Taking the Pulse of Your Practice -- Part 4

April 4, 2011
Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC

In the fourth in a series on medical practice management, I look at how you can grow your business by educating yourself on who are patients are, where they're likely to come from, what types of health plans they're enrolled in and how to cater your practice to attract more business from the biggest employers in your area.

Knowledge is power. And any information you have highlighting how a prospect becomes a patient of your medical practice provides you with insights as to how to make that happen… over and over!

Where do your patients come from? Do you even know?

Things are never straightforward in medicine, and it's often very difficult for medical practices to determine who their real "customers" are. They could be:

• Your patients.

• Your referring doctors.

• The health plans that you accept.

• The IPAs or Manage Care Organizations to which you belong.

• In some cases, the employer organization with which your practice might have a direct contract and who's paying the bills.

To begin answering this question, you will need to access data, hopefully available to you through your practice management information system. Ask yourself (and run reports on):

1. How do you define the service area of your medical practice? By zip code, by geographic boundaries, by neighborhood?

2. Who are the seven to 10 major employers in your service area, how many employees they have, and which employee health insurance plans offered by these companies does your practice accept?

3. What are the demographics of your existing patients, by age, gender, zip code, and health insurance plan distribution?

4. What is the "average annual value" of each patient -- how much annual revenue they represent for your practice?

As you evaluate the employers, be sure to identify their major industries, services or products (for potential Worker's Comp possibilities), whether they are unionized or not, whether they're self-insured and what health insurance plans are offered in their workplace. Your office manager should be able to research and obtain this information for you.

Armed with this information, you should then be able to ponder the following:

• Is your service area stable or likely to grow over the next five to 10 years, providing you with the opportunity to grow your own medical practice?

• Are the population demographics a good match for your specialty?

• Are there services that you could add within your practice to meet the needs of the major employers in your area? For example, executive wellness and physicals, Worker's Comp and occupational health, pediatric care, nutritional counseling, stress management programs etc.

This is the 4th in a series on how to excel at medical practice management. You can also read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.