Have you filled your gas tank recently? Bought groceries? Paid your electric bill? Chances are you’ve noticed a similarity in all three activities: higher prices.
The United States’ current consumer price index (CPI), a measure of inflation, is at its highest level in nearly forty years. As of October 31, 2022, it’s 298.06, up from 276.59 one year ago. The average price for gasoline in the U.S. is $3.35 per gallon, and the overall cost of groceries has increased by 13.5 percent compared to 2021.
It’s not only U.S. consumers being hit hard with inflation, though. Businesses, including healthcare provider organizations, are facing unprecedented expenses — all while trying to cut costs without negatively affecting patient care.
If you’re like most healthcare providers, you use the start of the new year to examine and implement new products, policies and procedures to streamline operations and cut costs. It’s all part of the business cycle.
To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of easy-to-administer best practices you can use in your business strategy to continue serving patients at a high level — without adding additional costs.
1. Minimize Financial Waste
Financial waste costs the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $765 billion annually. That’s approximately about 25 percent of total medical spending. Two of the biggest drivers of waste include overtreatment or low-value care and administrative complexity.
Low-value care consists of procedures that provide little or no clinical benefit. Common in the U.S., it leads to waste and suboptimal patient outcomes. Examples of low-value care include:
- Running lab tests for low-risk patients before a low-risk procedure
- Ordering head CT scans for simple dizziness or an EEG for a headache
- Using costly branded drugs instead of identical generics
- Performing surgery when physical therapy would be equally effective
- Inappropriately prescribing antibiotics
The other big driver of healthcare waste, administrative complexity, can be addressed first and foremost by eliminating paper-based processes. Another recommendation is transitioning to cloud-based services and solutions when possible. The advantages include enhanced data security, improved disaster recovery and the ability to utilize one technology for multiple practice sites.
Even clinicians waste time by using outdated communication technologies. But, healthcare provider organizations that implement communications technology to streamline workflow can reduce waste, especially for administrative tasks that don’t directly affect patient care.
2. Prioritize Patient Retention
One of your primary goals might include attracting new patients to your practice. Did you know that research has shown that it can be up to seven times more cost-effective to retain a customer than to acquire a new one? Even with that knowledge, roughly 44 percent of companies spend their efforts on customer acquisition, while only 16 percent focus on retention.
It’s not only about money here.
Along with the loss of revenue and wasted spend, a lack of patient retention can lead to damaged customer relationships and fewer word-of-mouth referrals.
By focusing on keeping engaged with your existing patient base, your practice(s) can achieve better conversion rates and higher profits with less marketing spend and lower costs. Here’s a scenario that more clearly explains this: by increasing patient retention by just five percent, your healthcare provider organization can increase the value of an average patient in lifetime profits by 25-100 percent.
How, then, can you retain patients? One way is simply understanding their specific needs, whether wanting to communicate with you via HIPAA-compliant text messaging or not having to wait weeks to get an appointment. Patients leave a physician’s practice for a variety of reasons, such as poor experience with a healthcare provider and staff and slow or no response to questions or concerns.
Another retention recommendation is to handle telephone calls properly. This sounds simple, but the average practice misses 34 percent of calls. Make sure your staff is regularly trained on properly answering patient calls. This type of education ensures they are familiar with any new or revised processes and procedures and that each staff member’s patient-facing communication skills match. One of our previous blogs offers more details on this topic.
3. Update Your Communications
Effective communication is an essential part of the patient-provider relationship. It can even lead to better health outcomes through fewer medication errors. Evidence indicates strong positive relationships between a healthcare team member’s communication skills and a patient’s capacity to follow through with medical recommendations, self-manage a chronic medical condition and adopt preventive health behaviors.
As I mentioned in the patient retention section of this post, your staff’s ability to communicate with your patients makes a big difference. Calls should be answered promptly and quickly routed to the appropriate staff member. Research has found that roughly 30 percent of patients are unwilling to wait on the line, with approximately 60 percent hanging up after 60 seconds. Only about 30 percent of those individuals will actually call back.
Security is another important component of the patient-provider relationship. Your staff should be trained not to discuss a patient’s personal health information (PHI) with anyone other than the patient. Patients calling to give information or leave messages with their provider might not be aware their data could be at risk if the communications system is not HIPAA-compliant.
Regarding communications technology, your solutions must be interoperable with other digital healthcare solutions. Otherwise, even the most well-designed platform fails to reach its full potential for enabling full data sharing.
Physician practices, clinics, hospitals and health systems that have updated outdated communications systems realize many benefits. These include reducing medical errors, improving patient safety, increasing productivity, reducing patient wait times, increasing patient throughput and significantly cutting costs.
At RingRx, our ongoing goal is to develop easy-to-use tools that help healthcare providers improve patient care while reducing costs and errors. We can even set up, analyze and manage your organization’s phone system right from our portal, saving you time and money. Try our complimentary 14-day trial to find out for yourself!