Managing the financial aspects of your practice is a challenge!
October 05, 2005
'Medical Practice Monitor' Shows Physicians Want Financial Management Skills; Believe Accepting Credit Cards from Patients for Payment Can Help
NEW YORK, Physicians in private practice say managing the financial aspects of their practice is a challenge that will heighten over the next few years (76%), according to the second annual Medical Practice Monitor by OPEN from American Express(SM), the Company's small business team.
Regardless of their specialty, survey respondents say that they find managing the dual role of practicing medicine and running their business -- or practice management -- to be challenging (83%), and that further training in financial management skills would help them to run their practice more efficiently (74%). More than half (61%) agree that incorporating the use of credit or charge cards would positively impact the business of managing their practice.
Time is one of the most significant challenges for physicians and their staff, according to the Monitor. More than half of the respondents (51%) say they spend at least one full day per week (defined as seven hours) managing their business, and 16% say practice management takes as much as three days per week.
Electronic Patient Records and Malpractice Insurance Are Main Challenges The time that respondents spend on practice management is primarily devoted to implementing electronic patient records (56%) and trying to stay on top of slow third-party reimbursements (54%). Other challenges include managing malpractice insurance issues (48%) and collecting payments from patients (42%).
"Today's private practice doctor is increasingly torn between caring for their patients and keeping their business afloat," says J. Max Reiboldt, CPA, medical practice management specialist, author of Financial Management of the Medical Practice, and consultant to OPEN from American Express. "Most doctors put in many extra hours just to keep from sacrificing valuable patient time to the mounds of paperwork and financial responsibilities that come with running a business."
Credit Card Acceptance Is Convenient for Physicians and Patients Fifty-nine percent of Monitor respondents who accept credit cards say they wish more patients used credit or charge cards to pay for medical services. In fact, more than 79% already accept credit or charge cards from patients as payment for medical services, including those for co-payments and out-of- pocket/elective visits/procedures. Most cite ease of payment at time of service (84%), efficiency of staff (62%), and cash flow (47%) as their top reasons for why accepting plastic has helped their practice.
"Accepting credit or charge cards certainly simplifies billing for me,"says Dr. Richard Garden, a New Jersey urologist. "My patients can more easily track their medical expenses when they use their card for payment."
Wanted: More Time for Patients If they were able to spend less time managing the business of their practice, a majority of all respondents said they would use the extra time for non-working activities (74%), while others would to spend more time with patients (53%).
"This finding is interesting in light of the fact that the vast majority of respondents are reporting increases in both patient volume and revenues over last year," says Reiboldt, the medical practice management specialist. "This puts even more pressure on them to juggle time wisely. Fortunately, many physicians are taking advantage of financial tools like the ones offered by credit card companies for help."
Physicians Agree -- Credit Cards Provide Ease and Flexibility According to the Medical Practice Monitor, credit and charge cards are the most preferred form of payment for medical practice purchases (56%). Among physicians who use credit or charge cards, most enjoy earning rewards (57%) and writing fewer checks (52%). Forty-three percent say they appreciate managing accounts online 24 hours a day, 39% favor the flexibility of paying all at once or over time, and 36% enjoy having a 30-day window for payment.
Office Supplies and Business Travel Among Top Uses for Credit Cards Physicians who use credit or charge cards in their practice primarily use them to purchase office supplies (82%), business travel (81%), continuing medical education (79%), computer hardware/software (69%), and medical supplies (61%). Nearly two-thirds (64%) earn cash rebates, miles or reward points from purchases on their credit or charge card, and 86% redeem reward points for personal and business travel.
"Charge and credit cards can be an asset in practice management for medical professionals today," says Reiboldt. "Cards and the services and benefits they offer are becoming more attractive in helping doctors and dentists manage day-to-day business and plan for growth and expansion that enhances their ability to get back to the practice of medicine."
Survey Methodology The Medical Practice Monitor by OPEN from American Express is based on online interviews conducted by International Communications Research (ICR) from July 18, 2005 - August 13, 2005 with a nationally representative sample of 360 medical doctors in private practice (regardless of specialty). Additionally, 100 oncologists, 102 dermatologists, 100 urologists, 101 ophthalmologists and 116 dentists in private practice were surveyed. The results have a sampling error of +5.2% (for the sample of 360) or +9.8% (for the specialty samples).
About American Express American Express Company (http://www.americanexpress.com) is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a world leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, business services and international banking.
OPEN is the American Express team dedicated exclusively to the success of small business owners and their companies. The OPEN Team provides small business owners access to an enhanced set of products, tools, services and savings designed to help meet their evolving needs. These include charge and credit cards, convenient access to working capital, robust online account management capabilities and savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners. To obtain more information about OPEN, visit http://www.open.americanexpress.com, or call 1-800-NOW-OPEN to apply for a card or loan. Terms and conditions apply.
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