Original Publish Date: December 4, 2018
Every business must plan. As you begin your 2019/2020 business planning consider what your patients are expecting from your practice. Your patients are the lifeblood of your practice, if their expectations change and you do not adapt, you will wonder why you have open appointment slots.
United Healthcare performs an annual Consumer Sentiment Survey, the results of the September 2018 surveys should interest all physicians that are preparing a business plan. The survey found that 68% of the respondents used an internet search engine to research a potential health issue. The use of ‘internet research’ crossed generations it was not just millennials, 63% of baby boomers used internet searches for health information. The survey found that 36% of respondents used the internet or mobile applications to shop for health care services. This is a 257% increase from 2012. Not surprising that 51% of millennials shop for healthcare services online, that is a 6% increase over 2017. An interesting finding of the survey was that 84% of those who used mobile apps or the internet to comparison shop healthcare procedures found the experience ‘very helpful’ or ‘somewhat helpful’. This is a signal that transparency in pricing, location and access is becoming more prevalent. Finally, 43% of the respondents are likely to use telemedicine to access health care services.
How does consumer preference affect your practice? It has long been believed that a patient will go to see a specialist, a hospital, an outpatient center, or testing facility that was recommended by a trusted physician or friend. Patients, lets change that to consumers, are relying less on physician or neighbor referrals to get their healthcare information or who to see for a problem, that changes the historic model of healthcare. Consumers unlike patients, research their choices, comparison shop and leave reviews after the services are provided.
It may be time to re-ask the question, how do patients find me? If your practice relies on networks or physician referrals for new patients you need to make sure that you are listed on the ‘networks’ mobile apps, internet dropdowns, or have your own mobile app. Make sure that your website is mobile friendly and shows up on internet searches for your practice or specialty. If you own or use an outpatient surgical facility, consider price transparency to allow for consumers to evaluate your facility against others. Many specialists are developing their own mobile apps and communication tools to allow patients convenient access for questions, scheduling and other services.
Telemedicine is a growing area, driven in part by large employers and benefit offerings. The Large Employers’ 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey found that 96% of all employers will offer telehealth services. Telehealth for behavioral health services will be offered by 56% percent of the employers. Telehealth is not for every practice; however, telehealth cannot be ignored. You must determine if your practice and specialty is right for a telehealth service. If it is, then, you must study the options available to your practice. These range from outsourcing the service to providing your own services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) recently published its 2019 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, in the final rule CMS added two new codes related to services using ‘communication technology’. While far from developing a full telehealth fee schedule CMS has signaled that the future for telemedicine is not far away.
Start by reviewing your office hours, are you accessible? Are you available when your patients want you to be or when you want to be available? A 2017 survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times by Merritt Hawkins concluded that the average wait time for a new patient appointment was 24 days. That compares with 18 days in 2014. What can your practice do to accommodate patients wanting to see a doctor? Does your practice cater to multiple generations that are interested in communicating in different ways? Do you still have patients or are you catering to consumers? There is an opportunity for physicians that provide good customer service to win market share. Customer service is defined as being accessible, on time and communicating in multiple formats. It used to be that customer service was only defined by smiling and being courteous, the definitions and expectations have changed.
To determine what services your practice should offer and in what format, take an inventory of your practice. Start by defining your patient population, it might have changed over the years. The planning process must answer the question, how do I provide services across generations that have different expectations and keep them all happy? It may be time to re-visit the services that you offer to patients.
In 1999 Tom had the opportunity to start Medic Management Group, LLC. formerly known as (SS&G Healthcare Services, LLC.). Medic Management Group is a Consulting and Management Services Organization specializing in physician practices and healthcare issues. Medic Management Group, LLC. is the leading provider of management, billing and consulting services to physicians. Medic Management Group works with clients in 26 states and manages over 3,000 physicians. Medic Management Group consists of 150 of the best physician practice specialists. Visit the Medic Management Group LLC web site at www.medicmgmt.com