In the past, urologists have enjoyed high profit margins brought on by a slow and steady stream of patients. However, this trend has changed considerably in recent years, with an influx of patients and very thin profit margins. How can the profitability of a urodynamics testing operation be increased? Here, five methods for improving revenues will be discussed.
Improve Patient Compliance
One problem that urologists and those who offer urodynamics testing often face is poor patient compliance. For instance, a patient may present himself for symptoms of overactive bladder or interstitial cystitis, but never return for testing after he has read about the potentially uncomfortable procedures.
One way to overcome this limitation is to invest in new technologies that improve patient compliance by eliminating the discomfort and potential for pain associated with traditional urodynamics. For instance, the UroCuff is a noninvasive device intended for men, which is a reliable alternative to pressure-flow studies. The UroCuff is a penile cuff that is especially useful for diagnosing bladder outlet obstruction. Due to its noninvasive characteristics, men are more likely to undergo testing with this technique, thus improving profitability.
Additional methods to improve compliance include using a text messaging patient reminder system and having a knowledgeable staff person call the patient the night before to allay any unwarranted fears about the procedure. The text messaging system works because text messages have a 97% open rate, so you are almost guaranteed that the patient will see the message and don’t accidentally forget the appointment. Calling patients provides that extra layer of coddling that patients’ desire. BHN provides a no-cost patient notification system to its clients and offers to call patients as well. For clients that utilize both of these approaches in tandem, we see non-compliance of less than 5%. This drastically increases profitability because it increases revenue and increases efficiency at the same time. It is a great day when 12 patients are booked for appointments and 12 patients show up on time for testing.
Expand the Marketplace
For small and / or rural practices, a major hurdle to profitability can be lack of patients. One way to improve the number of patients that you can see is to join forces with a nearby hospital or medical group.
In fact, remaining independent in today’s economy has been more difficult than ever, with some physicians choosing to sell their practices altogether in favor of joining large groups. By making this move, physicians are enjoying larger economies of scale and deeper pools of resources, which improves their profit margins. Indeed, as urodynamics are becoming a top ancillary service, many hospitals are in search of doctors that can effectively perform testing.
There are three keys to success when it comes to improving profits: increasing reimbursements, decreasing overhead, and improving efficiency. Since those first two factors are not simple to control, we will discuss how to improve efficiency, as a few small changes can significantly improve patient flow. These include:
- Ensure lab results are on the patient’s file before he or she arrives for appointment
- Hire a lesser paid “scribe” to write down patient complaints and medical history
- Leave two 15 minute time windows in the day’s scheduling for emergency appointments
- Give patients a card to write down all questions they may have for the physician
- Create videos for patients to independently view regarding common procedures
- Provide educational materials regarding medical procedures and diagnoses
- Take action regarding mail or reports immediately
- Do not allow paperwork to accumulate
- Use your commute to return patient phone calls
Outsource Diagnostic Testing
The purchase of testing equipment can be a significant burden on independent practices, not to mention the requirement to train or hire additional staff. For this reason, many practices are turning towards outsourcing of their diagnostic testing to improve revenues.
For instance, urodynamics equipment can require years for practices to fully pay off. In the uncertain world of mergers and acquisitions, it oftentimes makes more sense to focus on the maintenance of equipment that is used daily, such as ultrasound, instead of equipment that has a low return on investment when used infrequently. Additionally, the price of equipment is rarely considered in transactions when practices are being purchased, making diagnostic tools an unwise investment for facilities with an uncertain future.
Another advantage of outsourcing is that it frees up nurses and improves efficiency of the practice. Few nurses enjoy urodynamic testing due to the invasive and uncomfortable nature of the procedure.
However, when diagnostic testing is outsourced, nurses that specialize in the specific form of testing are utilized, which also has the added benefit of fewer artifacts and more reproducible results. Outsourcing also eliminates the need to train staff, or the chaos that ensues when the best-trained nurse unexpectedly leaves the practice.
The profitability of outsourcing occurs because practices are charged on a per-patient basis. Reimbursements exceed the cost of testing, leading to increased revenues for the practice.
Offer Additional Services
Finally, urodynamic testing operations can improve their profitability by offering additional services to provide patients with a one-stop shop for treatment. The top ancillary services include lithotripsy, CT scanning, outpatient surgery, pathology, clinical research and drug studies, and radiation. While the cost of adding new equipment can be prohibitive in some cases, for many physicians the return on investment when providing ancillary care is worth the upfront costs.
If you would like to offer urodynamics within your practice or are currently offer urodynamics but are considering outsourcing it, click on the button below to receive a detail brochure and pricing information regarding BHN's turn-key urodynamic testing services.