Thomas Ferkovic Mar 11, 2021 11:06:08 AM 8 min read

Three Rules for Managing Your Most Valuable Asset: Time

Time is money.  The old adage is still true, especially for Behavioral Health providers.

During a recent conversation with Karen Conkey, LPCC of the Behavioral Wellness Group, we discussed the importance of mentorship among behavioral health professionals. Those in the specialty often learn their business skills from trusted mentors, helping them gain valuable insight to run their practice. What’s sometimes missed in this process, however, according to Conkey, is the lesson of time management. Many are not taught that they must manage their time effectively in order to be financially successful. It’s a critical lesson, and it’s the inspiration behind this blog post.

With both telehealth and in-office visits, the past has taught us that we need to manage a volume of patients to be able to have a viable practice. Successful Behavioral Health providers are critically needed in our world today. However, if you cannot be financially successful and available to your patients, you cannot begin to help those who need you the most.

How do you help your practice and your patients?  Start by remembering that time is your most precious asset – your Inventory – and using that Inventory effectively is your most challenging problem.

It does not matter if your practice is ‘for profit’ or ‘not-for profit.’ Those are tax designations. To survive and best help your patients as a Behavioral Health specialty, you must be profitable.  A Behavioral Health professional starts their practice with a personal and organizational mission in mind.  And as Behavioral Health has few or no ‘ancillary services’ or ‘procedures’ that can be performed to increase revenue, generating profit is all about managing the precious inventory of time.

Below are three rules to follow to optimize your time and, in turn, your profits in a Behavioral Health specialty.

Rule 1: Value Your Time

Just like manufacturers that use inventory and assign a value to that inventory, you too must put a value on your time. Yes, healthcare insurers, the government, and the market assign payment rates to behavioral services. However, those are unit prices. You control how effective you are at your overall use of time and total net payments.

For example, if you are scheduled for a session that is to be paid at $75 for a service and you allow your patient to be late or delay the visit filling out paperwork, you may end up not being able to bill the $75 but $50, or you may ‘leak’ into another patient’s slot.  Your net for the $75 dollar ‘inventory’ slot was therefore less than you expected. If you value your time at $75 for a slot, then you must ensure that, at the end of that period, you receive $75. Any less devalues your inventory.

Be confident and value the service you provide your patients at a fair rate.  Do not be afraid to hold patients to the rules so you achieve the rate. Patients who abuse your rules should not be your patients.  If you allow late appointments, appointment runovers, or no-shows, you are devaluing your time.  You must train your patients and your staff to the patterns that help you achieve the value you have set for your time.

Rule 2: Determine Your Day’s Value and Then Your Week’s Value

It is great to know that you value your time at $75 and you receive that when you see a patient, but what if you only fill half your $75 time slots each day or week? Now, your time is valued at $37.50.

Airlines and hotels overbook with the knowledge that some customers will cancel at the last minute.  This form of scheduling requires detailed knowledge of the trends in the industry, specifically the airport, city, time of year, etc.  You can better predict openings in a provider’s schedule by calculating the average daily cancellation rate. This will better allow double booking in the schedule due to cancellations, no shows, and last-minute rescheduled appointments. Use other providers to assist in case patient volume is unexpectedly higher than expected and be sure to do your calculations at different times of the year, as there can be variation with certain specialties. You could also try implementing a “no-show” policy to reduce no-show appointments, thus diminishing scheduling gaps.  A no-show appointment in a provider’s day is lost revenue that can never be made up; it is the equivalent of an empty seat on an airplane – once the plane takes off, the opportunity for revenue is forever lost.

Managing your schedule is vital and the difference between a successful practice and an unsuccessful practice.

Rule 3: Increase Practice Capacity at Lower Costs

Look at the type of patient visits that you are spending your time on.  Ask yourself whether some of these visits can be handled by a nurse practitioner, nurse, or other provider?   Ask yourself: Is this the best use of my time?  What could I be doing to improve the overall value of my inventory?

One final thought: many practitioners spend a lot of ‘windshield time’ providing services at multiple locations.  An honest assessment of the effect of the ‘windshield time’ on the value of your inventory is worth the exercise.  Many professionals find that their return-on-investment driving to other locations is just not delivering what they expected.

Review your mission. Are you using your inventory of time in the best possible way to fulfill the mission? If not, now is the time to start.

Thomas J. Ferkovic, R, PH, MS, is CEO of Medic Management Group.  His background includes extensive work in areas including business and clinical advisory; revenue cycle management, transaction support, crisis management / turn around execution, and practice management.  MMG is a national provider of consulting services and back office administrative support to independent and system owned physician practice groups.  Additionally, MMG has been formally recognized as a multi-year Northeast Ohio Top Workplaces award winner.