Whether employed, aligned, or independent, many cardiology groups are having difficulty sustaining and/or improving performance in the evolving healthcare environment. Physicians and administrators are balancing mounting patient and provider demands against decreasing resources. Aligning with health systems and hospitals through employment or affiliation arrangements may be a lifeline for some practices, but it in no way ensures practice growth or optimal performance. The good news is you don’t have to stand idly by and hope your practice doesn’t sink. Instead, there are a number of tactics you can take to improve performance and maintain a successful practice.
Playing an active role in physician leadership can have a significant impact on day-to-day operations. For independent practices, your involvement presents the opportunity to better understand the market landscape as practice patterns continue to evolve. For recently employed or aligned practices, assuming leadership roles can help assuage concerns and frustration felt in practice transition (i.e., operational inefficiencies, incorporation of new protocols) and allow your team to concentrate instead on program growth and development.
Deployment and Access
Patient access is crucial to the success of any cardiology practice. A common myth among physicians is that the supervision of advanced care practitioners (ACPs) can diminish productivity. But in reality, we find that when care models are adopted that effectively leverage ACPs, greater efficiencies, increased productivity, and improved financial performance often follow. As a result, many organizations are integrating ACPs into their care models, particularly to cover low acuity, follow-up patient care.
Regardless of whether you are employed or in an independent practice, it’s important that you and your team follow a compensation methodology that incentivizes the right activities for your unique practice. The most efficient model for the system is not necessarily the one that generates the most WRVUs. More hospitals and physicians are opting for a group compensation methodology, whereby the physicians are paid – at least in part – for their collective productivity and overall service line performance.
Practices are constantly evolving, and understanding performance trends is critical for achieving greater success. One of the greatest challenges for any practice is accessing data and turning it into actionable information. Even a simple dashboard that tracks financial performance, operational benchmarks, and production trends can highlight potential areas of opportunity and improvement. Armed with information, you can make real-time adjustments to your practice that will quickly improve performance.
The recruitment of a skilled cardiology practice manager who closely monitors service line performance is also an essential step to ensure that major challenges and/or issues aren’t ignored or overlooked. Ultimately this person is responsible for the planning necessary to identify your group’s specific performance targets, drive accountabilities, and monitor progress.
Keeping Pace With Change
In today’s volatile economic environment, achieving strong operational performance has never been more important – or more challenging – for physicians, administrators, healthcare executives, and the organizations they lead. Change will remain a constant in healthcare, making now the time to stabilize the future of your practice.
This post is adapted from a column that originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of CardioSource WorldNews, a publication of the American College of Cardiology.