Inside Secrets To Reducing Practice Costs

By Brian McCurdy, Associate Editor

While ensuring effective patient care is the primary goal of any podiatric practice, the practice is still a business so cutting costs is an important point of emphasis in keeping the practice operating at peak efficiency. There are a number of avenues that DPMs can seek out in order to cut costs. Podiatrists can take a look at staffing procedures to work more effectively and cut costs. Podiatric practices can also be diligent in their interaction with suppliers to provide more affordable patient care. As far as office space and billing, a number of options are available to reduce overhead costs. In addition, the appropriate use of technology can both enhance patient outcomes and lead to cost savings. With that in mind, several experts share their opinions on reducing practice expenses. They also address the balancing act of saving money without detrimentally affecting patients’ podiatric care. Pertinent Pearls For Reducing Staffing Costs Costs for staff comprise a significant amount of the spending of a podiatric practice. Although DPMs want to pay employees well to retain quality assistance, there are several methods one can use to reduce costs and increase staff productivity. One method is allowing the use of flextime schedules, suggests Jeffrey Frederick, DPM. He says one should allow employees to vary their schedules so they will be more productive. “Many employees like the ability to work just a few hours on some days and have the rest of the day to themselves,” says Dr. Frederick, the President-Elect of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management. “This works for task conscious employees who understand the job that needs to be done and value getting time off during the day.” He notes that such a flextime arrangement also does not trap employees into staying at the office just for the sake of the office schedule. As Dr. Frederick says, when employees are happier, they are more productive. Be careful not to pay staff too little. While trying to reduce staffing costs, keep in mind that payroll should be approximately 17 to 20 percent of office deposits, according to Kristin Titko, DPM. If one tries to go below that percentage to “rein in” costs for staffing, she warns the practice will lose a lot of income. Dr. Titko says the result will be long waits for patients, untaken X-rays and uncasted orthotics since a practice does not have the staff to perform these tasks. However, she notes that a low turnover of staff will cut the costs for training new employees. In the same vein, John McCord, DPM, advises against giving short shrift to staff as far as salaries and benefits go simply to save costs. “Spoil them rotten and they will control overhead to keep their good jobs,” says Dr. McCord, who practices in Centralia, Wash. Hal Ornstein, DPM, notes that most doctors do not spend enough on their staffs. Staff costs are an investment and can pay off in the end in greater savings, according to Dr. Ornstein, the Chairman of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management. However, he notes several specific ways of cutting costs in the areas of staffing. These include appropriately training employees and also cross-training them so one employee can perform several jobs in order to increase efficiency. Dr. Ornstein says it is also cost-effective to emphasize appropriate job descriptions so several staff members are not performing the same task. Podiatrists should emphasize that staff work efficiently to reduce work hours to a minimum and should also control overtime, advises Dr. Titko. To control overtime, William McCann, DPM, notes that a time clock is effective, calling a clock “the single most useful tool to control staffing costs.” Dr. McCann, the President of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management, says a clock can keep a practice on track as far as breaks and compliance with state and federal regulations. How Good Purchasing Techniques Can Pay Off It pays to shop around when ordering medical equipment and supplies as several experts say good purchasing techniques can lead to savings. Dr. McCord says one should determine the best equipment and supplies for patient care, and then make the medical equipment and supply companies compete for the practice’s business. His practice orders three-month quantities of supplies and obtains at least three bids for each item. Although supply company representatives may not like such a strategy, Dr.

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