Hitting a Nerve

Useful financial and efficiency advice to practices is hard to come by


This time of year the nonclinical medical journals are full of articles with titles like “Make This Your Best Financial Year!”

A pile of magazines pinkomelet/Thinkstock

I read them January after January, but each year they remind me less of January 1st and more of February 2nd – Groundhog Day.

It seems you could republish the same article every year and change the title. All of them mention “collect patient copays” and “submit insurance billings promptly.” I had no idea some offices don’t. To me, this is like suggesting I pay my mortgage each month as a financial tip.

They inevitably also talk about improving my “web presence.” Most small practices don’t have an IT department. I’m it here. My modest (and that’s an exaggeration) web page has a 2003 picture of me that I desperately need to update but don’t have the time or expertise to do these days. People seem to think that small practices are wallowing in time and money, but realistically we have neither.

They also highlight all the free things we can do on the web, like a blog or Twitter account, to promote a practice. They fail to realize how much time it takes to regularly write a blog post. Twitter posts from most practices are either tripe such as “Remember – our office will be closed on Christmas!” or links to some recently published study about the importance of diet and exercise.

Besides, in this day and age pretty much anything can be taken as a claim of a doctor-patient relationship. There’s always someone looking to claim your seemingly innocuous blog post constituted harmful medical advice and try to sue you.

Turn my scheduling over to an online program for greater efficiency? No thanks, I’ll leave that to my awesome secretary. After 15 years here, she knows my personality and can quickly screen out people who will be a bad match for me. She also knows our patients and has a good gestalt for figuring how much time certain people will need. This prevents me from getting too far off schedule. She may not be as efficient as an online booking program, but she’s far more valuable. I’ll take quality over quantity any day.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Year in and year out, I see these same suggestions, which apply only to larger practices, or those run by incompetents, or both. I keep reading them, hoping I’ll glean something of value that might apply to me, but to date I haven’t found that.

Time is one of any practices’ most valuable assets. Instead of posting meaningless stuff online, or working on a better website, I’d rather invest my work time where it really belongs: on my patients.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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