Is your medical centre losing money? Training & Consulting Services fill the gaps

Several factors can lead to your medical centre losing money, but that does not make your medical practice different from any other. Any medical practice that doesn’t have solid systems in place for every aspect of the clinic, will be losing money somewhere.

Below are a few ideas to help stop your medical practice leaking money and allow it to grow profitable.


Successful small businesses rely on accurate and timely market intelligence to stay ahead of the game.

A medical industry report will give you an understanding of what is driving success in your industry and how you can apply this to your own medical centre. You can make better, more informed decisions about where you are heading.

A benchmarking report will provide you with an overview of a general practice, average results grouped by key ranges i.e. turnover, profit , location etc. The report will also give you improvement strategies which will help your practice business plan, for the future. A benchmark report is also an excellent tool to help a practice motivate staff.

Check your billings daily

A practice study revealed that doctors and staff were not charging the current item numbers or simply forgetting to bill. For example a doctor and a nurse would see a patient , but the nurse did not charge for diagnostics i.e. simply did not add in item numbers for items such as ECG, Spirometries. Doctors were also charging standard item numbers for consultations regardless of how long the patient was consulted for. It is up to the doctor to ensure Medicare items numbers are charged correctly.

Hence, general practitioners should look at their billings on a daily basis. The calculated loss at this practice was approximately $ 60 per session for a five doctor practice . This was averaged out over a two week period. The estimated loss was $ 156,000 per annum. I don’t know any practice that can afford a loss of this extreme.

In summary, check your financial day sheet and ensure your staff are trained in correct billing procedures. Even though it is up to the General Practitioner to use the correct item number, well trained staff can check for any mistakes.

Report on your practice

It always ceases to amaze me how many practices do not have a regular financial reporting system in place. It is essential with any business that you check how your business is going every single month. I don’t mean simply printing out a profit and loss, I mean analysing every single part of your practices finance.

Reports couple include

  • Fees per month per doctor
  • Number of patients seen per month
  • Average dollar per patient i.e. fees/ patients
  • Number of DNA and vacant appointments
  • Lost fees per month i.e. incorrect billing, missed appointments
  • GP Chronic Disease Management appointments

Financial reporting can help you analyse the practice peaks and troughs and identify the weaknesses or positives of the practice.

Collect private and Workcover fees

A recent practice audit identified over $60,000 which had not been collected. The amounts consisted of Medicare batches from past locums, uncollected private fees and Workcover fees. We were only able to collect 70% of the fees because patients had moved and some of the Medicare batches were so old, they were unclaimable.

It doesn’t matter how much money you make, but how much you keep. So goes the old saying about profitability. In a medical practice it is easy to lose money to patients who are not paying on the day, or do not have a clear payment plan in place.

When it comes to providing medical care to your patients, doctors always have a process. The same approach should happen for medical practice financial collections.

Medical Receptionists should explain the billing policy each time the patient makes an appointment. If you have an online appointment system, make sure the details are on the website. Ensure patients bring along their healthcare cards, pension and DVA cards. These must be checked each time the patient visits the practice. Sometimes patients are no longer eligible to be bulk billed i.e. healthcare card as expired. If a patient owes money, make sure the patient understands there is an outstanding payment before they visit the centre again.

A practice should have a clearly defined system for collecting fees and the practice manager or the senior medical receptionist should allocate time to do this on a regular basis.

Focus on keeping Urgent Care Patients

As urgent care and “retail” centres become more popular, many doctors find themselves seeing fewer appointments for low-level health problems. While this can free up more one-on-one time with your chronic condition patients, it can also lead to your medical practice losing money.

The simplest way to do this is to let your offerings be known in your marketing and on your practice website. If patients are aware that you will see urgent care or walk-in appointments, they are more likely to choose your practice.

Some patients are taking up the tele- medicine services offered on the internet. An at-home virtual appointment is very attractive to patients with acute or minimal health issues. Best of all, many of these patients are willing to pay out of pocket for the telemedicine services . Don’t be surprised if your patients say they are consulting telemedicine providers when your medical centre is not available.

Do a health check on your marketing strategy

At least twice a year, you should review your overall medical practice marketing strategy .

This includes your medical practice social media pages, your email and direct mail marketing, and any print marketing or signage you have. Make sure your office hours are posted clearly, and that your seasonal promotions are up-to-date.

Ask new patients how they found your practice so you can keep a track of what marketing is working.

Follow Up Patients

As part of our financial reporting for medical centres, we calculate the loss of feeds associated with missed appointments. When we started managing one practice, we had a loss of approximately $ 2500 per month in a four GP practice. The number of missed appointments was advertised to patients . This was primarily done so when patients complained there were no appointments available, it could be explained that the reason behind this was that so many patients that caused missed appointments which could have been taken by other patients. The advertising was a success as patients were more aware of the consequences of missing patients and also the loss of income decreased.

When patients reschedule, cancel at the last minute, or do not show up, it creates a loss in revenue. Patient follow-ups are extremely important, and it’s up to the medical practice team to ensure there is a process in place for follow ups. Most medical software packages now have reminder systems and online appointment systems also send reminders

Monetize After Hours

Often the time away from the medical practice is the exact time when patients need help. rather than visit an urgent care or emergency, they may prefer to speak with their trusted general practitioner.

You can approach this in several ways, including extending office hours on certain days of the week and having an after-hours roster for doctors. After hours clinics are popular with people who can’t visit the practice during the day because of work, so even extending your practice hours a couple of hours each week can increase income. After Hours for just a couple of hours per week can also introduce new patients to a practice.

All of these options enable the one thing patients value most: access to their doctor, and the support they need when they need it.

And finally….. IT

How much time do you and your staff waste on a bad IT system or telephones. Not only is it frustrating but it can cause an enormous waste of staff time and wages. Start making a log of all IT issues, challenge your IT company and ensure you have a network that suits your practice- not one that suits your IT company.

A recent practice study revealed that doctors and staff wasted approximately 10-15 hours per month on IT issues. Not only did this accumulate wasted staff wages , but it also increased IT support hours which is big dollars. Most of the time it is the same IT issues which happen. Changing It companies can sometimes feel the same as changing a mortgage, however making sure that your IT works for you can save your practice thousands of dollars per year. Invite your IT company to visit the practice on a regular basis, discuss the issues and make your IT company responsible . it is not acceptable the the same issues are getting fixed constantly. Get the staff to log all problems so you have an accurate record of what is happening.

These basics tips will help you to slow down the medical practice losing money. If done correctly, and tracked with benchmarking, this can help to turn around an unprofitable practice. It may also create positivity and a renewed excitement about owning your own business – because that is what a general practice is – a business!

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