Rising rent and energy costs. Hiring new staff. Marketing costs. For urgent care owners and providers, the cost of doing business can really add up. How do you continue to be profitable in a very competitive market?
Meeting your financial responsibilities, growth, and positive cash flow begins with a focus on revenue—specifically, increasing it. The following is our list of the top 8 ways you can increase urgent care revenue, even when business is ebbing instead of flowing.
1. Improve RCM
Effective revenue cycle management is one of the big keys to staying profitable, mostly because it’s an everyday challenge with many facets. The good news is that with training and oversight, you have control over your revenue cycle.
Managing your revenue cycle begins at the front desk. Be sure you put the right person in this important and high-profile position, and then require training—not just on how to greet visitors—but how to check insurance coverage to make sure it’s active. With real-time verification (RTV), you’ll not only verify coverage, but can determine patient responsibility from the outset, and ask for this percentage of the charge before the patient leaves the office. The more you collect at the time of the visit, the less time and energy will be required during the billing process.
In addition to RTV, be sure everyone that touches a patient record understands the importance of accuracy, from patient registration and charting to E/M codes.
- Incorrect or incomplete documentation habits lead to poor coding.
- Under-coding results in a loss of revenue, while up-coding can initiate audits.
Neither is a good result.
Is your staff using the right CPT codes and modifiers? Did you know the misuse of modifiers can lead to claim denials? Inaccurate coding can necessitate resubmission of claims that costs your clinic time and money. Audit claim levels over a specified amount of time and compare them to industry benchmarks to see how your clinic stacks up.
Once billing is complete, following up on delayed and denied claims should be a priority. Although it does require time to review and refile, your revenue depends on managing all unpaid claims promptly.
2. Leverage technology
Like it or hate it, technology is not just a passing fad. It’s integrated into the healthcare system. You have two choices: Use it to your advantage, or fight it all the way. The second option really isn’t an option if you want to reduce waste and increase accuracy.
Offering online appointments can make your clinic more accessible to savvy online healthcare consumers, and even more traditional patients who are increasingly going to the web to find providers. Online scheduling offers convenience and flexibility, which is a good first step for health providers.
A prudent second step is sending a quick text-based survey to patients promptly after their visit to assess patient satisfaction. This short survey can help you calculate your Net Promoter Score (NPS) and respond to customers quickly when they aren’t happy with their visit. Overall, you’ll build patient loyalty and hold onto your patients that might be on the fence.
When it comes to billing, speed up payment processing by offering electronic fund transfers (EFT) to your patients. EFT enables quick bill pay at the time of visit, and after invoices for remaining charges are sent out to patients. Promoting paying by credit or debit card is one way to keep money flowing back into your practice.
Telemedicine is one the hottest growth trends for urgent care. By offering this growing online service to your patients, you’ll expand your service area, offer additional convenience to patients who just need a simple follow-up, and even balance your patient load between multiple clinics during the cold and flu season or other busy times during the year.
3. Extend hours
While it may seem like a simple solution, having more patients generally translates to more revenue. Extending your hours to open earlier, close later, and stay open on weekends or holidays can help you get more patients through the door. Urgent care is, by design, exists for patients when traditional healthcare clinics are closed or too busy to fit them in. Be sure you are ready and waiting when patients need to be seen.
4. Negotiate everything
As a business owner/operator, you understand that while some costs are fixed, others are negotiable. Be proactive and negotiate everything you can, from cleaning services to office supplies to leases and marketing costs.
When possible and if the price is right, join buying groups or networks to buy supplies in bulk for a lower cost. Print various marketing materials all at once to get better pricing from print shops. Compare lease prices and approach your landlord or leasing company with a proposal for leasing space or equipment instead of waiting to be told the cost.
You may be surprised at how much the savings add up when you negotiate, and all those savings help your overall revenue.
5. Consolidate staff
Inadequate staffing can be a nightmare for urgent cares, but overstaffing has a detrimental effect on your revenue. To be sure you have a just-right staff on duty, you’ll need to take a look at the data. First review your visit volume week-to-week comparing peak times versus slow times to find any patterns that might help you make coverage decisions. Next, take a step back and look at year-over-year volume to identify seasonal trends. Armed with the right data, you can be sure your scheduling is on-target.
Speaking of staffing, even the best plans can be taken off course. Be sure to identify members of your staff who are more readily available in a pinch, and those who don’t mind going home when business is slow. Adding a few people with more flexibility to your staff gives you more wiggle room when your prediction turns out to be off.
6. Add service lines
Once your urgent care clinic is established and running smoothly, think about adding a service line or two. OccMed is the go-to add-on. It’s a smart choice because it helps to balance the workflow throughout the year, providing a steady stream of patients for lab testing, Workers’ Comp, and all other workplace-related medicine. It can also be a source of new patients and serve a need in your community.
Increasingly, urgent cares are adding secondary service lines such as travel medicine, sports medicine and concussion screening, and providing durable medical equipment.
If you feel like this is a good option for you, start with identifying the specific needs in your community, then make a choice that fills that need.
7. Engage and retain patients
The urgent care industry arose out of a need for on-demand healthcare for patients who couldn’t—or didn’t want to—wait for days to see their primary care doctor, and as a valuable and low-cost alternative to the ER. By design, many patients follow up with their primary care physician. As ironic as it may seem, this is the very reason it’s important to provide the best healthcare experience possible. Patients must be left with a memorable and positive first impression so they return when they find themselves in need of an urgent care again, and recommend your clinic to friends and family.
Engagement is one of the keys to retaining patients. When you engage with patients, you let them know they’re more than just another number—that you care about them and their health. If you want to facilitate engagement, online solutions like Clockwise.MD by DocuTAP can be great tools. Providing online scheduling makes appointment setting easy, flexible, and convenient for on-demand consumers. Once they find you online, they don’t have to pick up the phone during business hours; they can find and book an appointment that fits into their schedule. Text messaging gives you an opportunity to connect with them before the visit, to remind them of their appointment and let them know if there are any delays. This allows them to adjust their schedule when necessary, and saves them from spending too much time in the waiting room. And it lets them know you understand their time is valuable.
Soon after the appointment, send a simple survey to gauge their satisfaction. And when they indicate dissatisfaction, respond promptly with a call to find out their concerns. A post-visit text is not invasive, it tells them that you care about their experience, and can provide valuable information about how to improve your patient experience. All of these tools help to build relationships, increase loyalty, and increase your revenue over time.
8. Increase your presence online and on the street
Perception can make or break your urgent care. It begins on the street. Be sure your location is convenient, easy to see from the street, and looks inviting inside and out.
But perception reaches beyond curb appeal. Think of your website as a second “location” and send the same inviting message on the screen when people find you online. Be sure your website is easy to navigate, with links to online scheduling, social networks such as Facebook, and service review sites like Yelp. Your online presence can also help you build your visit volume—and revenue—by attracting new patients and allowing them to be your best marketers.
In the urgent care industry, visit volume can be seasonal with ups and downs. The best way to stay on track is to be sure you keep your eyes on operational processes and strategies, making adjustments, and always delivering the best urgent care experience for your patients.