What Is Bad Customer Service Costing You?

Lea Chatham September 9th, 2013

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by Rochelle Glassman

Customer service at your practice matters. In fact, bad service could cost you a minimum of $25,000 to $100,000 over the lifetime of a patient’s care.

Customer service has not historically been associated with healthcare–until recently. How many times have you gone to see your own primary care physician, walked up to the window and found the front office receptionist is on the phone. Then, she closes the glass partician and completely ignores you, leaving you standing there waiting? Now imagine if the same scenario happened at the hostess stand at a restaurant. You would probably be appalled. Our changing healthcare environment is dictating that practices need to change their approach to customer service because patients are expecting a more customer service oriented approach.

Not only does better customer service result in patient retention, but also creates a more successful practice. In fact, physicians who work in practices with better customer service are less likely to be sued by a patient for malpractice; irrespective of what may have happened to the patient. Furthermore, the lifetime income that might be taken away from the practice if a patient is unhappy and seeks care elsewhere can really affect the practice’s bottom line. If a patient has at least one physical per year, and a few sick and follow-up visits, that translates to about $500 a year in revenue. Over the lifetime of the patient, that could amount to well over $25,000. That’s a significant impact to your revenue. Patients with chronic diseases and those requiring annual testing that can be performed in the practice generate much more.

Implementing better customer service doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of effort or time:

  • It can be as simple as training your front and back office staff to greet patients by name, smile and end any conversation with simple phrases such as, “was I able to answer all your questions?,” “Is there anything else I might assist you with?,” or “I hope you have a pleasant day and please do not hesitate to call us with any questions you might have.”
  •  Your first line of communication, the telephone, should be answered by a friendly employee who is not multi-tasking. Patients can tell when they are not first priority. Have your staff smile when they speak on the telephone. Your gestures are conveyed through your voice.
  • If the practice is running behind schedule by more than 15 minutes, have your front office staff approach each patient and explain the delay. Patients are much more likely to be understanding if the situation is explained to them.

Certainly, there are those patients who may not always be pleased–and sometimes it gets to the point where you have to terminate a patient from a practice for the sake of your staff, your other patients, or your own sanity. Whether it’s due to disruptive behavior, non-payment or even non-compliance (why should you get sued because your patient doesn’t take his/her statins?), there’s a right way to terminate a patient from your practice so that you don’t face legal action or termination from your insurance contracts. You want to make sure that when you are terminating the patient, you are not creating a liability lawsuit if you refuse care.

Remember, your patients are your revenue. You need to make sure they’re treated well so that they remain with your practice for not only financial reasons, but continuity of care as well. But when you do need to let a patient go from your practice, make sure you’re doing it the legal way and per your insurance contract obligation. Happy patients are your number one referral source. There are no marketing costs for a patient or physician referrals.

To find out more about the lifetime value of your patients, how to improve customer service, and how to dismiss a patient the right way, watch the recording of my recent webinar How Customer Service Impacts Your Bottom Line.

About the Author

Rochelle Glassman, a passionate advocate for physicians and medical practices who has devoted her career to helping doctors get paid. Rochelle is the President & CEO of United Physician Services, and is a nationally recognized healthcare consultant known for her candor, tenacity, and vision.

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Physicians Like Their Work but Are Frustrated with Interference

Lea Chatham September 5th, 2013

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2013 Great American Physician Survey

Physicians like their work and most would do it the same way again according the 2013 Great American Physician Survey, conducted by Physicians Practice and sponsored by Kareo. In this annual survey of nearly 1,200 physicians, the majority—83%—strongly agreed or agreed when asked if they liked being a physician. In addition, about 79% agreed or strongly agreed that they liked their specialty and nearly 60% said that if they could go back in time they would roughly do things the same way again.

Recent studies suggesting physician dissatisfaction with specific aspects of their work like electronic health records or the Accountable Care Act are not a reflection of their overall satisfaction. In fact, when asked to rate their overall happiness, the average physician ranked it as a seven on a scale of one to ten.

Past studies and this new survey by Physicians Practice suggest that physicians like their work but dislike all the third party interference that affects how they do their work and get paid for it. When asked what the number one reason is not to be a physician, the top answer was “Too much third party interference” by a wide margin—32% as compared to the next highest answer which was 16%.

This dichotomy between physicians liking their jobs and disliking some of the challenges that come with the work they do highlights the need for more support for office-based physicians. This is especially true for those in smaller independent practices, who made up over 45% of the respondents in the Great American Physician Survey.

Another recent survey from Black Book Rankings presented insight into what the solution might be—seamlessly integrated practice management, electronic health records, and revenue cycle management solutions. This poll surveyed 8,000 physicians and medical professionals and found that many felt that streamlining their operations was a necessity and a large portion were already looking at upgrades. According to the survey:

  • 87% of all physician practices agree their billing and collections systems/processes need upgrading.
  • 92% of physician practices seeking a RCM/PM upgrade or replacement are only considering seamless EHR-centric systems.
  • 89% of those state a preference for a single source vendor for all RCM PM and EHR modules.
  • 89% of physicians currently replacing their EHRs are seeking a seamless single source vendor, and prefer vendors that offer software, outsourcing and consulting options in their EHR/RCM/PM transformation.

The information in these two recent surveys presents a picture of healthcare providers who want to stay in healthcare and remain independent but are frustrated with all the hoops they have to jump through. It also presents a picture of hope that seamlessly integrated PM/EHR/RCM solutions may be the answer.

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HIPAA Omnibus: Security Is an Ongoing Process

Lea Chatham September 4th, 2013

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While HIPAA changed healthcare in many ways, it’s the Privacy Rule and its regulations regarding Protected Health Information (PHI) that affect so many healthcare occupations today.

The effective date for HIPAA Omnibus is just around the corner. Are you ready for September 23? Are you ready for an audit if it came your way? The fact is that you should be prepared at any time for a HIPAA audit. Here are some recommendations made recently by industry experts.

In a recent article in FierceHealthIT, Mark Dill, director of information security at Cleveland Clinic, discussed how to be prepared for an audit. Essentially, his slogan is be prepared, and he offered these five tips:

  • Know what gaps are in your program in advance. The worst time to find out about problems is at the time of the audit.
  • Be organized. If you look disorganized, HHS will think you are disorganized. In addition, you may prevent an on-site audit if your documentation is of the highest quality.
  • Display your results in the right format. Dill suggests using the OCR recommended format (800-30).
  • Use three-year benchmarks as “tabs in your book of evidence” for compliance and formal, organization-wide analysis. He suggests keeping a written calendar and schedule of business impact analysis.
  • Partner with a reputable third-party consultant. “Third party attestation can reveal at least 30 percent about what you don’t know, and peer comparisons give you a really clear picture,” Dill said.

In another article in SearchHealthIT, Don Fluckinger reviewed some recommendations made to small practices by Jaime Dupuis, practice consultant for the Regional Extension Center of New Hampshire (RECNH). In addition to updating your Business Associate Agreements and Notice of Privacy Practices, Dupuis suggested:

  • Make risk analysis an ongoing process.
  • Work on highest-risk vulnerabilities first.
  • Confirm that risk analyses covers physical security of hardware and devices; password management and role-based security access; portable and mobile device policies; data encryption and network security.
  • Strengthen your employee password policy and require employees to regularly change passwords.
  • Employ a network firewall; install and regularly update antivirus software.

Read other recent HIPAA posts:
Will HIPAA Omnibus Complicate Compliance?
With HIPAA Omnibus, Take  Second Look at Business Associates
Get Ready for HIPAA Omnibus

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