According to a recent survey by McKinsey, independent physicians are increasingly worried that their practices might not survive the COVID-19 crisis. With practices facing unprecedented financial strains due to the pandemic, physicians are faced with a tough choice: consolidate into a larger healthcare system for financial support or continue to struggle in private practice.
For physicians dedicated to maintaining an independent practice, however, hope hasn’t vanished. While the road to recovery from COVID-related disruptions might be long, the steps below can help independent physicians keep revenue flowing despite disruptions and remain independent.
Look to Technology
If the COVID era has demonstrated anything, it’s that businesses – in healthcare and industries beyond – must be at the cutting edge of tech to meet the public’s needs.
The ability to offer telehealth solutions is an easy upgrade to make in your practice. Even before COVID-19, patient use of virtual visits was up 33% in 2020. By giving patients the ability to access care from the privacy and safety of their homes, you’re instantly adding value and ensuring continuity of care in any economy.
Investing in an electronic health records (EHR) solution can do wonders for boosting practice efficiency. EHR platforms can help reduce overhead by offering one-stop-shops that manage patient medical records, increase scheduling efficiency, and reduce no-shows. You may also find that you can reduce outsourcing costs by bringing critical functions like billing and revenue collections in-house.
Rethink Your Cash Flow
While the office is quiet, now’s the time to create a disaster-specific cash flow plan so your independent practice isn’t caught short by future events.
A comprehensive disaster cash flow plan should include:
- A Cash-on-Hand Strategy: Review your typical monthly cash flow and reduce expenses to increase your overall cash-on-hand throughout the year. You can also explore establishing emergency savings with up to six months of operating costs.
- A Contingency Plan: A contingency revenue can include alternative offerings like products (supplements, skincare), gift certificates for future visits, or even subscription-based services for cash-paying customers such as wellness packages that include an annual physical and essential lab work. You can stress-test your contingency offerings by asking if your proposed products and solutions depend on patients coming into the office.
- A Lender Review: Speak with your banker to determine if you qualify for refinancing on existing obligations at more favorable terms to save cash. Reach out to credit cards to see about interest rate reductions. You might also be eligible for an increase to an existing line of credit, which can benefit future needs for immediate cash.
Invest in Marketing
It’s time to think of your patient base as several unique patient groups. All these segments have needs and interests, offering your practice the opportunity to speak to those needs and offer a more personalized experience. Here are some tips to get your marketing engine revved:
- Get Social: Consider starting with a Facebook business page and create a private online group for patients in your practice. A Yelp profile can also help patients review their quality of care and provide a lead generation tool.
- Embrace Email: Create a plan to capture an email address for every patient in your practice and then segment your patients by age and lifestyle considerations (e.g., diabetics, athletes, etc.) so you can develop targeted messages specific to their needs.
- Revisit Your SEO Strategy: If it’s hard to find your practice online, it’s time to change that. Consider working with an SEO specialist to help boost your search results and help your current and future patients find you easily.
Marketing isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. Instead, it’s an ongoing commitment that pays your practice serious dividends by making you easy to find, responsive to patient needs, and able to stay in touch with patients in any climate.
Double Down on Patient Experience and Retention
Patients crave a stress-free experience with their physicians. Those practices that provide such an experience can boost patient satisfaction and, thus, retention, decreasing patient churn and increasing referrals.
- Own your online presence: Make sure you claim your practice profiles in online healthcare directories and search engines. Keep them updated and respond to comments and ratings in a timely fashion.
- Update and maintain your website: Make sure you provide high-quality photos of your office and staff. Create a blog covering common healthcare concerns. Consider adding a patient testimonials page where your patients can share their experiences (which can help recruit new patients).
- Send appointment reminders, confirmations, and follow-ups: Invest in a scheduling tool that makes reminders, confirms, and follow-up emails easy. You’ll decrease no-shows and potentially gather valuable feedback you can use to improve the patient experience.
Partner with Other Independent Practices
Independent physicians can explore joining forces with other like-minded practitioners through Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), Independent Care Networks (ICNs), Clinically-Integrated Networks (CINs), and Independent Practice Associations (IPAs).
The goal of all these alliances is to provide a higher quality of care while reducing overall costs. As you research available partnerships in your area, be sure to have a clear idea of goals for your practice and the qualities you want in potential partners. The biggest mistake you can make is signing on to a partnership without knowing if that alliance will bring you the benefits you seek.
To help make all of the above investments possible, you can explore alternative financing beyond business credit cards and loans. You can find out more about alternative financing with Kapitus, an integrated DrChrono partner.