Navigating an integrative health care practice resembles maneuvering through a maze. From the intricacies of hiring, marketing and managing taxes, accounting and insurance, to the dynamic nature of back-office operations, it’s an undeniable juggling act. However, amid these challenges, the core objective remains clear—ensuring the well-being and satisfaction of our patients.
Rather than succumbing to the conventional New Year’s Resolution routine, let’s infuse a fresh perspective into your integrative health care practice. Brace yourself for the top 10 tips meticulously arranged as a to-do list, enabling you to smoothly wrap up the prior year and propel your practice into the new year with the energy of a health care trailblazer.
1. Ensure a Comprehensive Year-end Cleanup
Initiating the year-end cleanup marks the first step. For those with employees, ensure a thorough verification of their personal information for seamless transmission to your accountant, facilitating smooth tax procedures. Similarly, for 1099 contractors or consultants, gather comprehensive details so that you can properly file taxes for these contractors.
2. Getting on Top of Accounts Receivables
Addressing accounts receivables is crucial to prevent potential cash flow issues as the year concludes or commences anew. If an accounts receivable backlog exists, now is the opportune moment to address it. This proactive step ensures that essential practice data is in order for your accountant and tax-related processes. Various measures can be taken to streamline this cleanup process:
• Build a report that shows the AR by insurance payer and date of service.
• Sort by date of service, focusing on anything under 90 days.
• Sort by insurance payer and size of claims.
• Prioritize the highest value claims and call the insurance company about these to understand why they were declined.
3. Reminding Your Patients to Use Their Sessions and FSA
Reach out to current clients and remind them of your services, emphasizing the use of insurance plan sessions and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). Many patients may still have unused sessions on their insurance plans, particularly as the end of the plan years approaches, coinciding with the likelihood that deductibles have been fulfilled, offering robust coverage for your services.
Prompt patients regarding their FSAs, as unlike Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), FSAs do not carry over into the new year. Some employers adhere to an IRS-approved grace period, extending the spending window for 2023 set-aside funds until as late as March 15, 2024. Build a communication plan that reminds current patients in January and February to use up their sessions and take advantage of their FSA funds.
4. Taxes: Early Preparation Yields Rewards
Commence tax preparation without delay, especially given the multiple tax deadlines faced by small business owners. One of the keys is to focus on expense tracking and ensuring meticulous organization of records for tax time or potential audits. For instance, maintain methodical organization of receipts, bills, assets, credit card statements and other financial documents.
Furthermore, consider how you can leverage deductions and stay informed about tax-saving opportunities, such as the ability to take advantage of bonus depreciation. Overall, early preparation and strategic thinking about taxes can save money and set the practice up for success.
5. Benefit Verification and Deductibles
As previously indicated, the conclusion of the year presents a strategic opportunity to capitalize on the culmination of in-network and out-of-network insurance expenditures by a considerable number of individuals. In particular, many insurance plan years don’t coincide with calendar year end. However, getting a handle on deductibles and re-verifying benefits is critical at the beginning of the year.
For health care professionals specializing in integrative care, reliance solely on online insurance portals for determining patient eligibility is cautioned against. By not calling the insurance payors directly, providers risk potential claim denials, delayed reimbursements, or inadvertently passing unexpected costs onto their patients.
6. Build an Annual Plan
Now is an opportune moment to consolidate data from the past year and delve into strategic planning, especially if you’re already immersed in the tax organization process—a seamless extension of your efforts. For those yet to embark on this journey, consider tip No. 4 for guidance. Often, practitioners overlook this crucial step due to perceived complexity. However, we recommend initiating a straightforward approach: commence by outlining your goals with a few bullet points, following these uncomplicated steps for effective planning. Begin the process by succinctly addressing a few questions.
• What are your overarching aspirations for this year? Focus on two key goals to avoid spreading efforts too thin. Examples may include: expanding your patient base, increasing revenue, optimizing time management, or addressing administrative challenges.
• Where can you cut costs this year? Identify areas for enhanced efficiency.
• If you had an additional $x, where would you invest? Consider strategic investments aligned with your goals.
• What are your hiring needs to support your goals? Outline roles needed and whether they should be in-house, part-time or outsourced.
By approaching strategic planning with clarity and simplicity, you lay a solid foundation for the upcoming year, aligning your efforts with achievable objectives.
7. Process & Tools Evaluation
At this pivotal juncture, it is opportune to evaluate and refine your processes and tools, setting the stage for heightened productivity and efficiency in the upcoming year. If you’ve already devised your annual plan, you’ll recognize the importance of fine-tuning processes and tools, whether the objective is revenue growth or cost reduction. In today’s dynamic landscape, practitioners contend with a myriad of practice management requirements, necessitating adept utilization of various tools:
Website, Search Engine and Performance Marketing
• Optimize your website and harness performance marketing tools to augment online visibility.
CRM and Email Marketing
• Employ Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and email marketing to streamline communication with your clientele.
Scheduling and Calendaring
• Implement efficient scheduling and calendaring tools to seamlessly manage appointments.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
• Utilize EHR systems for meticulous documentation of SOAP notes and patient information.
Clearinghouse and Billing
• Facilitate insurance filing and billing processes with reliable clearinghouse and billing tools.
Accounting, Tax and Payroll Systems
• Adopt systems for financial analysis, payroll, and tax compliance to ensure operational smoothness.
While these examples offer insight, the myriad considerations can be overwhelming. Pose questions to yourself to pinpoint areas for improvement: Can tools be consolidated? Which processes necessitate tools, and what can be outsourced? Identify processes or tools poised to enhance return on investment (ROI). By navigating these questions, you pave the way for an optimized practice management infrastructure.
8. Improving Hiring
With your annual plan in place, it’s also time to strategize how to support your goals, and a key component may involve hiring or making changes to your staff. Begin by crafting detailed job descriptions for the roles you need. Consider whether you require an additional front office person, an office manager or a biller. It’s crucial to be specific about the tasks each role entails. Next, determine whether these roles should be in-house, part-time, or outsourced.
Once your job descriptions are refined, you’re prepared to initiate the hiring process. Fortunately, there are free or low-cost online platforms available for recruiting, such as Indeed, Monster.com or LinkedIn. Leverage these platforms to reach a broad pool of potential candidates. Additionally, always prioritize conducting background checks as part of your hiring process. Utilize reputable background check tools like Checkr or Hireright to ensure a thorough evaluation of candidates’ criminal and employment histories. This diligence contributes to making informed and reliable hiring decisions.
9. Marketing & New Patient Acquisition
At the start of this year, allocate time for a comprehensive assessment of your online presence, with a particular focus on enhancing your local visibility.
Google Business Profile: Claim and optimize your Google Business Profile listing to ensure accurate and updated information. This optimization enhances your practice’s visibility in local search results, providing essential details for prospective patients. Encourage patients to leave reviews on your Google Business Profile, as positive reviews contribute to building credibility.
Yelp Business Profile: Similarly, claim and verify your Yelp profile, ensuring that all information is current and reflective of your practice. Yelp is a popular platform for users seeking health care services, and an optimized profile increases your chances of being discovered.
Online Reputation Management: Actively monitor online reviews across platforms and respond promptly to both positive and negative feedback. Demonstrating responsiveness shows that you value patient experiences and are committed to addressing any concerns raised.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media: Align your website copy with SEO best practices by incorporating specific details about the locations you serve and highlighting unique services. Consistently posting relevant content on social media platforms not only engages your audience but also contributes to improved search engine rankings.
By focusing on these aspects of your online presence, you can strengthen your practice’s visibility, reputation and engagement within the local community.
10. Cultivate Existing Patient Relationships
Building a consistent communication plan with existing patients as well as Care Plans that take advantage of their insurance session allowances will most rapidly increase your revenue. In particular, we’ve found that focusing your front desk not just on patient intake but on patient outbound/relationship building can be quite impactful. The New Year is also a great way to re-engage with patients. We’ve seen many practitioners be particularly successful with New Year incentives and discounts.
Another way to increase existing patient visits is to offer efficient online appointment scheduling. This reduces barriers to entry and encourages more people to seek your services.
In summary, the evolution of your integrative health care practice necessitates a comprehensive approach that intertwines financial management, patient engagement, strategic planning and impactful marketing. By conscientiously integrating these top 10 tips, your practice is poised to embark on a path of success in the forthcoming year.
Tina Hsiao is the COO of Soundry Health. Soundry is focused on delivering an all-in-one insurance billing service and EHR for integrative practitioners. Prior to joining Soundry, Hsiao was chief operating officer of WePay. She has also scaled and launched several businesses at Intuit and QuickBooks. Hsiao graduated from Columbia University with a BA and an MBA from Harvard Business School. For more information, visit www.soundryhealth.com.