Should You Offer Your Patients More Services? How to Decide 

James F. Sweeney

Disclosures

October 01, 2019

Some practices share ancillary services and expensive equipment to spread the costs and the risks. Consider whether this might be an option for your practice.

7. Does this service fit your 5-year practice goals?

Members of a practice considering ancillary services should ask themselves what they want their practice to look like in 5 years, because adding new services can be transformative, says healthcare consultant Hertz.

For example, it can require adding new staff and diverting time and resources away from the practice's primary mission.

8. Are employees on board?

Employee buy-in is important, Hertz adds. The owners of a practice might have final say, but in order for the expansion to be successful, everyone, from clinicians to nonmedical staff, should at least understand why it's being done and their role in it, he says. Ideally, all practice members should be enthusiastic about the plan.

"Don't do something you really have no interest in, because you probably won't do a good job at it," Hertz says.

9. Can the new service help add new patients to your practice?

If success depends on attracting new patients in addition to existing ones, a practice will have to factor in expenses for marketing and advertising. New services also could require a rider to the practice's insurance policy, an additional expense.

Would the practice be competing against others already offering the same services in the area, or would it have the marketplace to itself? Competition drives down prices and dilutes the patient base. And hospital systems can retaliate against affiliated practices which it thinks are infringing on its territory. Rural practices can have an edge here, Gurganious says: "If you have a captive audience, clearly you can make more money."

Being located in rural central Louisiana halfway between Baton Rouge and Shreveport is a big reason why Freedman Memorial has added a full complement of cardiac tests and treatments. It's the only practice or hospital in the region to offer some of the services and, as a result, draws referrals from a broad area, Clark says.

Practices should also be careful not to add services that can or soon will be done at home by patients. Digital medicine makes it possible for patients to perform simple testing and monitoring at home, and its capabilities are only going to increase, says Gurganious.

10. Do you have a revenue goal for the new service to determine success?

A practice that has done its homework on costs, reimbursement, and other factors should have a revenue goal in mind for each ancillary service it adds, Hertz says. It can take a while to attract patients, new or existing, and to reach peak operating efficiency, so practices should set incremental goals and benchmarks.

The key to [reviewing goals for ancillaries] is looking at it as a business proposition.

If benchmarks aren't met, the practice should determine why and make the necessary adjustments, he says, adding, "The key to this is looking at it as a business proposition."

He cautions against practices adding multiple services simultaneously because it can be too difficult to integrate them all and makes it harder to determine each offering's profitability.

"One service line at a time gives you the best chance of success," he says. "And then add others once you've got that nailed down."

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