Somewhere along the way, the idea that medical practice profitability hinges on minimizing staffing seems to have taken hold. My partners and I theorize that the notion gained momentum in the managed care wave of the 1990s, when many practices saw their revenues dramatically squeezed. Cutting expenses seemed essential—and cutting staff seemed like the logical way to do it.
That may have sounded right in the 90s, and it may even sound right in 2016. But what if the right approach to profitability is actually not so simple?
Cost-cutting always seems like a sure way to improve practice profit. Because it’s often the single biggest practice expense, staff is usually the first place managers and owners look to make cuts. And in some cases, there may be excess that can be cut. But many practices already run very lean. Cutting staff or staff hours in those cases runs the risk of making the practice even less profitable. Without enough medical practice staff, key tasks may be done more slowly, less well, or maybe even not at all.
With enough staff, on the other hand, you might be able to increase revenue. As staff members build more skills, and technology helps them do their jobs better, they can handle more. Practices that work as a team to help staff reach their fullest potential also enable their practices to reach higher levels of productivity.
Our consulting group once worked with a doctor who achieved astonishing productivity (off the charts compared to benchmarks) by investing significant up-front time training MAs and creating a customized workflow. He used three MAs to the fullest and moved quickly through his day. Morale was just as high as productivity; the doctor was able to do more of what he loves to do, and the MAs felt great to be contributing at the top of their skills, too.
It’s rare to find a practice that doesn’t have opportunities like that to redefine and refine staff roles to make everyone more productive—especially as technology continues to improve.