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Successes, Struggles in Practice Management Discussed in Miniseminar

Michael Setzen, MD, Winston C. Vaughan, MD, and Donald C. Lanza, MD, share lessons they've learned in practice management Monday.

Monday, Michael Setzen, MD, Winston C. Vaughan, MD, and Donald C. Lanza, MD, shared lessons they’ve learned in practice management.

The various successes and struggles physicians experience in practice management were the topic of Monday’s miniseminar “The Top 10 Business Mistakes I Have Made in Practice.”

During the miniseminar, three otolaryngologists with varying professional backgrounds, Winston C. Vaughan, MD, Donald C. Lanza, MD, and Michael Setzen, MD, shared their wisdom and warnings with members of the audience to help them make better practice management decisions. Seth M. Brown, MD, moderated the session.

Topics covered included starting a practice from scratch, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, equipment purchases, electronic health records, coding/billing/collections, documentation and malpractice, employee issues, real estate, and marketing.

The panelists acknowledged challenges in implementing electronic medical records, but noted there have been benefits. Dr. Lanza, however, would rather do without the system.

“I hate it, but we have no alternative,” he said. “I believe I’m beginning to start developing carpal tunnel—the amount of mouse clicks that are involved in going between screens to get to all of the information is enormous.”

In terms of marketing, the panelists agreed that word of mouth is powerful, even against larger practices.

“The majority of my referrals actually come from patients,” Dr. Setzen said. “I think word of mouth is important. I also think the Internet is significant. I think patients go on the Internet and see what you’ve done. If you have a website, I think that’s huge and it can bring in a lot of patients.”

He added that medical professionals should look at how they’re rated online.

“You should go to Vitals.com, because your patients may be writing about you and it could be scary,” he said. “Hopefully, they’re all saying good things. It’s worth looking at those reviews.”

On the topic of documentation and malpractice, the overall takeaway was to communicate with your patients after an incident arises.

“I think when you start talking about malpractice and you look at the studies that have been done in malpractice, people get sued not because they had bad outcomes, it’s because the patient was angry with the doctor,” Dr. Brown said. “Communication is the key. The more you can communicate with your patients, and the more you can make them see that you’re part of the solution and not part of the problem, I think is really useful.”

In the area of employee issues, the speakers said one-on-one time and time off are important for each staff member.

“We meet with them constantly,” Dr. Vaughan said. “Every three months I touch base with them with one-on-one evaluations. What can I do better? What can they do better? One of the big mistakes early on was I didn’t meet with my staff often enough. I was too busy running the practice.”

Dr. Setzen said the key is having a happy staff.

“So much so that many times my patients will say, ‘It’s so great coming to your office because your staff is so kind and attentive to us and our problem,’” he said. “I think a happy staff is important.”

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