What are Ancillary Services for Physician Practices?

The landscape for private practice physicians is ever-changing, ebbing and flowing with trends in health care and the current economic environment. Doctors’ motivations for going into private practice are varied, ranging from quality of life to improved relationships with patients. Unfortunately, with the economic downturn in 2008 and the rapidly changing insurance climate, some private practices are seeing a sharp drop in patients, services, and, unfortunately, revenue.

According to a study performed by the market research group SK&A, there are over 200,000 private practices in the United States. This is a marked drop over the last decade; the number of independent U.S. physicians in the private sector decreased from 57 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2012. Doctors are returning to hospitals and specialty clinics, due in part to increasing technology costs and the rising cost of insurance coverage. Whether from reduced reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, third party payers, and increased competition in the market, private practice isn’t as appealing as it used to be for many physicians.

As the costs of care increase, doctors are seeing dramatic reductions in patient visits. More patients than ever are skipping annual checkups, delaying treatment, and phoning in refill requests instead of making appointments. As patients take actions to save money, doctors are finding themselves with fewer patients and a significant reduction in revenue.

So, what are the options available to physicians? How can a practice drive other revenue outside of basic health care services? What can practices do to increase popularity, create a competitive atmosphere in the local community, and attract new patients? With these needs in mind, more and more practices are beginning to implement ancillary services.

Ancillary services describe any additional services and technologies that doctors can advertise, use, and subsequently bill for. Whether it’s drug testing, physical therapy, or diagnostic screenings like MRIs, clinics and practices are looking for new ways to entice patients with added benefits that competitors can’t match.

When implemented properly, ancillary services provide patients with a better outcome, allowing them to receive complete treatment in one office, rather than requiring trips all over town to prepare for a simple procedure. These added services give patients a reason to choose one practice over another and schedule more visits, allowing practices to benefit from an increased patient load and, consequently, increased revenue.

These ancillary services are rapidly growing in popularity, providing doctors with new and innovative ways to keep their practices moving forward. However, the road to building a successful practice is not without its hurdles. Before taking steps to implement new services, it is important to understand what ancillary practices complement the services your team already offers and what specific treatments are enticing to your clients.

With the right approach and the proper preparation, the addition of ancillary services to your private practice can keep your business afloat through good times and bad. When you take the right approach to improving your revenue cycle, you are in a position to see the growth your practice needs.