Managing a radiology practice to achieve increased effectiveness and improved productivity is essential not only for survival, but also to maintain positive cash flow in today’s healthcare environment. Incorporating practice management services into revenue cycle management (RCM) strategies can further amplify radiology billing and support future growth and sustainability.
“To sustain a successful radiology practice, you really need to look at the health of your business overall, in addition to running your RCM program efficiently. Both sides have to be strong,” says Neal Peterson, director of business development with Zotec Partners. “RCM is getting the monies in the door, practice management is what you do with it after it is in the bank.”
With declining reimbursement rates for key radiology exams, many practices are stepping up their revenue cycle management programs. Practices need to be able to better monitor their revenue, by following up on denials, developing better self-pay and high deductible payment protocols that will lead to increased collections. RCM strategies utilize business analytics and financial modeling to identify trends and predict future revenues based on historical data and utilization. While focusing on RCM is certainly key, there are other complimentary services that will bolster the long-term success of a practice as well.
Solutions providers like Zotec offer practice management services in addition to RCM to radiology practices. Running a practice truly like a business requires focus on all areas, in addition to managing revenue.
Customized practice management solutions
Practice management is about having a strategy and executing it effectively, which requires more sophisticated management expertise than ever before.
“In the pre-DRA world, a successful practice was measured by the quantity of its monthly deposits and its measurements of patient satisfaction,” Peterson says. “Today a successful practice is measured by how strong their relationships are, their ability to compete and the financial strength of their organization, among other elements. And there are resources available to help practice managers and radiologists evaluate and strengthen their business operations, make informed business decisions, and have more time to focus on patient care.”
Practice management services should offer the consultative or staffing support needed to provide strategic advice, whether it is for general business services, mergers and acquisitions, or hospital or carrier contract negotiations. Customizing solutions to fit the needs of each individual practice, practice managers can and should work directly with the group administration, or even serve as the administration if need be, to provide customized practice management solutions.
“The overwhelming majority of our practice management clients have full-time practice administrators, and we work in tandem with them to supplement their strengths. There have been instances, however, when a practice doesn’t have the need for a full-time administrator, but still needs the expertise and knowledge from time to time,” explains Peterson. “Many of our larger clients have a full C-suite servicing their group. Another benefit of practice management is if a group loses a team member who is a major asset, such as a CFO or COO. There is typically an experienced radiology professional who knows the business in the interim while the group searches for a new candidate. In this regard, practice management is a fail-safe and insurance policy.”
RCM analytics also carry over into practice management. With the use of practice management data, radiology groups can benchmark their practice data against similar practices across the country.
“Of course, the best way to benchmark progress is against yourself,” Peterson says, “but it’s extremely helpful to see how other groups operate. What are other groups paying shareholders versus non-shareholders? How much vacation do other practices offer?” Ideally, a group would aggregate and survey that data for maximum transparency and benefits. Similarly, if a practice uses data in tandem with RCM services, they get the best of both types of analytics—reporting based on practice data, as well as financial modeling.
Peterson believes the services are symbiotic, “We believe better RCM is served with information, data and experience that are built into the practice management solutions, and vice versa.”
General business services