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.
Oftentimes, 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.
Rather than X-rays or blood tests, doctors who want to grow their practice must begin with a panel of financial indicators: tax returns, productivity reports, an evaluation of their payer mix and more. It’s important to examine outlays, too. If a practice is spending more on equipment or staffing, or real estate, than peers of comparable size, bringing those expenditures in line with benchmarks may be the most effective treatment.
It also helps to examine the market. If your practice is in an area with an aging population, your approach to growth is oftentimes different than it would be in a location teeming with young families.
It sounds obvious, but just having the time to find those sorts of data may be well beyond the reach of the average overworked physician. That also explains why achieving growth by simply adding more patients isn’t practical.
This acknowledgment of limitations leads to questions about how best to grow. Is it more advantageous to acquire new locations and the physicians that come with them? Or does it better suit your goals to grow organically with more patients and a handpicked crop of new colleagues?
Finding colleagues who share your treatment philosophy and practice goals is vital, whether planning expansion or an exit strategy. As doctors well know, it’s not a given that those goals and philosophies will be shared. Culture fit is far more art than science, so while acquisitions or mergers may seem like an easy shortcut to growth and the added value that comes with it, they also require due diligence that goes well beyond spreadsheets.
For physicians who anticipate handing off their medical practice, the first step is also diagnostic, although in this case it is an honest valuation of the practice. This isn’t just a matter of placing a price tag on equipment or real estate, though that is part of it. Intangibles play a role, too: your reputation, and your practice’s reputation, have value as well.
For any medical practice contemplating a growth strategy, and for any physician planning a career exit, the most important thing to remember is that, just like patients, no two practices are identical. Consequently, there is no single prescription that will work for every practice.
And that is why a careful, individualized strategy is key to building and maintaining growth, whether for the purposes of seeing a practice through for the next two decades or for the next two years until a buyer arrives.
Yusuf Hai is a managing director at CIG Capital Advisors. To schedule an initial complementary consultation to discuss how you can add value to your medical or dental pratice, visit www.calendly.com/yhai.
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.