What sets successful medical practices apart in the $8.45 trillion global health care industry from the others who may be falling behind? In this ever-evolving industry, providers share the common goal of helping patients have a better quality of life. To achieve that goal, it’s necessary to focus on quality patient care and the bottom line. When reviewing practice resources, your most limited resource is time. There are only so many hours to see patients, so it’s essential to maximize that time. Here are five areas that successful practices focus on.

1. Strategic Planning

A strategic plan involves developing a vision for the practice and determining how to achieve that vision. These plans outline procedures, priorities, and action items that will help a practice meet those goals. But the plan itself isn’t enough. Better-performing medical practices take the time to evaluate the plan and to follow it. Strategic plans should be updated annually as well.

2. New Affiliation Models

Resources should be dedicated to staying abreast of new affiliation models. This research can be done through internal resources or consultants. It’s important to stay on top of the newest models in horizontal (single specialty) and vertical (hospital and health systems) spaces. The industry is seeing a lot of single specialty roll-ups via private equity firms and consolidation in the market, as well as collaborative care modeling via joint ventures with hospitals and health systems. Keeping up-to-date with what is happening in the industry is vital.

3. Outsourcing Opportunities

Successful practices are seeing greater ROI from outsourcing some of the core service functions like billing, credentialing, finance/accounting, human resource management, procurement, and revenue cycle. This approach allows them to access experts who are solely focused on enhancing the overall operational and financial performance. The job outlook for support roles like medical billing and coding specialists are growing at a rate of 11% a year. Outsourcing these fundamental services lets the physicians concentrate on caring for patients, enables leadership to focus on practice growth and strategic initiatives and leaves the back office functions to the specialists.

4. Culture

Medical practices that exhibit a culture where both physicians and staff are more productive and provide incentives for optimal productivity, compliance and quality initiatives tend to achieve better financial performance. Hiring (or outsourcing) the very best staff will provide a solid foundation for growth and patient satisfaction. These practices are seeking to continuously improve and update their compensation models to reflect the aforementioned key components in addition to enhancing their ability to recruit/retain new providers. They also tend to create attractive incentive and rewards models for practice leadership and staff. A successful practice maintains a culture focused on compliance and improvement of all aspects of the organization (best practices, team, technology, facilities, and advisors). It invests in the resources needed to optimize quality, compliance and productivity. This kind of culture is not achieved by a simple yearly meeting, but a focus on implementing these ideas as a culture shift and focus.

5. IT Solutions

Technology has been a key focus in medical practices for years, and it’s only getting more important. Successful practices proactively utilize IT solutions to meet demand. Most practices successfully pivoted to Telehealth technology to continue providing care during the pandemic. Further, the IT environment enables most ancillary equipment to be interfaced with the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system. Any time a practice can automate a manual function (i.e. printing a spirometer study report that will need to be scanned into the EMR), it enhances the overall efficiency. IT brings constant opportunities for improvement to medical practices, and the most successful ones keep up with the latest technology.

The health care industry is changing rapidly. New innovations in technology, best practices, and operations open new doors that allow medical practices to better serve patients in a timely and productive manner. High-performing practices focus on key areas of opportunity and growth in order to stay on top of the newest trends, remain organized, and maintain a culture of quality and compliance. These practices think, organize, and operate efficiently and strategically.

Andrew McDonald is a Shareholder and Practice Leader of LBMC Healthcare Consulting and LBMC Physician Business Solutions. He can be reached at amcdonald@lbmc.com.