EHRs, mobile medical apps, smartphones, smart medical devices, healthcare data in the cloud – many physicians are feeling more productive than ever before thanks to a digital revolution in healthcare. Still, there’s always room for improvement. Interestingly, even with increased tech use, worker productivity has decreased quite significantly since 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this article, experts say the decline could be due to the retirement of highly-skilled baby boomers, a lack of company investments in productivity-enhancing tools, or a failure to measure productivity correctly.
These reasons mostly ring true in healthcare; however, there could also be other (different) ones as well: Not optimizing the EHR, failing to automate certain repetitive tasks, insufficient training, and a tendency to over-focus on productivity and patient volume while forgetting about staff morale.
Regardless of the reason for dips in productivity, today’s medical practices like yours can’t afford to fall behind. Your practice needs to operate like well-oiled machines focusing on high-quality care while also reducing costs and streamlining administrative efforts. Here are five low-cost strategies that can help:
1. Be smart about EHR use. An EHR won’t magically boost productivity. Instead, you need to know how to optimize the technology for your practice’s workflow. Work with the EHR vendor to provide workflow-specific training to physicians and staff. Also take advantage of time-saving features such as mobile apps, e-prescribing, electronic superbills, preventive health reminders to mitigate care gaps, integrated prescription discounts, copy and paste functionality, and more. Another idea is to identify an EHR super user who can undergo more in-depth training and serve as an internal resource when questions arise.
2. Automate administrative tasks using technology. Practices lose valuable productive time when staff perform certain repetitive tasks manually. The good news is that a variety of solutions are available to ease the administrative burden of medicine while also engaging patients. For example, practices can send automated appointment reminders based on a patient’s preferred method of communication. They can also permit patients to check-in for appointments via tablets and kiosks, pay bills online, and even schedule appointments online. It may seem overwhelming to implement these changes all at once. Best advice? Start small. Roll out one change at a time and see how patients respond.
3. Hire a certified coder. At an average hourly wage of $18.42, a certified professional coder is a steal of a deal. For approximately $38,000 annually, practices are essentially insured against denials and recoupments. Sure, payers will deny some services, but a certified coder helps mitigate that risk. When services are denied, the coder can explain why, helping everyone prevent that same mistake in the future. Fewer denials mean more cashflow on the front end that you can reinvest into time-saving technology and additional FTEs to boost productivity and prevent employee burnout. Or another option is to implement a business software service that scrubs claims for you and streamlines your overall billing process to save both time and money.
4. Create a positive environment. Think this tip is a far cry from anything related to productivity? Think again. When your employees are happy, they’re more likely to be productive—31% more productive to be exact. You can boost employee happiness by implementing workplace safety initiatives, increasing workplace education, improving relationships with staff members they oversee, dispensing positive feedback, ensuring adequate staffing, and offering other incentives (e.g., vacation time, bonuses, or raises).
5. Reduce distractions. Distractions come in various forms, and when your employees are distracted, they’re most certainly not productive. One study found that the average employee could waste more than eight hours a week on activities unrelated to their job. How can your practice combat this? Create a policy for smartphones and other similar devices in the workplace. Examples include a zero-tolerance, case-by-case, break-time only, or reasonable use. Other distractions to address? Email, meetings, open door policies, and other coworkers themselves.
Boosting productivity in a medical practice requires the right people working in the right environment with the right technology. When your practice aligns these priorities, you will move the needle on productivity, will be able to focus more easily on rendering value-based care and will take a big step toward minimizing physician burnout.
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