Medical practices, dental practices, small and rural hospitals and larger healthcare systems alike are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent regulatory changes, like the $8.3 billion emergency funding measure that expands Medicare reimbursements for telemedicine and the prohibition of all non-essential medical, surgical, and dental procedures during the outbreak, have upended the planned revenue cycle of nearly every U.S. healthcare practice or business. How can medical practice owners, dental practice owners and other healthcare managers adjust the financial and operational levers of their business to better weather the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic?
Financial steps to take:
- Put together a 12-week cash flow statement to understand better how you can manage the disruption, assessing what should be coming in and what you must pay and can delay paying, including evaluating the best approach to manage your staff given the circumstances.
- Billing staff should work remotely in order to continue billing as usual and connect with insurance companies. Their time should be used to follow-up on past billings and accounts receivables.
- Reach out to your bank to determine if/when you can setup or increase a line of credit for your business.
- Contact your accountant for up-to-date financials and clarity regarding whether you will be paying your sales/use and withholdings taxes as normal or taking advantage of your state’s relief, if applicable.
- Look for state and federal programs you may qualify for, including the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
Operational steps to take:
- Consider employees carefully. Can non-essential staff work remotely or even be laid off or furloughed to find work elsewhere through a healthcare staffing company, given that many large systems are currently understaffed? Use web conferencing to hold staff meetings, utilizing services such as Zoom, WebEx, Skype, Google Hangouts and/or FaceTime.
- Move to telehealth when possible, as CMS changes are allowing increased telehealth reimbursements. Using video visits for patients with compromised health can help them avoid coronavirus exposure. Chronic medicine can be delivered to patients’ homes. Of course, when moving to telehealth solutions, notification to patients and training staff members is necessary.
- Prepare for patient visits by securing the doors and screening patients before entry. Provide hand sanitizer, face masks, and gloves and take basic sanitary precautions that can make a difference:
- Disinfect all surfaces, equipment and door knobs between patient consults.
- Shared resources should be kept clean.
- Proper hand hygiene.
- Waiting-room chairs are placed six feet apart and social distancing respected during interactions as possible; alternatively, you can allow sign-in/call-in at the entrance/via phone and ask patients to stay in their car in the parking lot and call them when you are ready to take them back.
- Deal with elective procedures by rescheduling to a later date. Serve patients when you believe it medically irresponsible to delay but disclose the risks, and keep them separate from patients coming in for non-elective procedures. Please note the difference between necessary elective procedures and not-necessary elective procedures.
- Update your website and phone greetings to communicate your current processes and availability.
Medical practices, dental practices, and small and rural hospitals are more likely to weather the pandemic storm by taking positive financial and operational steps now to mitigate business losses and emerge from the crisis in an even-stronger market position. For individual steps your medical or dental practice or hospital should take, schedule a complimentary phone consultation here or join our webinar, “Managing a Healthcare Practice through the Pandemic: Finance and Operations” on Thursday, April 2 at 12:30 p.m. by registering here.
When you manage your medical practice’s cash flow effectively, you can helpprepare your practice to weather both strong and weak economic times. The key to managing cash flow is the cash flow projection — a forecast of your practice’s cash receipts and expenditures.
A cash flow forecast shows the anticipated flow of money entering and leaving your practice on a monthly (or weekly) basis. With the help of this information, you’ll be able to create strategies to handle your practice’s cash surpluses and deficits and to control your overhead.
Creating a Forecast
The first step in creating a forecast is to examine your accounting records and historical patterns. For each income and expense category, project monthly cash receipts and expenditures. When you combine your practice’s cash balance at the beginning of the month with the projected net cash flow for the month, you can see if you will have a projected cash surplus or deficit at the end of the month.
Let’s say, for example, your projection for October indicates that cash expenditures will exceed receipts by $9,000 and you have an $8,000 cash balance at the beginning of October. Your deficit for that month is $1,000. Update your forecast monthly, if not weekly, using actual financial data.
What To Do with a Projected Deficit
If your projection indicates future cash flow deficits, you’ll need an action plan to deal with them. For example, you might use a line of credit, obtain a short-term loan, take steps to speed up the collection of money owed to your practice, or reduce expenses.
A line of credit will help you even out fluctuations in cash flow. A good accounts receivable tracking system should identify overdue accounts so that you can quickly follow up with delinquent patients and insurers. Stay on top of delinquent accounts with frequent calls and letters.
Reducing your practice’s expenses is another effective strategy for handling projected deficits. Some expense-reducing ideas to consider: an energy audit, a comprehensive review of purchasing policies, a reassessment of your practice’s space requirements, and a review of your current compensation practices.
Maximizing a Surplus
A surplus allows you to pay down a line of credit or invest in short-term or liquid instruments. Your bank most likely offers a variety of cash management services, such as an automated investment sweep, that can help your practice make the most of its excess cash.
An Important Tool
Cash flow projections can identify periods when cash may be tight so that you’ll have time to secure additional credit or take other steps to address the problem. CIG Capital Advisors medical practice management professionals can help identify and prioritize various measures that will help your practice run more efficiently. Specifically, we can help you review your current cash management practices and suggest possible improvements. Click here to schedule an initial complimentary phone consultation with a CIG Capital Advisors professional.
Financial statements are to accounting what CT scans and X-rays are to the medical profession: the financial health of a business or medical practice can be assessed by analyzing its financial statements. While most dentists would prefer to focus on dentistry rather than the business of dentistry, it can be beneficial for dentists (or any physician-owner) to familiarize himself or herself with the basics of financial statements.
Learning how to read financial statements allows a physician or dentist to see where the practice’s money came from, where it went, and where it is now. Dentists and physicians will want to be aware of the following three basic financial statements:
- Balance Sheet. The balance sheet provides detailed information about your practice’s assets, liabilities, and shareholder’s equity. It is a snapshot of the financial status of your practice as of a certain date. Assets are things the practice owns that have value. Assets may include physical property, such as office buildings and equipment, cash and investments, receivables, and intangibles, such as goodwill. Liabilities are amounts the practice owes to others. Liabilities can include items such as taxes owed to the government, bank loans, and money owed to vendors. Shareholders’ equity is the amount the practice would have left over if it sold all its assets for the amount appearing on the balance sheet and paid off its outstanding liabilities. This equity belongs to the practice owners.
- Income Statement. An income statement shows how much revenue your dental or medical practice generated over a specific period, usually a year. It also shows the costs and expenses that went into earning that revenue. The bottom line is the practice’s profit or loss for the reporting period. Pay close attention to the practice’s operating expenses, such as rent, utilities, and supplies. A practice that experiences a net loss may look to reduce its operating expenses in an attempt to return to the black.
- Cash Flow Statement. The cash flow statement reports the dental or medical practice’s inflows and outflows of cash during the reporting period. A cash flow statement tells you the net increase or decrease in cash. Cash flow statements are generally divided into three parts: cash flow from operating activities, cash flow from investing activities, and cash flow from financing activities.
As experienced advisors, we can help you dig deeper into your numbers and show you where you can make changes that will improve your practice’s bottom line. Contact a CIG Capital Advisors medical practice management professional today for a complimentary initial consultation.
CIG Capital Advisors’ managing director Yusuf Hai authored a recent article for Fierce Healthcare where he discusses how physician-owners can assess growth metrics in their medical practice and make adjustments that may affect the practice’s value with an eye toward a future sale:
The average primary care physician sees more than 20 patients a day, according to a 2018 survey of nearly 9,000 doctors by the Physicians Foundation.
That, along with the 11 hours they devote every week, on average, to paperwork, helps explain why 78% of those same physicians told surveyors they feel burned out at least some of the time.
Often times this adds up to physicians being too busy with day-to-day responsibilities to have time left over for running the business end of their medical practice, let alone for crafting strategies to drive long-term practice growth, or to consider their legacy as they chart a course toward future retirement.
Ask most physicians about their hopes for the future and they might say that, of course, they want to grow their practice and increase revenue.
It’s one thing to set that as a goal. It’s quite another to determine how and what kind of growth—and how much—will best suit a particular medical practice and its individual members.
Difficult as it may be, the reality is that growth won’t just result from hard work and hopes. Physicians who are truly serious about strategic growth or maximizing the practice’s value with an eye toward a future sale have to invest in the process—possibly even setting aside an entire day or more for business building.
Either way, the process always begins with something already familiar to doctors: diagnostics.
Lay the Groundwork
Start by taking a critical look at your practice’s current financial condition. Identify areas of weakness. For example, does your medical practice experience poor collections or weak cash flow? How do your staffing levels compare to those of similar practices? Issues such as these can reduce the appeal of your practice. It’s to your benefit to deal with them well before you put your practice on the market.
You’ll want to have a realistic appraisal of your practice’s potential worth before you put it up for sale. Tangible assets, such as medical equipment, computers, and furniture, are relatively easy to value, though they generally make up only a small part of a medical practice’s total value. Goodwill is an intangible asset that can be difficult to value. But there are methods that can be used to establish a reasonable estimate.
Identify Potential Buyers
You may receive an unsolicited offer. If you don’t, consider reaching out locally or contacting a broker who specializes in selling medical practices. An experienced broker can identify and contact qualified potential buyers.
The speed with which a sale may occur may largely depend on the deal you’re seeking. Do you want a buy-out that will let you continue to practice as an employee? In that case, looking for a group practice, hospital, or other corporate buyer may be the best route. If the sale goes through to one of these entities, you will be able to continue to work in medicine without the responsibilities of ownership.
If retirement is your goal, you may opt for a gradual buy-in by a physician who will take over your practice. Typically, this arrangement requires you to employ the prospective buyer and, under the terms of the deal, after a trial period of a year or two, offer a partnership with a documented exit arrangement for you. This arrangement could be in the form of a severance package.
Review All Offers Carefully
If you receive an offer, your focus should be on the would-be buyer’s financial condition and the payment terms if you plan on retiring. If you plan to continue working at the practice with the individual or entity who may buy it, you should carefully review all ramifications, including transfer expenses and malpractice terms involved in the sale.
Apart from satisfying yourself about the financial and legal issues involved in the sale, you should also feel that you will be able to fit into the potential buyer’s organization and that your advice and input will be welcomed. Remember, whatever way your medical practice’s sale is structured, there will be tax implications.
The business advisory team at CIG Capital Advisors can help you evaluate potential medical practice sale offers and determine the terms which might make it the right deal for you. Schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our business advisory professionals today.
Enhancing revenue and controlling expenses should be the primary financial focus of every medical practice.
Improving operational efficiencies can help bring a practice closer to achieving these financial goals. Here are some ways you can maximize your practice’s revenue stream and reduce costs without sacrificing patient care:
Keep Coding Current
Coding errors are all too common. Simple errors end up costing medical practices money as well as time to rectify mistakes. Delays or denied claims translate into reduced reimbursements, which, in turn, affect cash flow.
To minimize coding errors, you need to identify the cause of the problem. Typically, miscodes are due to undercoding to avoid penalty risk, using outdated data, or leaving coding decisions to inexperienced support staff. Periodic assessments of your practice’s coding accuracy can help uncover problem areas. These assessments could include a review of your practice’s forms and a comparison of billing codes with the actual services that were provided.
Maintaining updated coding manuals and software, keeping a code reference summary handy in exam rooms, and using online coding resources can help your practice attain a more accurate coding rate. So too will making notes during each patient visit. Be sure to have your staff attend refresher courses to help them stay current with coding practices.
Improve Employee Productivity
Eliminating inefficiencies and boosting employee productivity directly benefit your practice’s bottom line. Try these approaches to improving the productivity of your practice:
o Define productivity goals and offer incentives to your staff for reaching those goals.
o Delegate administrative functions so that physicians spend the greater part of their day seeing patients.
o Maximize physician and medical assistant billable time by planning patient flow carefully.
Better Control of Staff Time
Are your overtime expenses increasing from quarter to quarter? While some overtime is unavoidable, a consistent rise in overtime hours deserves some scrutiny. Review the payroll records of your non-exempt employees to determine who worked overtime and why. Was your practice fully staffed and simply busy or was it short one or more employees on the days when the overtime occurred? If overtime was necessary because you were short-staffed, see if this was due to vacations or some other controllable situation. It may be time to revise your practice’s policy on vacation time if scheduled time off was the cause of the overtime.
Update Fee Schedules
If your practice hasn’t raised fees in some time, you may want to consider appropriate increases. Just be aware that some patients may be resistant to fee increases and could switch to another provider. In addition, take a look at the reimbursement rates of all the plans you participate in. Run the numbers to determine whether it makes financial sense to continue accepting patients from some of the plans that reimburse poorly.
Medical and office supplies make up a portion of a practice’s expenses. Yet, some practices rarely shop around for more competitive prices. You can control expenses by becoming a smarter shopper. Pick some of your practice’s “high-volume” items and find out how much other vendors are charging. Use that information to negotiate lower prices with your current suppliers, consolidate orders with fewer vendors, or switch to new suppliers to save money.
Eliminating inefficiencies and boosting employee productivity directly benefit your practice’s bottom line. The business advisory professionals at CIG Capital Advisors can work with you to identify areas in your medical practice where streamlining operations may help optimize your practice’s bottom line.