Inside Secrets To Reducing Practice Costs
- Volume 19 - Issue 4 - April 2006
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How The Use Of Technology Can Save Money
How can the savvy use of technology save costs for a practice? Several DPMs suggest the use of electronic medical records (EMRs). Dr. Titko says the records not only make billing more efficient but also eliminate the charges involved in transcription. Dr. McCann concurs, saying EMRs and the “paperless office” concept will decrease a practice’s staffing needs and accordingly lower overhead costs.
Dr. Ornstein also recommends the use of EMRs, saying podiatrists “cannot afford not to” invest in the technology. However, if a practice does not take advantage of EMRs, he advises looking into digital dictation. The technology is very inexpensive and Dr. Ornstein says one will receive the complete dictated record in an e-mail. He notes digital dictation is more cost-effective than transcription since one would have to wait a few days to get the results of the transcription.
As far as accounting technology, Dr. Frederick suggests using software to track accounts receivable reports as doing so will improve cash flow and reduce monitoring costs. He also advocates that paying bills online can save time and money since it eliminates the cost of mailing payments to vendors. As he notes, having Medicare directly deposit payments into an office account will likewise save some costs.
Dr. McCord pays the bills himself. While acknowledging that this takes extra time, he says when he sees payment for an item that seems out of line, he is able to find out who is responsible for the charge and ultimately save money. When it comes to paying bills and doing payroll, he uses Quickbooks, which can generate checks and keep a ledger. Dr. Titko reminds practitioners to pay bills on time as this will eliminate interest charges.
In addition, Dr. McCann says a digital X-ray will “pay for itself” in savings on chemical and acetate costs. “Adopting cost saving technologies, such as EMR or digital X-rays, will not only cut overhead expenses but will significantly increase quality, efficiency and enhance patient outcomes,” notes Dr. McCann.
Dr. Ornstein echoes Dr. McCann’s comments about digital X-rays and adds that they may be more effective diagnostically. Due to image manipulation techniques, Dr. Ornstein says digital X-rays can be clearer than traditional X-rays and help find fractures that may not be seen on regular X-rays. Dr. Ornstein adds that utilizing digital X-rays can also result in greater referrals as patients are impressed by such technology and will tell their friends.
In addition, Dr. Ornstein uses software that tells the office about patients’ insurance information, including co-pay information, the day before the appointment. He says this feature is a cost saver. For example, he notes that a practice may not know a patient’s co-pay has increased from $10 to $20 and may bill for the $10. The practice then must waste time and money with insurance procedures to get the additional $10.
Lowering Costs Without Compromising Patient Care
When weighing a less expensive measure that affects care, Dr. Frederick says one should question whether or not the cost savings under consideration will compromise the patient. Likewise, he emphasizes that one should also question whether the care provided will continue to meet the expectations of patients and facilitate the best possible patient outcome.
“If the change in cost or method honestly passes this test, then patient care is not compromised,” says Dr. Frederick. “I always ask these questions to safeguard the quality of care on everything we do.”
Cheaper is not necessarily better, says Dr. Frederick, who adds that increased outcomes for patients are always the ultimate goal.
Dr. McCann concurs. He says one should never even consider using any product or service that will not enhance patient care and patient outcomes. “Something may save money in the short term but if there is no patient benefit, it will cost you dearly in the long term,” he says.
Dr. McCord warns never to cut the quality of care to cut overhead and save money. “It is a false economy and will cost more in the end with unhappy patients and liability problems,” he cautions.