Many audiology practices suffer financially simply because their scheduling methods do not focus on revenue generation. There are many things you can do to maximize your revenue potential. Below are our best tips for ensuring you don’t miss out on every revenue opportunity.
The first step in creating an efficient means of scheduling audiology visits is to research your patients, managed care plans and insurance. In order to know your patients, check your database to determine how many use private insurance, how many use Medicare/Medicaid and how many are walk-ins.
When it comes to managed care plans, points to consider include whether reimbursement amounts meet your hourly rate requirement and which insurance companies the plans are contracted with. From there you can decide which are best for you to participate in.
Finally, it is important to know your patients’ insurance plans, including the reimbursement amounts, ability to balance bills and renewal schedules. It may be helpful to create a cheat sheet for front office staff, administrators and providers.
Your entire staff, from your front office staff to the referring providers, needs to understand what audiology is, how it functions and how the department makes money. To do this, you should walk each staff member through the process as if they were a patient, educating them on which types of appointments are revenue generating and which are not. This way they know that when scheduling, revenue appointments need to be made a priority.
Educate staff on identifying potential audiology patients by giving them a profile of your average patient. For example, if someone is 50+ years old and has never had a hearing test, enforce a policy to perform this service before they see the physician for their chief complaint. When speaking to patients, your schedulers need to know what questions to ask in order to differentiate your services and answer basic questions.
Whenever you host an audiology event or create other marketing initiatives, whether it’s a lunch and learn, tested not treated letter, four plus letter or open house, make sure your whole staff knows about it. Create a script for each event and make sure your front office staff are comfortable talking about and answering questions about the event.
There are several ways you can communicate with your patients in a way that can help drive revenue. For example, you should provide an option for patients whose insurance or managed care plan you do not work with. Fuel can help you develop a strategy to work with such patients.
In addition, you should communicate and enforce a cancellation and no-show policy. Put this policy in writing, especially for new patients. $150-$250 is the standard professional fee for no-shows.
If you choose to accept walk-ins, limit them to a specific timeframe just one or two days a week.
Finally, educate patients on what the audiology and hearing aid process is and set expectations. Fuel can help you remove the “white coat syndrome” many patients experience.
Why Scheduling Strategies Are Important
Demand for audiology providers is projected to grow 30 percent over the next ten years – more than any other occupation. As of April 2018, there were 767 job openings for an audiologist or hearing health care provider on Audiology Online, while there are only 74 audiology programs nationwide. In addition, the average audiology class size is eight students – which is not enough to keep up with demand.
Where Do You Start?
First consider how many clinical hours you have in a year to provide services. If a single provider works 40 hours per week 48 weeks per year, that means they have 1920 available hours. Further, for one audiologist at a single location, this equates to about 240 hearing aids over five years (at 20 units per month per provider, a conservative estimate) if 144 patients are seen per year at an 80 percent binaural rate. This totals 720 active patients for one provider over five years.
Now we have calculated there are 720 patients all in different stages of their treatment plan, and we need to figure out how much time it takes to manage their hearing loss. Here is a breakdown of appointment lengths:
- Diagnostic Audio – 30 mins by audiologist
- Hearing Aid Evaluation – 30 mins by audiologist
- Hearing Aid Fitting – 60 mins by audiologist
- Follow-up Appointment – 30 mins by audiologist
- Annual Clean & Check – 60 mins by audiologist
- Repair – 30 mins by audiologist
So the annual hourly breakdown by patient is as follows:
- New Patient: 4-5 hours
- Year 2 & 3 in treatment plan: 1-2 hours
- Year 4 & 5: 1 hour
- One year of servicing 720 hearing aid patients: 1842 hours
This data means practitioners are already spending almost all their time servicing the 144 new patients per year and following up with your existing patients from the previous four years. So the question is, what do practices do aside from working more hours and where do they find time for balance, tinnitus and cochlear patients?
Maximizing Your Schedule
In order to maximize your schedule, you should know how much time you have available to see patients, figuring out which appointment types you are spending your time on, and considering which appointments a tech or assistant can take off your audiologists’ plates to free up more time for revenue generating appointments.
One effective way of maximizing your schedule is, as discussed previously, to implement a cancellation/no-show policy. First make sure your patients are aware of your policy. Secondly, send out appointment reminders by phone call or by letter. According to a study by Ohio State in 2007, implementing phone calls to notify patients of upcoming appointments results in a 15 percent improvement in attendance rates. A no-show fee can be effective even if you don’t enforce it.
Here are some other things to consider when it comes to scheduling audiology visits to maximize revenue:
- How much time does your office allocate for administrative duties?
- How does your office balance independent audiology time vs. ENT on-call time?
- Do you prioritize patients by appointment type?
- Solution: use block scheduling to ensure you can always schedule revenue generating appointments.
- How do you schedule your Medicare/federally funded patients?
- Solution: limit the days per month/week on when you will see them.
If you have any questions or would like more information about maximizing your revenue potential through best scheduling practices, contact your Regional Manager today.