It is often said that those who do not learn from mistakes are condemned to repeat them. While success stories are important in independent practice as they show what can be achieved, it is just as important not to gloss over mistakes. Being aware of what can go wrong provides insights that can help us all to progress.
Here are five errors that I regularly see in independent practice. By being alert to the pitfalls, I hope that readers will be able to sidestep them:
1. Practising in isolation – A potential risk in independent practice is that it is easier to become isolated which can be stressful, as well as making it harder to revalidate, keep up to date with new innovations and share best practice.
If you are working in a single-handed practice, guard against isolation by connecting with fellow doctors at every opportunity. Aside from professional and clinical matters, I’d also recommend seeking advice on practice ownership from those who have been there. With more than 20 years’ experience in the independent health sector, I’m always happy to help practitioners who are unsure about any aspect of practice administration and management.
2. Using generic software – It is possible to get by with separate spreadsheets, word processing and generic accounting software but you will probably waste precious time having to re-enter data on different systems and this will become more of a challenge as your practice grows.
A practice management system which is developed specifically for independent practice should allow you to manage your workflow from one place which is more time efficient and will quickly repay your investment.
3. Billing procrastination – Bills which are submitted months after the service date present problems for the recipient and is storing up serious cashflow problems for the practice too.
Ensuring you are properly remunerated for your expertise, services and time is essential if you want your practice to stay afloat. Electronic billing is a highly efficient way to manage the process as you can create and submit bills online in a fraction of the time. Plus, e-bills submitted via Healthcode’s clearing system are secure and validated according to insurer rules so they are ready for processing and payment.
4. Pricing confusion – Fees are a complex area and misunderstandings could leave you out of pocket, facing a patient complaint or in dispute with a PMI.
I recommend drawing up a common pricing table that everyone in the practice can refer to and use to advise patients. Use this to record your fees for consultations, procedures and diagnostic tests for every specialist and any exceptions for where these differ for particular PMIs or patient groups.
5. Not establishing systems – While you might have a clear image of how you want your practice to run, you can’t expect others to automatically adopt your working methods.
Whether it’s making appointments, , responding to subject access requests or credit control, it makes sense to invest the time in establishing clear step-by-step procedures for everyone to follow. That way, you can provide an efficient, consistent service for every patient and minimise the chance of a costly mistake.