Medical Practice Management Ideas for Physician-Owned Clinics

Frazzled Medical Practice Manager dealing with many requests

“33% of Medical Group Management leaders plan to automate patient communications in some way due to staffing shortages.”1

 

If you’re a physician or practice manager, you’re likely tasked with medical staff schedules, bills, and patient responses.

With Hippocractic determination, you may have set out to provide value for patients and make a difference in your community. But how can you manage all these administrative duties while treating patient conditions?

Implementing effective medical practice software may improve your patient outcomes. With employee shortages and urgent requests affecting speed to care, we put together a list of ideas you can implement today. Let’s take a look at a few medical practice examples that others have found useful for improved workflows.

Medical Practice Management Examples

Larger Medical Group Medical Practices

Larger medical group management needs have a few differences compared to smaller, physician-owned clinics. They typically include multiple specialists, a large clinical staff, medical partnerships, and offices scattered throughout a city, county, or region. 

For example, Mid-Atlantic Nephrology Associates (MANA) had eight office locations which served twelve hospitals in their metropolitan city. With multiple locations, managing on-call physician schedules and patient requests were a challenge. Inefficient communication resulted in providers being contacted at the wrong time. Shared logins and passwords became inaccessible due to security lockouts, and practitioners were unable to share secure images and messages to accurately treat patients.

The needs varied from communicating the latest power outage to who was on which dialysis unit, where, and when. The practice managers did not have full control over the schedules, and there was no way of knowing when a schedule was updated. They were unable to match who was on call when and at which location.

After getting everyone on a unified communication system, the nephrologists were able to see lab results right away. Group texts were sent to the whole care team and medical staff, so they knew what to expect in case of early closures or emergencies. To improve patient response times, all practice managers received a backup notification when a provider didn’t respond within 48 hours. In this way, patient messages were never missed.

By putting these medical practice communication systems in place, the providers didn’t have to worry about their schedules being disrupted while off the clock. The organization was able to get everyone on the same page. The practice managers had full control over the schedules again, allowing them to update on the fly while syncing to each location and provider.

Physician-Owned Clinics and Specialties

Building reliable systems for a small practice now can help you when it’s time to scale. Aside from medical billing and medical supply inventory, an optimized communication flow between providers and patients forms the backbone for a physician-owned clinic’s success. 

Smaller medical practices often use medical answering services to inform patients and other specialties of holiday hours, weekly office times, and who to contact for which request. Much like the large group practice example, yet with fewer locations and reduced staff size. 

For example, one medical clinic needed to let patients know their Monday through Friday hours, lunch break from 12-1 PM, and who was on call for the weekend. They needed a way to check messages and follow up without the doctor being paged for non-urgent matters. For inpatient and outpatient critical lab results, physicians needed to access that information quickly and get notified about it.

After implementing custom voicemail prompts for inpatient and outpatient labs, office hours, and urgent versus non-urgent requests, patient callbacks improved. Timely messages were routed to the right on-call specialist. The office manager was able to login to the system each day through a secure app or web browser to verify and track messages. Any edits to the schedule went into effect immediately with their specific medical communication software.

Medical Practice Management Ideas

Effective and updated communication is instrumental for operating a medical clinic or group practice. You can have one provider and two part-time staff all the way up to and beyond 100+ physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and locations. Large or small, you may share these medical practice communication strategies with your medical team and administrative decision-makers, and see if it leads to positive outcomes.

Fundamental Medical Practice Management Thoughts

Consider who your frequent patients are versus one-time patients. What does the patient journey look like? Are there ways to enhance your process and decrease human error, such as billing needs, messages, and phone calls? 

From before check-in all the way to post-acute follow ups and pharmacy prescriptions, reminding patients, and communicating with them along the way alleviates confusion. Establish a clinical workflow plan for responding to patients, inquiries from other specialities, and care team members. Let’s take a look at a few ideas for implementing these practice management strategies.

Custom Medical Answering Service Software for Medical Practices

Use a custom voicemail message related to your type of medical specialty. Setting up automated calls and notifications can reduce nurse and physician administrative burdens, allowing them to effectively receive updates, read patient charts, and respond appropriately.

A few medical specialty examples:

  • An obstetrics and gynecology clinic may need to include call flow questions related to the number of weeks pregnant, patient’s doctor, and a reason for the call.
  • A nephrology clinic may need to ask about BUN, creatinine, and potassium levels before routing the call to the right provider. This allows time for the physician or nurse practitioner to pull up the patient’s chart or other remote patient monitoring stats.
  • A surgery center may need to route a call based on the patient’s surgeon, patient location, and reason for the call, such as post-acute treatment instructions. They may need to provide message prompts for an attending anesthesiologist schedule.

Providing patients and additional providers with clearly defined instructions ensures the message gets to the right person. Taking time to set up communication flows correctly can save medical practices hours of time later.

Applying Telehealth Solutions in Medical Practice Management

Does using a video telehealth visit mean I offer free medical advice? Not if you’re helping patients. Traditionally, clinics could only bill for in-person visits. The COVID-19 pandemic thrust virtual services into the forefront, changing how the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule works via telehealth.2 For billable hours and unique codes, check the most recent CMS policies regarding virtual services.

“Telehealth services can be provided to new and established patients via smartphone if the smartphone allows for audio-video interaction between the physician and patient.”3

With secure telehealth messaging, family medicine practitioners and other medical specialties can utilize video appointments for patient follow-ups. Video technologies may be used by the whole care team, and a primary care doctor and surgeon could hop on a simple video call to discuss their patient’s next steps. For a clinical psychologist or behavioral health center, this could be an effective way to form alignment between a therapist and physician.

Secure Medical Text Reminders

How do you handle patient no-shows? What if patients are ignoring your phone calls and not logging into their portal? Perhaps patients frequently call the office for non-urgent matters or office hour information—all of which could easily be automated. 91.1% of patients surveyed in one study mentioned secure medical text updates helped them avoid calling the office.

Image of Secure Medical Text phones sending messages

What kinds of texts are best to send?

For medical practice management, here are a few suggestions:

  • Appointment reminders including day and time of appointment.
  • Virtual check-in reminders before arriving at the medical office.
  • Quick ad hoc video visits as part of a patient follow-up session.
  • Reminder to login through the organization’s portal for the detailed physician notes or AVS (After Visit Summary).
  • Prescription refill reminders.
  • Group texts to medical staff for updated closures or emergencies.

Using a patient text solution, Ridgeview Rehab Specialties was able to reduce its no-show rate by 12.6%, generating an average of $175 per visit.4 This is one example of how streamlining medical practice communication can improve patient care outcomes and reduce hefty administrative costs. 

Need more ideas? Take a few minutes to read through these customer success stories. It might be the next step in your journey to effective medical practice management. 

1MGMA Staff Members. (2022, March 23). Outsourcing, automation may provide help to short-staffed practices. Medical Group Management Association. https://www.mgma.com/resources/resources/operations-management/outsourcing,-automation-may-provide-help-to-short

2CMS (2022). List of Telehealth Services. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-General-Information/Telehealth/Telehealth-Codes

3AAFP (2022). Coding Scenario: Coding for Telehealth Visits. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://www.aafp.org/family-physician/patient-care/current-hot-topics/recent-outbreaks/covid-19/covid-19-telehealth/coding-scenarios-during-covid-19/telehealth.html

4PerfectServe Success Stories. https://www.perfectserve.com/success-stories/ridgeview-rehab/

How Remote Patient Engagement Solutions Reduce Readmissions

“Clinicians often perceive these initiatives as additive work that doesn’t seem to provide immediately obvious benefits to patient care. Executives tend to emphasize how important patient flow is to the organization’s efficiency and finances. But that doesn’t address clinician concerns, and they struggle to fully invest in these initiatives.” -Nursing Executive, Advisory Board1

Digital Patient Engagement: How to Address Challenges in Adoption

Misalignment and miscommunication of strategies lead to challenges among healthcare professionals and their team culture. A reluctance to adopt new technologies may have consequences, such as reduced patient response times, physicians being alerted or notified when they’re not on call, or non-urgent messages being delivered in the middle of the night when they should be held until normal business hours. If used well, however, these remote patient engagement tools can drive a variety of positive patient outcomes.

Medical directors, managers, and hospital leaders may grapple with physician resistance to digital patient engagement platforms. Their hesitancy might include the following questions: 

  • How can medical practitioners engage and connect with patients outside of brick-and-mortar facilities? 
  • Will remote patient engagement solutions actually improve value-based care outcomes and reduce patient readmission rates, or is this another technology fad? 
  • Can virtual visits and updated monitoring systems be turned into billable hours?

A plethora of new virtual patient technologies are being introduced in the marketplace. Hospital and clinical healthcare administrators are looking for ways to reduce patient readmissions and eliminate wasted costs. Yet, providers may see these new technologies as an added burden to their daily, in-person patient engagement workflows. Swamped with increasing demands and pay-to-perform incentives, patients may get lost in the shuffle, especially those who require chronic care management or specialty visits.

Both patients and providers may have a lack of awareness when it comes to ehealth engagement technology.2 Let’s look at a brief history and understanding of patient engagement, and how you can walk away knowing what strategies you should consider implementing for your medical organization.

What is Remote Patient Engagement in Healthcare?

Remote Patient Engagement Defined

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is a broadly defined term which includes a range of digital tools that track a patient’s health. The information is sent back to healthcare professionals or caregivers to determine effective treatments. A few tech examples include heart monitoring devices, glucose meters, surveillance monitors, and digital reporting logs.3 

Remote patient engagement is the use of these tools and devices to communicate and follow up with patients in a secure, timely manner. These medical bands and devices are commonly used by physicians and practitioners to monitor chronic conditions and post-surgery assessments. Dieticians, therapists, and wellness coaches use these tools for preventive, proactive, and rehabilitative health plans.

Patient Engagement Before 2020

About 60 years ago, some of the first remote telemedicine technologies were developed by NASA to track the health of astronauts.4 As telehealth technology expanded, private companies and the government invested money and research into different healthcare delivery methods. Enter the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996 and the Affordable Care Act (ACT) in 2010, which allowed more coverage for patients with chronic conditions. This opened the door for accessible and reimbursable patient visits that utilize remote patient monitoring and telehealth technology.

Patient Engagement After 2020

The consumerization of healthcare has accelerated, but the trend was in motion well before the COVID-19 pandemic. This fueled demand for healthcare organizations and providers to communicate more frequently with their patients and families. Sharing healthcare information digitally can accelerate speed to care, and 77% of patients are willing to do so if it positively impacts their care.5

In a recent interview, PerfectServe Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rodrigo Martínez shared that patient engagement technology adoption is a main need for healthcare organizations to stay relevant over the next decade:

Image of a doctor with a quote from Dr. Rodrigo Martínez

Patient Engagement Digital Platforms

The types of digital platforms that facilitate patient engagement vary widely. Some offer niche-specific chronic care and treatment, like Health Recovery Solutions, which tracks biometric activity, such as blood pressure and oxygen levels. Amazon has even joined the game with their Halo Band, which measures movement and sleep tracking. According to one study, 69% of respondents use smartwatches for chronic care management.6

List of Common Patient Engagement Devices

Like Gene Roddenberry’s tricorder in Star Trek, new medical devices are developed every year. One company invented DxtER™, a device designed “to prove the concept that illnesses can be diagnosed and monitored in the comfort of one’s own home by consumers without any medical training.”7 It was created to diagnose up to 34 different health conditions. While it’s not fully launched in the consumer marketplace, healthcare organizations and trained practitioners do use similar medical patient engagement devices.

Medical devices typically go hand-in-hand with a digital monitoring system for patient care, and for physician and nurse communication. Common devices used for patient engagement may include:

  • Wearable bands (Smartwatches, Fitbit, etc.)
  • Glucometer
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Electrocardiograph
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Digital scale
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets or Laptops
  • DxTer Tricorder (Yes, inspired by Star Trek.)

Knowing these tools are available is one thing. Applying them in a way that enables patients to communicate with a physician or nurse is another. So how can a healthcare organization use patient engagement strategies to their full advantage?

Patient Engagement Strategies: Reach Patients Before They Get Readmitted

According to CMS, the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) “encourages hospitals to improve communication and care coordination to better engage patients and caregivers in discharge plans and, in turn, reduce avoidable readmissions.”8 With 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. having been diagnosed with a chronic disease, patient engagement tools and workflows will remain a priority for healthcare organizations.9 An awareness of these needs, combined with actionable foresight, may reduce these readmission events.

Do You Have a Patient Engagement Strategy?

Create a plan to measure your patient outcomes, not just quick, transactional clinic visits. Identify which remote patient engagement solution is best for your providers—something that is easy to train and implement. Being proactive versus reactive with these tools could boost physician, nurse, and patient morale. 

What are the common goals your healthcare organization wants to achieve? Knowing this information can act as a filter for your patient engagement strategy plans.

Patient Engagement Example for a Chronic-Condition Specialty Practice

patient and doctor texting back and forth with medical messages

If you are a specialty practice, build common message templates related to your patient’s frequent needs, which, when delivered to the patient, allow them to respond and transition to a remote video visit initiated by the right on-call provider. Here is one example for a 65-year-old patient with a recent kidney disease diagnosis and low GFR:

Physician’s Office: “Thank you for calling Green Valley Nephrology Clinic. Our hours are 9 AM through 5 PM Monday through Friday. If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911. Otherwise, press one to leave a message, press two to schedule an appointment, etc.”

Patient: (Presses one) “Hi Doc. This is George. I’m calling about my test results and the blood draw you did for my kidneys. I can’t remember my login to look at it, and I’m not good with computers. Do I need to go to the hospital? I’m peeing more than normal and I have some swelling in my legs and feet. Let me know.”

Physician’s Office: (Call routes to the on-call physician. Message alert pings Dr. Shaeffer, the on-call nephrologist. He decides to send a text message back through a secure, front-office number that masks his personal cell phone). 

Dr. Schaeffer: (Via text message) “Hi George. I received your message. Do you have a few minutes to hop on a video call? I will send you a link.”

Patient: Yes, sure. Send me the link.”

Dr. Schaeffer: (Physician sends secure link.) “Here you go. [hyperlink]”

Patient: “Oh, there you are—got it. I see you now. Thanks for sending me the link. Wow, technology these days! So, do I need to go to the hospital?”

(Video conversation continues with patient and on-call specialist).

Scenarios like the conversion above may occur for any established, chronic-care patient and their physician. Let’s look at a few tips you could implement for your healthcare organization, so more patients like George can receive better care.

4 Ideas to Increase Patient Engagement

  1. Send frequent—but not too frequent—text reminders that are beneficial for the patient. Some examples include appointment reminders, critical lab results, treatment reminders, and clinic feedback questions. Let them know you care by using automated touch-points which save time for both medical practitioners and the patient in day-to-day interactions.
  2. When assessing chronic conditions, see if there is a way the patient can message you securely or log in to their health record to view the same data.
  3. Communicate a plan for the office staff and medical practitioners so they know what messages and protocols have been set up. This includes things like lab results, inbound voicemails, and which messages are critical versus non-critical for patient healthcare outcomes. 
  4. Coordinate schedules so all patients know at least one on-call practitioner can answer their questions. Updates to these schedules can be automated from the provider or administrative staff through a simple app, without chasing down a Google calendar or paper spreadsheet at the office.

For more ideas on how medical groups are using patient engagement strategies, see a demo of PerfectServe’s solutions for your medical practice or hospital.

1Nursing Executive Center. (2020). Engaging Frontline Staff in Patient Flow: Two tactics to engage clinicians’ hearts and minds [White paper]. Advisory Board. https://advisory-prod.azureedge.net/-/media/project/advisoryboard/shared/research/nec/success-pages/2020/engaging-frontline-staff-in-patient-flow.pdf

2Safi, S. Thiessen, T. Schmailzl, K. (2018). Acceptance and Resistance of New Digital Technologies in Medicine: Qualitative Study. JMIR Publications, 7(12). https://doi.org/10.2196/11072

3Delvecchio, A. (n.d.). remote patient monitoring (RPM). SearchHealthIT. https://searchhealthit.techtarget.com/definition/remote-patient-monitoring-RPM

4Gruessner, V. (2015, November 9). The History of Remote Monitoring, Telemedicine Technology In recent years, healthcare reforms and federal legislation has pushed forward the spread of telemedicine technology and other technological advancements. mHealthIntelligence. https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/the-history-of-remote-monitoring-telemedicine-technology 

5(2021, June 15). New Data from HIMSS Shows Rapid Digital Health Adoption Necessitates Personalized Patient Technology. HIMSS. https://www.himss.org/news/new-data-himss-shows-rapid-digital-health-adoption-necessitates-personalized-patient

6Neslon, H. (2021, January 22). Condition-Specific mHealth Devices Best in Chronic Care Management. mHealthIntelligence xtelligent Healthcare Media. https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/condition-specific-mhealth-devices-best-in-chronic-care-management

7DxtER™ A New Kind of Consumer Medical Device. Basil Leaf Technologies. https://www.basilleaftech.com/dxter/

8(2021, December 1). Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP). CMS.gov. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/AcuteInpatientPPS/Readmissions-Reduction-Program

9(2022, January 24). Chronic Diseases in America. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm