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How Ancillary Services Can Boost Patient Care and Profits

September 30, 2015

Convenience is desired in almost all aspects of our lives and healthcare is no exception. Physicians are listening to demands for a one-stop shopping experience at their practices, and in response, many are beginning to offer ancillary services within their primary-care practice. In-house medication dispensing, physical therapy, lab tests and X-ray services are now being offered at the same office where the preliminary examination happens.

All of this is done with the purpose of making the patient’s care more convenient. While these services can help your bottom line, the most important benefit is enhanced patient care and a boost in patient satisfaction. In an environment of rising costs and decreasing reimbursements, it’s no surprise that practices are expanding their menu of services.

Assessing the Benefits
Ancillary services help your practice attract and retain patients. Additional services like lab tests, urine drug screens, medication dispensing and physical and occupational therapy open your doors to a new group of patients and improves the experience of your current patients by making it easier to follow through on a physician’s recommendation.

Additional services can also improve the quality of care a patient receives. As the primary-care physician, you can control the quality of every step in a patient’s care because you are in direct contact with the other professionals providing the services.

For example, if an X-ray comes back to you and the image quality is not satisfactory, a second image can easily be taken without sending the patient all over town to have the X-ray redone. Another benefit of performing these services in-house is better tracking. Often when patients are sent out for a test, tracking patient progress becomes more difficult and patients are more likely to slip through the cracks of the system.

Choosing the Right Services
It is important to use market research to determine which services are right for your practice. The first step is to look at the most common services you refer out of your office and decide which of those services you could easily transition internally without hiring extra support. Once you have identified these services, assess the new value the service will provide, how patients will benefit from it and whether you have space and infrastructure to support it. 

There are many components to this decision, but here are a few recommendations to consider:
  • Calculate your startup costs and compare them to the costs of contracting out the same service.
  • Verify that insurers will reimburse you for the service.
  • Determine if there is enough consumer demand to generate the volume needed to make a profit.
  • Create budgets for best and worst case scenarios. Consider patient volume and reimbursement levels.
  • Create a timeline for implementation.
  • Evaluate your work flows to ensure you have enough staffing to provide the new service.
The next step in launching a new service is creating an implementation plan. Your plan should include items like staff training or hiring, work flow modifications and a marketing strategy.

Hiring new staff is an investment, but studies have shown that the most successful practices tend to have higher than average levels of support staff. Ensuring you have enough staff to keep processes running smoothly helps lessen the administrative burden on physicians.

It is important to think about how patients will move throughout your practice during their visit. The path should be logical and efficient for the patient and the staff.  For example, if your practice offers medication dispensing services, there should be an area near the exit for patients to pick up prescriptions. You may need to modify your space to achieve the desired efficiency.

You marketing strategy should include targeting potential patients and other physicians. Informing other physicians of your ancillary services will help you grow your network and increase volume. Easy and cost effective marketing tactics include adding a section your website about your new services, promoting on social media outlets and providing handouts in the reception area.

Your top priority should always be improving the quality of patient care. While not all ancillary services are profitable, they do play an important role in your practice’s success by improving care and boosting patient satisfaction.