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Five Steps to Sharpen Service Quality and Financial Performance in your Health Center

November 4, 2010

Federally qualified health centers (FQHC) face many challenges, but overcoming the financial ones are critical for survival. In this eBrief, we take a look at five ways to ensure that your FQHC not only survives, but thrives in these challenging timesare

Focus on administrative staff. Adequate clinical resources are critical to make sure patients are well taken care of, but don’t forget about the center’s administrative side. You need stellar administrative staff to manage the financial aspects of your center – something that FQHCs tend to overlook. Historically, FQHCs received sufficient funding for operations, but with today’s decreased reimbursement, extensive regulations and razor-thin profit margins, you have to be on top of your financial game. The right number of high quality administrative staff can ensure your center’s success.

Be efficient. Efficient operations directly benefit the bottom line of your FQHC as well as your patients. Develop “ready-for-the-day” checklists for staff, and make rooming patients a science. Encourage standardization of exam rooms and use technology to support efficient workflow. For a busy division, consider assigning a staff member as the patient flow coordinator, a position not unlike an air traffic controller.

Focus on the revenue cycle. Request applicable payments from patients at the time of service, and maintain tight internal controls to ensure that internal fraud doesn’t reduce your margins. Train providers to document and code accurately for the services they render; a one-time, coding overview won’t work for physicians – or coders. Coding education is essential, at least annually. Think of coding as the means by which your providers translate their work into money; not knowing the system spells disaster. Bill and collect – consistently and unfailingly.

Develop a dashboard. Focus first on patient access indicators, such as the missed appointment rate and the time-to-next-available appointment for both new and established patients. Without patients – your customers – there are no other business indicators. Track the center’s daily activity by measuring encounters in each division. Encourage each division to develop key quality indicators, such as immunization rates for primary care. Financial indicators should go beyond calculating overhead to also include cash on hand, percent of claims denied, days in receivables outstanding, aged trial balance, and net collection rate. Don’t bury these numbers in hefty reports. Use color graphs to display the data – and share it with staff at all levels of the organization.

Make work fun. This economic recession is stressful for patients, providers and employees alike. Personal stress can quickly flow into the workplace, reducing productivity and customer service quality. Financial bonuses are not the only option to boost provider and employee morale. Instead, write a note of appreciation for a job well done, give everyone a bag of popcorn and attach complimentary movie tickets on a Friday afternoon after a busy week or bring several large trays of lasagna to share for lunch. Develop contests for decorating workstations for the holidays, or encourage providers and employees to submit artwork – photographs, painting, quilts, etc. – for display in the center. Most of all, never let a week go by without saying “thank you” to everyone.

In these trying economic times, your patients, providers and employees need a financially secure health center. Your FQHC can’t get there without paying closer attention than ever before to efficiency, revenue, indicators of access and finances, and – just as important – motivating providers and employees alike.

Sage can help
When it comes to efficiency, streamlining practice workflow and reporting Sage has the experience to support you. With a history over 25 years developing healthcare technology, we know what works when partnering with practices. From practice management and Electronic Health Records to Electronic Data Interchange and easy-to-use analytics dashboards our solutions are designed to help your organization hum, so you can focus on what you do best – delivering care.

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