People look into the new year as a time to make change – resolutions, new plans, new budgets. It’s a time to look back at the year and to make plans to live and work differently in the light of the fresh start of the new year.
Let’s take a look at some things that should be in place or need to be in place quickly for your practice:
1. Performance reviews: While “traditionally” done in December, I sometimes think that reviews in January put us in the mind-set of looking to the future, rather than simply dwelling on the past. Performance reviews should be oriented to who to improve and how the practice will work with employees to improve and to grow.
2. Budget: Should be in place and have been adopted by the governing body of the practice.
3. Holiday/closing schedule: A memo is issued each year noting which days the practice will be closed for holidays or other planned closings.
4. Deductibles have been reset to “zero”, so you have to go through the guessing game – with your patients – as to how much to collect at the time of service. If you end up with a credit balance, particularly for Medicare patients, don’t let it hang around. If you owe patients money, refund it or, at a minimum, find out what they want to do.
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6. While your local congressman and senators are home, or are home for longer weekends, write, call and visit to press the message that the Medicare reimbursement rate has to be increased and remain so for the entire year, not just the current six months that President Bush and the administration would accept. Suddenly getting fiscal religion on the backs of physicians and, well, a good part of the citizenry is morally and fiscally short-sighted and wrong.
If you haven’t done so already, plan a brief meeting with all of your staff to talk about the year to come. My suggestion: close a half hour early at and bring in lunch (your nickel, not a drug company). Your theme should be upbeat: yes, these are real problems and challenges, but we will remain focused on caring for our patients and will work through what is thrown at us. Your staff is aware of what is going on in our industry – what they are looking to hear is how you will lead them through the turmoil.