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Apr 23

10 Challenges Independent Practices Face

The healthcare industry today is certainly seeing an influx of medical practices owned and operated by hospitals and large health systems. For many providers, this is seen as a good option as they don’t have to put as much effort into the business side of operating a practice. However, with that trade-off comes a lot more oversight and some limitations in how those providers can practice medicine.

With this in mind, a lot of providers are determined to maintain their autonomy by running their practice independently. Remaining independent is a solid option for providers who don’t want the oversight and regulations of a large health system dictating how they treat their patients, but it’s important to understand that independent practices face a number of unique challenges and how to overcome those hurdles. Let’s discuss.

What is an independent medical practice?

An independent medical practice is a clinic or facility that operates autonomously and isn’t owned or controlled by a larger healthcare system, corporation, or hospital. Typically, independent practices are owned by one or more physicians or a small group of healthcare professionals. Independent practices can offer a variety of medical services, including primary care, specialty care, diagnostic testing, preventive services, and surgical procedures.

Some key characteristics of an independent practice include:

  • Autonomy: Independent practices have the freedom to make decisions regarding practice management, staffing, business operations, and patient care without a larger entity interfering.
  • Ownership: Independent practices are privately owned by one or more physicians, providers, or a small group of investors, as opposed to a healthcare corporation or hospital.
  • Patient-centered care: Independent practices tend to prioritize personalized, patient-centered care, with a focus on building strong relationships with patients and providing comprehensive care tailored to individual needs.
  • Community presence: Independent practices often have a longstanding relationship with their patients and community.
  • Flexibility: Independent practices can be more flexible in adapting to changing trends in healthcare, patient needs, and regulatory requirements due to being more agile than a large healthcare system.
  • Financial independence: Independent practices retain a larger share of the revenue they generate from patient care, however they also bear a greater share of financial risks that are typical of operating a small business.

10 Challenges Faced by Independent Practices

While there are many benefits that come with practices maintaining their independence, they can also face many challenges. Here are ten of the challenges practices should be aware of when operating outside of a health system:

  1. Financial Pressure: Independent practices can struggle with maintaining financial stability due to lower bargaining power with insurers, reimbursement issues, and the rising costs of healthcare technology. These practices can also face challenges in securing investments or loans for upgrades and expansions.
  2. Regulatory Compliance: It can be daunting to maintain compliance with healthcare regulations such as MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Significant time and resources are required to keep up with changing regulations and this can be more difficult for independent practices to keep up with.
  3. Technology Adoption and Integration: Adopting and integrating electronic health records (EHRs), telemedicine, and other technologies can be complex and costly for smaller practices. Adding to the challenges is the need to ensure data security and interoperability, something that requires a fair amount of resources that some small practices simply struggle to acquire.
  4. Staffing and Workforce Issues: Recruiting and retaining a skilled staff, including physicians, nurses, and administrative staff, can be a challenge for independent practices. Large healthcare systems can be quite competitive in the job market with their ability to offer higher wages and more perks. This is compounded by the fact that independent practices sometimes have less resources for development and training, making this challenge more apparent.
  5. Patient Acquisition and Retention: Independent practices can struggle to compete with larger healthcare systems in attracting and retaining patients. Larger healthcare systems typically have more resources for marketing efforts, patient satisfaction initiatives, and providing quality care, and this can be a big hurdle for independent practices to overcome in proving themselves.
  6. Reimbursement Challenges: Negotiating favorable reimbursement rates with insurers can be challenging for independent practices due to less power in these negotiations, and this can lead to lower revenue. Delays or denials in reimbursement can also impact cash flow, and independent practices can struggle to correct these issues due to having less resources to address these concerns.
  7. Infrastructure and Resource Limitations: Limited resources and infrastructure can hinder the ability of independent practices to invest in modern equipment, facilities, and services. This can affect the quality of care provided, as well as patient satisfaction.
  8. Competition from Consolidated Healthcare Systems: Again, larger healthcare systems have a bit of an unfair advantage. Consolidation in the healthcare industry has led to these larger systems dominating the market. Independent practices face competition from these large entities which have more resources and bargaining power.
  9. Population Health Management: Independent practices sometimes have limited access to data analytics tools and care coordination resources, making population health management programs difficult to implement. This can impact these practices’ ability to deliver preventive care and manage chronic conditions effectively.
  10. Risk Management and Liability Concerns: Independent practices must navigate liability risks associated with malpractice claims, medical errors, and regulatory compliance. Maintaining adequate malpractice insurance coverage and implementing risk management protocols are essential, but can be costly.

It’s important to note that these are potential challenges that independent practices may face, and it’s not guaranteed that any given practice will face all, or even any, of these challenges. Additionally, there are ways to offset these challenges, such as through the use of technology, which is what we will discuss next.

Technology Solutions to Help Independent Practices Overcome Challenges

One seamless way that independent practices can overcome some of the potential challenges they face is by harnessing the power of technology. Here are five tech solutions that can help independent practices:

  1. Electronic Health Records (EHRs): Implementing an EHR that fits your practice’s needs well can streamline documentation, improve communication among providers, enhance patient safety, and make regulatory compliance more efficient. It’s important, however, to choose an EHR that is either designed for smaller, independent practices or scalable to ensure that you have all of the features you need without added excess.
  2. Practice Management Software: Utilizing practice management software streamlines and even automates some administrative tasks. The right practice management software will help your practice to seamlessly schedule, bill, and collect payment.
  3. Patient Engagement Tools: Patient portals, appointment reminders, digital intake, and two-way texting are all fantastic solutions to make sure your patients stay engaged. These solutions also provide streamlined ways to communicate important health information and facilitate patient education, both of which are important to positive outcomes.
  4. Telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring: Telemedicine allows practices to offer virtual consultations, which can improve access to care, especially for patients living in rural or underserved areas. Remote patient monitoring enables the continuous monitoring of patients’ health outside of the office, helping to manage chronic conditions and prevent hospitalizations.
  5. Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Solutions: RCM software automates billing processes, verifies insurance eligibility, identifies coding errors, and accelerates claim submission and reimbursement, improving cash flow and reducing revenue leakage. Some technologies even analyze your reimbursement data, finding areas where you were not paid appropriately, so that you don’t leave any money on the table.

Independent practices play a vital role in healthcare delivery, offering personalized, patient-centered care while maintaining autonomy and a strong community presence. While these practices can face a variety of challenges, from financial pressures to regulatory compliance and competition from larger healthcare systems, technology presents a pathway for independent practices to thrive in this rapidly changing healthcare landscape.

At MicroMD, we are dedicated to offering best in class solutions that help independent practices maintain that autonomy and provide outstanding patient care. From our simple, customizable, and connected MicroMD EMR and our robust MicroMD Practice Management, to the incredible add-ons of MMDengage for online scheduling, appointment reminders, and two-way texting, MedPod for telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, and RevOps for monitoring your financial data and making sure you’re paid every dime you’re owed, we’re determined to help independent practices succeed.

For more information or to get started, visit micromd.com or call 1-800-624-8832.

About the author,
Crystal Stanton

Crystal is a Digital Marketing Specialist at MicroMD. Content creation, social media management, and SEO optimization are just a few of her areas of concentration as she seeks to educate clients and prospects alike about the simple, customizable, and connected solutions we offer at MicroMD.

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