Monday, June 15, 2015

Malpractice Cases and the Impact on Doctors' Time

Malpractice Cases and Doctors' Time
Malpractice and Doctors' Time
Anyone who has worked with physicians—or any healthcare providers, for that matter—know that medical malpractice claims inflict tremendous burdens— financial, emotional, work, and time—on the entire healthcare system.

Can you say, “Duh!”? We’ve known that for a long time! These cases don't necessarily consume all his or her time, but it lurks about in the corners of the physician’s mind, both conscious and unconscious.

The financial costs aren’t even measurable. Consider the ways that today’s flood of litigation imposes costs on an already struggling system. To name just the big, obvious ones:
  • Legal costs, legal-system resources, and breathtaking jury awards; 
  • Six-digit annual malpractice premiums; 
  • Loss of physician (and support staff) productivity; and 
  • Defensive medicine’s redundant and unnecessary tests and procedures. 
The most common solution proposed by healthcare advocates—tort reform—seems to be working in some states. The thousands of lawyers we have elected to Congress and to state assemblies resist the idea, but not just to serve their own interests. Damage caps threaten the rights of plaintiffs. When a bad provider has indeed been negligent, the system needs to go further than a financial “slap on the wrist.” Punitive damages are needed to punish wrongdoers. Further, damage caps address only one small portion of the system costs. Productivity loss and defensive medicine costs will continue to burden the system.

We’ve become a real fan of properly executed “disclosure and apology” programs. Other scientific studies show tremendous positive impact on the medicolegal systems where such programs have been implemented. The beauty of disclosure and apology programs is that they bring providers and patients to the same side of the table. The tort system makes them enemies—a disclosure/ apology system can make them allies.

Resolved claims take less time—but still a long time. After a suit is filed, it takes from 16 to 21 months to come to a conclusion. The litigation process can actually be more distressing for the doctors than the potential financial damages. During adjudication, the stress can be nearly overwhelming, as physicians deal with a loss of reputation and the loss of time spent dealing with the claim instead of practicing medicine.

The suffering reaches beyond the physician to include his or her staff, the patient, and the patient’s family as well. It’s to everyone’s benefit to find ways to speed up the process and shorten the time required to resolve malpractice cases. Several suggestions for fast-tracking a resolution include creating special malpractice courts or implementing effective apology and disclosure programs.

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Way to Market a Medical Practice Post-ACA

Marketing post ACA
Marketing practices
post ACA
There are really six marketing methods, but the reminder is that we still have work to do in the marketing/public relations department. Healthcare reform appears to some physicians as doom and destruction looming on the horizon, but it’s not the first time the demise of private practice has been predicted. (The doom-and- gloom accompanying the passage of Medicare back in 1965 comes to mind.) To be sure, we believe that ACA causes serious disruption for providers, employers, insurers, and government agencies! But we also believe in the creativity and adaptability of American business leaders.

Medical Practices are sorting it out. There are some casualties, and additional circumstances will bring additional pressures. For example, the growing physician shortage will peak during the years the healthcare market tries to adjust to ACA.

Some physicians clearly believe it’s time to plan exit strategies, early retirement, and practice sales. Bailing out would certainly be one way of “adapting,” but we remain convinced there will still be opportunities to run thriving practices in the future—even physician-owned practices. Branding, outstanding service, and high-quality medical care won’t go out of style.

Physicians may actually believe that marketing their practices in 2015 could bring in more patients than they could possibly handle. But marketing is about more than trying to increase volume— an effective strategic marketing plan can help a practice attract a “desirable patient base” from the new, larger patient pool.

Even if there are more insured patients out there shopping for a physician, not every patient is a “good fit” for your practice. An effective marketing plan does more than attract business— it differentiates the practice, making it stand out against the competition.

Here are six strategies that will continue to be effective. Here are six of them:
  • Establish yourself as the expert in your field.
  • Well-known clinics (like Mayo or Cleveland) have leveraged their expertise into unassailable reputations in the marketplace.
  • Brand your practice. Highlight individual physicians’ areas of interest and expertise, and find ways to communicate them. Don’t be afraid to use logos, Web sites, and consistent marketing to make your practice recognizable among the public.
  • Attract the patients you want. Determine your best patient mix, and allocate marketing resources accordingly.
  • Announce new physicians and services. Make a big deal out every practice expansion.
  • Build relationships with other doctors. With ACA emphasizing team-based care, cultivating referrals will be more important than ever.
  • Build a better patient experience. Patients don’t usually know enough to judge a physician’s medical skills. They do, however, know how they’re treated by your staff and whether the office is warm and inviting. Features like these motivate patients to return and to send referrals your way. Embark on a strategy of constant quality improvement in every area of “customer service.”
If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.