Characteristics of Successful Medical Practices

What factors contribute to the success of a medical practice? What makes a medical practice a better performing one?

These were the questions posed recently by the Medical Group Management Association. In looking at these questions, the Association looked at four performance areas and found that successful practices shared certain qualities in each of these areas

One area examined was spending, and the Association found that better performing practices spend less than others. The study found that more successful practices’ spending amounted to only 56 percent of their revenue, as opposed to 70 percent for other practices.

These more efficient practices used better management techniques to continually monitor their operating costs, to compare their costs with healthcare industry averages, and to use accounting tools to aid them in their analysis.

Another area the Association looked at was collection, and they found that more efficient practices were better at collecting fees as well. These practices collected money more quickly and had on average about $11,000 less in bad debt. Less than 10 percent of their accounts receivable were uncollected after 120 days. Management experts say this measure is a good indication of the health of a practice, and efficient practices have procedures set up to collect funds in a timely manner.

Better performing practices were also more productive. They have procedures in place for efficient flow of patients. The study found that one of the key ingredients for productivity was having the right staff.

The more efficient practices also evaluated patient satisfaction. They asked patients about whether they could get appointments when needed, about their visit in general, how well physicians communicated with them, and whether they would recommend the practice to others.

Another study found that the empathy of physicians also improves patient satisfaction and treatment results. According to researchers, empathy is a fundamental element in evidence-based medicine with a high relationship to patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Moreover, the researchers claim that empathy is a quality that can be acquired through practice. Empathy, however, should not be confused with sympathy, which is more of an emotional connection. Empathy involves more of an intellectual understanding of what a patient is going through.

Having a high degree of empathy can lead to better treatment, while having too much sympathy can lead to higher stress levels among doctors.

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