3 Common Health Care Accounting and Operational Challenges and How to Overcome Them

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The health care industry is a vital component of modern society, dedicated to preserving and improving human life. However, despite the significant advancements in medical science and technology, the health care industry faces a multitude of challenges that can hinder operational and financial stability, from rising costs, to attracting and retaining the right talent.As a health care provider, below are three accounting and operational challenges you should be aware of and how to overcome them to help strengthen your organization’s overall health. 

1. Managing Costs

Controlling costs is a significant concern for health care practice leaders. Consider these key areas within your practice to help manage costs: 

  • Analyze your expenses. Managing your practice’s costs begins with a comprehensive analysis of its expenses. Take a close look at where costs are high or have been steadily increasing. Identifying these areas is the first step in the cost-reduction process.  
  • Work with your vendors. Vendor selection plays a pivotal role in controlling your costs. Regularly and carefully evaluate your providers, suppliers and pharmaceutical companies to ensure you fully understand the quality, reliability and costs they provide. Look for vendors who are open to negotiations and willing to collaborate on cost-reduction strategies. Opting for longer-term contracts with your vendors can offer stability and cost savings. However, be sure your agreements include performance metrics and quality assurance over the life of the contract. Maintaining open communication with your vendors and discussing your cost-savings goals and opportunities for collaboration is key for success.  
  • Implement lean management principles. This can be another way to manage your health care practice’s costs and identify waste within your processes, leading to more efficiencies and cost savings. Examples of this could be identifying unnecessary tests, treatments or administrative steps that inflate costs without enhancing value. The first step is to map out your practice’s processes comprehensively; from patient intake to providing services and billing. Look for bottlenecks, redundancies and inefficiencies that can be streamlined or eliminated altogether, such as:  
    • Standardizing protocols and guidelines for patient care. 
    • Deploying a just-in-time inventory management system to minimize carrying costs for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Be mindful of stocking items with a limited shelf life.  
    • Reducing overhead through technology and automation. 
    • Investing in training for staff on lean principles and empowering them to identify and address inefficiencies in their work. 
    • Utilizing data analytics to identify cost-saving opportunities and monitor progress toward your goals.  
    • Prioritizing quality control. While lean techniques focus on cost reduction, ensure the procedures and policies you put in place do not compromise patient safety or the quality of care delivered.  

2. Managing Your Practice’s Cash Flow

Managing cash flow is a critical aspect of running a successful health care practice. Effective cash-flow management ensures your practice remains financially stable, enabling you to provide quality patient care, pay your staff and cover overhead costs. Here are some steps you can take to help manage your cash flow and establish a clear financial strategy:

  • Create a well-defined plan. Define your financial goals, revenue targets and profit margins. A well-defined plan provides a roadmap for your practice's financial position, helping you navigate potential challenges and seize opportunities. 
  • Conduct a cash-flow forecast. This projection estimates your practice's expected income and expenses over a specified period, typically on a monthly or quarterly basis. It helps you anticipate when cash will flow in and out of your practice, allowing you to identify potential cash shortages and address them proactively.  
  • Optimize your accounts receivables. This will ensure the financial strategy you laid out is not impacted by late and unfulfilled payments. Regularly monitoring your accounts receivables will ensure payments from patients and insurance companies are collected promptly. 
  • Streamline your billing processes. Timely submission of claims, accurate coding and proper documentation are vital for expediting reimbursement. 

By implementing these strategies and maintaining a proactive approach to financial management, you can ensure steady and stable cash flow, allowing you to focus on providing excellent patient care and growing your practice.

3. Attracting and Retaining Talent

The health care industry is competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. More importantly, it is vital to ensure the delivery of quality care and the overall success of your practice. Offering competitive compensation packages with attractive salaries and benefits that align with industry standards is a fundamental strategy. Benefits do not have to only encompass your standard offerings. Get creative to stand apart. Examples of this could be funding continuing education, paying for industry association dues or offering additional paid time off. Find out what your employees value and work to provide them opportunities to attain their goals. One of the most important aspects of any health care practice’s success is its team of employees. Creating a positive work environment is essential for fostering staff well-being, enhancing patient care and reducing turnover. Your health care professionals face demanding and often emotionally taxing situations daily, making it crucial to establish a supportive and uplifting workplace. Some key strategies to accomplish a positive culture in your practice include: 

  • Fostering clear communication between all levels of the organization.  
  • Promoting teamwork when applicable.  
  • Creating opportunities for professional development and continuing education.  
  • Recognizing and rewarding achievements.  
  • Providing adequate resources to perform their jobs effectively.  
  • Encouraging work-life balance, allowing time to rest and recharge.  
  • Establishing a safe and inclusive environment. 
  • Encouraging innovation. Seek and act on the feedback you receive.  

Creating a positive work environment in the health care industry requires a holistic approach that encompasses communication, teamwork, recognition and support for professional growth. By implementing these strategies, you can cultivate a workplace where staff feel valued, motivated and empowered. All of which ultimately lead to improved patient care and reduced turnover. 

Creating a Plan

The challenges faced by health care practices are complex and multifaceted. Rising operating costs don’t help either. However, with an innovative approach and commitment to improvement, these challenges can be overcome. To create a plan to improve your cash-flow management and cut down on costs, turn to Doeren Mayhew’s dedicated group of health care CPAs.

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