Article

Opening Lines

BALANCING QUALITY AND PROFITABILITY

Quality care in a cost-conscious environment

By Connie StClair, COE

Quality is in the eye of the beholder — or, in our case, the patient. Every person in your organization has an opportunity to add to or detract from the quality of care you provide in your practice. This quality can affect patient referrals (or lack thereof), thus impacting your overall profitability.

Along with providing quality care, you also must remain cost conscious. But, there is a difference between cost-conscious, forward thinking and being cheap. Ultimately, your goal is to increase profitability, which includes increasing revenue and efficiency while effectively managing expenses.

But, for every cost-saving decision, you must consider the following factors.

How solid is your foundation?

Standardization and consistency always provides savings opportunities. The more you can standardize processes, the easier it is for your team to consistently produce the desired outcome. Consistency allows for increased competence, thus resulting in a confident staff that is more likely to engage with patients.

Rethink every process in your organization. Are you being proactive and leveraging technology?

Also, you might be surprised to find that what appears to save costs on the surface actually increases other expenses by creating or allowing for inefficiency. For example, contacting new patients in advance and obtaining demographic/insurance information, past medical history, and list of medications does not require a seasoned technician. Moving these tasks to someone with a lower salary is a cost savings, and, with accurate info on file, you can verify eligibility via batch eligibility. These steps eliminate insurance surprises, reduce check-in time, and reduce time your skilled technician spends on data entry (another cost savings), allowing them to focus on addressing the reason for today’s visit with a shorter work-up time and possibly see additional patients.

This is efficient, but it could be even better. If you build the same capability in your patient portal and only 50% of your patients complete everything online, you still come out ahead. You have either saved yourself additional wages or found hours for your team to invest in other income-producing efforts.

Your staff: greatest expense or greatest asset?

The answer: “It depends.” As stated above, consistency and standardization provide a solid foundation for your team to produce quality results. A lack of consistency and protocols and ever-changing rules create doubt, frustration, and incompetence, quite possibly making staff your greatest expense. When developing or revising protocols, question everything. Is there a more efficient process? Are your higher-skilled/paid employees performing low-skill tasks? Can you use technology to help?

Rules and structure

Create an internal infrastructure designed for the staff’s success:

  • Hire smart.
  • Develop job outlines that identify necessary skill sets.
  • Be clear about your expectations.
  • Provide solid, well-thought-out training.
  • Provide and solicit feedback.
  • Be fair.
  • Never lose sight of your core team that works hard every day with little or no complaining.
  • Show appreciation by saying please and thank you and by allowing only quality players to remain on the team.

Open your mind

Now is the time to decide and to commit to building an efficient infrastructure, leveraging technology, and developing a competent and engaging team.

This is the solid foundation you need to provide consistent, quality care and, ultimately, to continue to grow your profitable organization. OP

InBrief

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CLARIFICATION

In the “Advancements in presbyopia treatment” article in our July/August 2017 issue, two photos were incorrectly labeled. Figure 1 showed a slit lamp image of a Raindrop inlay one week post-operatively (courtesy Nic Jacobs, COA). Figure 2 depicted a slit lamp image of a KAMRA inlay one week post-operatively (courtesy Jessica Heckman, OD). The editors of Ophthalmic Professional apologize for this oversight.