Choosing the Right HealthCare Consultant

Choosing the right healthcare consultant can be critical to the success of your practice. This rapidly advancing industry is helping physicians and other health care professionals maximize their profit margins and facilitate better patient care. So, how do you decide on what you need from a healthcare consultant?

First you need to ascertain where you are in terms of your practice, and what your long-term strategy and goals are. As an example, a new physician starting out in his/her first practice can benefit greatly from a streamlined communications system and automated billing. If staffing your new office seems daunting to you, or you simply lack time, a good health care consultant can handle all three areas with efficiency. The initial costs may be high, but the ROI over a year will be significant.

An established practice may begin experiencing patient complaints concerning long waits on calls, poor communications, or billing errors. This is quite common in practices where there has been rapid growth, and poor or untrained personnel. Many health care consultancy firms offer a broad range of options to help a rapidly growing practice keep up with patient loads and demands. The very best of them offer the physician contact with highly regarded experts in Oncology, Cardiology and Orthopedics, to name a few. This is a tremendous asset to physicians wanting to provide their patients with state of the art care, without long waits.

You can also have access to patient/provider liasons, who help ensure coordination and continuity of care. Since this can be tremendously time consuming and exhausting for the average office to handle in-house, this is truly a valuable service which frees you to spend more time with your day to day practice. Added features include access to full online medical data, rss feeds on breaking news and instant communications between your health care consultant and your practice.

Here is a representative sample of a well known health care consultancy- AHC, of a valuable tool-Hot Topics:

“We’re the silent glue that holds the fragments of our health care delivery system quilt in place,” says Michael S. Saag, MD, professor of medicine and director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Center for AIDS Research in Birmingham, AL.

“We have a totally fragmented health care delivery system, especially when it comes to medications, and the only way you can keep people from falling through the cracks is through health care workers who give a damn,” Saag says.

For example, Saag and colleagues have conducted research on health care expenditures for every HIV patient seen in one year’s time, and what they found was that the average cost per patient per year was $18,300, he says. This is just a part of what a physician can find in a well organized health care consultancy package.

This rapidly expanding field is a valuable tool in terms of saving time, money and often lives. Choosing the best options for your particular practice means being honest about what you need and what you can reasonably afford. Many consultancy’s have online presences. You can look up their sites, get a grasp of what they offer, and then, if interested, contact them for the bottom line in terms of cost and contractual terms. This is where research really pays huge dividends.

What is the length of the average contract? What happens if they fail to perform as promised? Are there penalties for early termination? How do they arrange payment? Is it a lump sum up front, quarterly, semi annually or annually? Are there hidden or per use charges? Can you upgrade or downgrade without penalty? Check with Dunn & Bradstreet for their ratings. Ask others in your profession about them, or who they use. Glitzy websites filled with alluring options may be tempting, but you are going to be dealing with real live people who may not measure up to your expectations.

The bottom line in selecting the right health care consultant is to buy what you need. Start small, and as they prove their worth to your practice, then you can add on or upgrade as needed. This allows you over time to establish a working relationship built on trust and solid performance, instead of buying in to empty hype. You’ll save yourself money and heartache doing your homework. After all, the whole idea behind this form of consultancy is to help you become a better advocate and caregiver for your patients.

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