to put in a little time and work.

Here’s one example, courtesy of Carol Stryker and Physicians Practice magazine. According to Stryker, 30 percent of any activity is wasted. Thus, as she so eloquently writes, “The more useless labor you can eliminate, the bigger the increase in productivity and the fewer mistakes. A careful review of some or all of the processes in a medical office can generally be expected to yield productivity gains of at least 30 percent in the areas addressed.”

So, to eliminate wasted work and improve efficiency, which improves profitability, establish a process and iron out the wrinkles. The following six steps will help, she says.

1. Choose a process to streamline. One that is causing problems will most likely be easy to identify and will probably already will be taking your attention.

2. Answer this question, Stryker says: “What should the process accomplish and why is that important?” She encourages practice leaders to clearly identity the purpose and value of the process and write it down. “This is the yardstick for future evaluations. This is the only aspect of the project that the physician(s) cannot delegate or outsource,” she said.

3. Write down the steps to follow, in order. Once all the steps are documented, walk them through them to be certain you have not left anything out. Add what you left out and walk through again. Repeat until all steps have been captured.

4. For each step, ask the group:What does this have to do with the goal?” If nothing, eliminate it. If not much, eliminate it or combine it with another step.

Is another step performing the same function?” If so, which one produces the best outcome? Eliminate the less effective step.

Is there a better way?” Do you have a tool, not available when the process was first developed, that gets the job done more effectively and/or efficiently?

“Could a step be added that would have a positive impact on a subsequent step?”

5. For the amended process, ask:Are any additional steps necessary? If something will be printed now that was not printed before, what will be done with the paper?

Are the steps in the most logical order?” Examine alternative sequencing as a possible improvement to the process.

Is the process intuitive?” Will it be easy for the person doing the work to remember or to engage?

Are any steps error-prone?” What can be done to eliminate error? If it can’t be done away with, what can be done to validate the step was done properly?

Repeat from Step 5 until satisfied with the proposed process.

6. Once the improved process is implemented, choose another process and repeat the analysis. Continue until satisfied with the way the office works.

According to Stryker, “The only difficulty is finding the time and discipline to perform an analysis of a process and implement improvements. Each successful project frees up resources and makes it easier to address another process. Morale improves because office operations are improving. Stress decreases because there is actually time to do what needs to be done. Staff turnover goes down and profits go up.”

And hopefully, once all of the steps in the process have been completed, you’ll find yourself with more time, a more efficient practice and you’ll identify ways to free up a little extra cash.

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