9 Ancillary Services That Can Boost Practice Revenue

Leigh Page

Disclosures

August 07, 2014

In This Article

An Effective Way to Get Paid

Rather than dealing with insurers, who do not pay well, Dr. Blakely requires patients to pay out of pocket. The charge is $3700 for the full program. "It's not a real cash cow," he said, "but it is a stable revenue source." The program generates an estimated $30,000-$50,000 a year in net revenue.

Stephanie Freeman, MD, an internist in Pearland, Texas, who has been working as a locum tenens physician, took a different approach when she started a weight management program 1 year ago. She focuses exclusively on weight loss, relying on referrals from physicians who do not want to provide the services.

"It's an excellent opportunity for physicians to generate additional revenue," she said. Unlike Dr. Blakely, Dr. Freeman does bill payers for the service, but the payments typically only cover the visit. She said Medicare pays $25 and commercial insurers pay about $35-$40 for an office visit to counsel obese patients. Patients who are just overweight are not covered unless the care can be linked to other conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, she said.

Because payers won't cover supplements, meal replacements, or vitamin injections, Dr. Freeman charges patients directly for these services, or patients do without them. She said some patients prepare their own food rather than rely on meal replacements.

Dr. Freeman sees her patients once a month. "They need that accountability," she said. She directs her patients to lose weight gradually, at a rate of 1-1.5 pounds a week. Because the program is only a year old, she did not have statistics on average weight loss and said it is too early to measure her income.

Dr. Blakely sees his weight loss program as a welcome break from his clinical duties. "It's one of my favorite parts of the week," he said. "It's so much fun seeing people get better." He said there is a link between excess weight and many major diseases and conditions.

Weight-Loss Services Scorecard

Start-up costs: Minimal.

Potential income: $30,000-$50,000 per year in net revenue.

Pros: Start-up costs are low, you can recruit participants from your own practice, and your patients will be healthier.

Cons: Reimbursements are fairly low, and you will have to convince patients that your services are worth substantial out-of-pocket payments.

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