JAN 2012

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

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64 EWOphthalmology Business January 2012 A new deal for a new day by Donna A. Suter P 1. Relief You, your employees, and your pa- tients want relief from managed care. Wait! Really? What you are looking for is the profitable patient. This patient, statically speaking, comes with insurance and perhaps a resident Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered Ameri- cans a New Deal in 1933. The New Deal was a series of economic programs that responded to what we know as the Great Depression. Consumers were very uncertain about the econ- omy, and many expressed the emo- tional response of fear when asked about their futures. Flash forward 79 years. Pundits offer as many opinions about eco- nomic recovery as there are chan- nels on your cable television. Historians say that the stimulus packages passed while Roosevelt was president focused on what they call the "3 Rs": Relief, Recovery, and Reform. These same "3 Rs" can become your practice's roadmap to 2012 being your best year ever. vision plan. Wouldn't it be a relief if the process of filing claims and the staff time necessary to keep up with all the demands placed on doctors and employees could be paired with acceptable profit? Here's the question to ask your management team: Is it possible to collect and analyze 24 months of raw data and determine where to look for the elusive profitable pa- tient? Could you generate real-time performance data and profit-and- loss data to track total receivables back to those revenue sources you should be focusing on in order to achieve your revenue goals? Data, with proper analysis, can guide you into a future where all the tough decisions are evident. Data is also available that tells you what that profitable patient looks like. Forty-nine percent of all profes- sional- and managerial-level workers in the U.S. are women. Women bring in half or more of the income in the majority of U.S. households, and women make the majority of health-related decisions not just for themselves but for everyone in the household. This female patient wants to be treated with respect. She wants to be given the option to up- grade to customized, VIP care. 2. Recovery The day after taking office as presi- dent, Roosevelt ordered all banks to close. He then asked Congress to pass legislation that would guaran- tee that savers would not lose their money if there were another finan- cial crisis. What bold move are you willing to make in order to better deal with the realities facing practices of all sizes? Can you convince female con- sumers, patients, that you are con- cerned about their vision and not just your profit margin? The phrase "female intuition" is part of today's slang because the ability to gauge the emotional climate of a situation is attributed to that gender. What this means is that bottom-line signs or notices about whose responsibil- ity it is to get a pre-authorization and lists about all the services might seem rude. Intuitive patients are more likely to see the overworked employee's body language as a neon sign screaming "TAKE YOUR BUSI- NESS ELSEWHERE." Because this gender also uses more words than their male counterparts in a day, think of the big deal she can make of everything she perceives to be less than the level of customer service that her family and friends deserve. What are you willing to change to attract the profitable patient? De- cide among the practice's doctors and management team which prac- tice members should be invited to be part of a strategic think tank. This group could be tasked with identify- ing internal strengths and weak- nesses from the perspective of your most profitable patient demo- graphic. Naturally, this team should be given access to those financial graphs that the owners are comfort- able sharing, as well as a 12-month budget. The allocated budget will be used to implement the recommen- dations that your team ultimately suggests—surgical and patient visit graphs are a must. A graph (A/R, gross charges, and net) showing extrapolations of increasing the practice's market share of this popu- lation group will help you decide how much money to budget. 3. Reform The dictionary defines the verb tense of reform as "to make better or to improve by removing faults or abuses." Reform cannot happen in a murky environment. Get above the mêlée of accounts receivable versus production, emerging pharmacol- ogy, and trends in surgical tech- niques and think strategically. What's the current "state of the practice?" Could you and all the practice's key players reach a consen- sus on a brief positional statement? Do you all agree on strategic initia- tive that might guide process im- provement? What would you like to see improved in the next 24 months? In this environment of reforma- tion, is it possible to take action in a manner that demonstrates to your most profitable patient that you want to become his or her practice of choice? Change doesn't happen overnight. Roosevelt's New Deal was passed by Congress over a period of 3 years. His biography tells of per- sonal growth, leadership changes, and compromise. It was a tough time. Do not kid yourself. Persever- ance will be needed to maintain profitability. Taking actions that are guided by the tough decisions that your data tells you should have been made months ago will not be easy. Egos will be bruised and heroes will emerge from areas that you thought contained only villains. If you are successful, the prac- tice will have undergone a metamor- phosis. From strategic planning will emerge a realistic plan for the future. Everyone in the practice will know the profile of profitable patients and their role in creating a positive im- pression. The big deal will be that you will feel a renewed excitement about practicing medicine in a cli- mate that allows you to preserve the vision of individuals who might have gone blind in the year 1933. We live in the new day Roosevelt couldn't even have imagined. EW ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ms. Suter is a business coach/trainer specializing in the eyecare field. She can be contacted at suter4pr@donnasuter consulting.com or 423-545-4562.

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