5 Things You Can Do to Start the New Year off Right

The day-to-day management of a medical practice is enough to keep any physician busy. But the end of the calendar year is a good time to take a step back, look at the big picture, and ask yourself: What’s working? What can we change moving forward? Are there new opportunities that make sense for 2014?

With all of the to-dos to complete and the possibilities to consider, making the transition from one year to the next can feel overwhelming. So here are five simple things you can do to help your practice start the new year off right.

1. Put some extra effort into billing. Have your staff focus on posting charges and received payments, as well as issuing all refunds, so your revenue numbers are as accurate as possible at year-end. Completing as much billing work as possible will give you a good sense of your true revenue numbers for the year, which will also impact the amount you’ll pay in taxes.

2. Consider re-verifying your patients’ insurance plans. Many health insurance plans start over on January 1, and with that simple flip of the calendar page, changes in deductibles, co-pays, group numbers, and covered benefits may also occur. If your staff takes the time to re-verify plans and note any changes, then your patients won’t be caught unaware in the new year (e.g., expecting that a particular treatment will still be covered by their insurance when it no longer is). Yes, it can be a time-intensive task (about four to seven minutes per re-verification), but the legwork will go a long way toward maintaining a positive relationship with your patients. A helpful hint: check plans online rather than over the phone, as insurance companies’ panels of live representatives are often understaffed over the holidays.

3. Set aside time for reviewing your 2013 reporting. Before you can do a full review of the year, you’ll have to wait until December wraps up. So plan to spend some time in January gathering information, pulling reports, and reviewing the numbers. In the meantime, take a preliminary look to see what you’re facing—and where you’re heading. Key areas to assess include your accounts receivables, payers, patient visits, profit and loss, expenses, and payroll. You’ll have to supply these financial reports to your accountant for tax purposes anyway. But creating reports across all of these areas now can help you measure past performance and set goals for the year to come.

4. Evaluate your staffing needs. Consider the current workload of your staff members and determine whether it makes sense to hire additional team members, modify current employees’ hours, or reassign job responsibilities. Schedule individual performance reviews to give your employees feedback that will encourage them to grow in their careers and take an active role in the future success of the practice. If you have room in your budget for holiday bonuses, portion out an amount for each employee based on performance and any other relevant criteria. Year-end is also a good time to review your employee handbook and update policies and procedures as needed.

5. Set goals for 2014. The new year offers up a blank slate. To map your progress and inspire growth, set goals for each area of the business. While realistic and attainable goals will help you stay on track throughout the year, crafting more ambitious targets may encourage you and your staff to push beyond what’s expected. And these goals should include more than just revenue numbers. Take the time to identify new opportunities for your practice, whether it’s a new way to communicate with patients, an improved workflow, updated technology, or—on a larger scale—a different business model.

Taking these five steps will ensure that you finish 2013 on a strong note and start the new year off right. With a little extra time and effort, you’ll set up your practice for success as you head into 2014.

 

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