Nuclear laboratories in physician offices and hospitals require expensive equipment, trained staff, plus the costs of isotopes and other pharmaceuticals. These factors may be major contributors to a lab’s costs, but there are many other opportunities to consider for increasing the bottom line.
Here are six tips that can make a big difference in the profitability and efficiency of your nuclear lab:
1. Lab space
Consider the size of your current lab space. Is it larger than it needs to be? New equipment often requires a smaller footprint and the updated technology would likely allow you to accommodate higher patient volume. Reconfiguring your space may also provide the square footage you need to create an additional exam or procedure room. While decreasing space can save money, increasing the number of patient services delivered in the same amount of space will also lead to increased profits.
2. Licensing and Compliance
The costs associated with licensing and safety compliance are ongoing expenses in both time and manpower. Are you using the right efficiencies in maintaining them? For example, if compliance audits are required twice per year, why perform a third?
Consider the effective use of your workforce. Is your highest paid employee spending hours each month maintaining safety requirements? You could save money by outsourcing that work or allocating it to a less expensive employee. Be sure your employees’ job responsibilities and the tasks they’re performing are in line with the skill sets their salaries warrant.
Also, if you are a Radiation Safety Officer for your practice or multiple practices consider how much time you spend on these functions. From a profitability standpoint, how much revenue productivity are you missing while performing those tasks? Most physicians know their average revenue per hour and it is likely to be significantly more than outsourcing RSO duties and/or outsourcing the Radiation Safety Program. In terms of personal life, a physician taking on these tasks “after hours” may be pleasantly surprised at the benefit of investing just a few dollars in order to spend more time with family and friends. Though it’s hard to put a price on work-life balance, outsourcing these functions is a fairly inexpensive proposition.
3. Costs of consumables
Band-Aids, cotton balls, IV tubes, Derma tabs, saline, and more…these incidental costs can add up to $10 – $20 per patient, per procedure. Does your practice have a protocol that maximizes the efficiency of these items? Reducing costs from $20 to $10 per patient seems insignificant until you realize that a $10 savings for a volume of 5,000 scans per year increases profitability by $50,000. That’s a significant savings and a substantial impact to your bottom line.
You should also consider the prices at which you’re purchasing these items. Are you getting the best price available? Market resources including buying groups and industry consortiums can be beneficial to decreasing the overall costs of these items.
4. Maximize the patient experience
There’s no question that patients appreciate efficiency too. Are you optimizing patient protocols in order to keep the length of their visit to a minimum? Do they leave your office feeling they’ve had a positive patient-centric experience that was equally respectful of their time?
Consider the patient whose four-hour appointment could have easily taken three hours. This not only increased the office resources consumed by the patient, but you’re risking the chance that the patient will search for another office the next time. After all, they need to find a more efficient use of their time as well.
5. Efficient scheduling
Optimizing the practice’s scheduling can make a significant difference in both income and costs to the practice. For example, if Tuesday requires overtime costs for lab techs and front office staff and Wednesdays sees only 60% volume, both have negatively impacted the bottom line.
Patient no-shows can also be detrimental to your profitability. How does your practice minimize no-shows? We’ve recommended educating patients about the materials used for their test––like isotopes, for instance. Before their appointment, the patient should be well aware that the materials are individually ordered and cannot be used on the next patient if they miss their appointment. You also might consider holding a monthly gift card drawing for patients who kept their appointments as a simple way to say thanks. Check out more ideas here.
6. Re-evaluate over time
To understand profitability, think like an accountant. If that’s not your strong suit, consider appointing someone within the practice — or even outsourcing this function — to help you optimize the profits for your practice.
As in any business, variables change and it’s important to re-evaluate them on a regular basis. Managing profitability is an ongoing process so be sure to continually monitor checkpoints and make adjustments when necessary. The ultimate success of your practice will depend upon it.