5 keys to MU and adopting a 'lawyer business model'
A lot has been written about meaningful use, and although many claim it's "all good," Steve Ferguson, patient management officer at Hello Health, believes its drawbacks, such as the cost of IT and the changes it means for a doctor's practice, could outweigh the benefits of potential HITECH Act stimulus funds.
"It seems like a lot of new work for little, if any, actual gain," said Ferguson. "So here’s an idea: instead of, or in addition to, chasing MU money, what if doctors started re-thinking how they do business on a very basic level? And rather than reinvent the wheel, what if they borrowed aspects of the very successful lawyer model?"
"What if doctors in primary care adopted aspects of the lawyer business model?" Ferguson continued. "What if they charged for access to information – or at least the time their staff put into providing that information? What if doctors turned their charts into a revenue center?"
Ferguson outlines five keys to MU and adopting a lawyer-like business model.
1. It's about finding the ROI on the ROI. According to Ferguson, the first "ROI" means release of information, and "is a great little unexploited aspect of primary care," he said. "The second ROI is the more popular, almost mythical concept of return on investment – mythical, at least when doctors in small practices embark on the path of acquiring an EHR." But, he added, the issue is, it doesn't exist. "It's like the Loch Ness monster of practice financials, unless, of course, doctors begin to think like lawyers."
[See also: Meaningful use final rule to see 'minor revisions'.]
2. Doctors need to adopt a lawyer-like mindset. Primary care doctors, said Ferguson, should consider setting up a protocol within their practice that requires staff to manage all requests for information like a lawyer. "Run these requests through the practice management, accounts receivable, or even EMR system," he said. Set fees for each type of request, based on what sort of entity is making the requisition. "For example, a life insurance company needs a patient chart to process a claim? $100," he said. "A lawyer needs files for a case? $200. A specialist needs the last three years of labs for a new patient referral? $50. You get the idea."
3. Education is key for all parties involved. "Generate invoices, no freebies, be organized, and be professional," said Ferguson. Doctors need to educate their staff as well to get them to buy in. "They must educate their referral network at the same time," he said. "Explain to them that this is how they roll now. Why not? The lawyer doesn't blink an eye." If transacting like this is out of a doctor's comfort zone, he added, he/she should try working with a company that offers this sort of service.
[See also: Meaningful use off to a great start in 2011.]