From near-bankruptcy to beating benchmarks: One practice’s financial transformation

After running her own practice for six years, Tanisha Richmond was ready for a change.

Her podiatry practice, Richmond Foot and Ankle, seemed to be losing more money than it was making despite its heavy and steady influx of patients, and she was struggling to tackle federal reporting, billing, authorization, organizational performance, and quality patient care under one system umbrella.

Tanisha walked us through her journey from nearly filing for bankruptcy to achieving well-above-benchmark financial performance metrics, and provided insight into why she ultimately made the switch to move her small practice from software to the cloud.

For years, you used Practice Fusion to support your practice. What caused you to ultimately want to move away from system?

I realized that what we really needed for the practice to thrive was a real-time, all-inclusive platform that not only helped us do our jobs better, but went above and beyond to find the billing gaps and care opportunities that I didn’t even know we had.

Prior to the switch, we were using a hodge-podge of systems, and it just wasn’t working: claims weren’t getting billed accurately, or at all; we couldn’t do any kind of prior authorization or insurance validation; and the reports we relied on to optimize our financials weren’t cutting it. We had little insight into copay or deductibles of our patients, and no transparency into the performance of our own employees. In many ways, it felt like we were flying blind, and doing so unsuccessfully.

Tell me about your experience during and after the tech transition—the switchover to new technology can be a difficult time for health organizations, regardless of size.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long before I started seeing financial improvement. Within three months, I was up and running: monitoring claims and performance from where I had an internet connection, and my revenue has been trending up ever since. Now, I’m achieving an overall denial rate of under 6%, days spent in accounts receivable is less than one, and I’ve got 95% of claims submitted either paid or adjusted within six months.

When I first started my practice, I almost went bankrupt. My mother, who is also in the industry as a nurse, was as confused as I was. I was constantly seeing patients, between 20 and 30 a day, but couldn’t seem to get the majority of the money I was owed. What it came down to was all the little things that can be so easy to mistake or miss: incorrect addresses, birth dates, insurance information. But athena is like a detective—she catches it all.

athena offers a wide variety of training modules for staff and providers which have been helpful, and not just during the onboarding process: Whenever we bring on new students, or a new feature is rolled out, we all take full advantage of the easy-to-use training modules.

As a one-doc practice, there’s nothing you need more than to feel like you’ve got more support under the hood. athena has been the equivalent of three full-time employees—efficient, automated, accountable, and always-on.

What recommendations do you have for other one-doc or small practices looking to flip the switch on their financials?

Like Nike—just do it. Moving to a cloud-based system has been life-changing for my practice. As soon as I enter the office, I’ve got a bird’s-eye, real-time view of claims that have been completed, that are still in progress, and that need extra support or research. Where other systems might do just as well at capturing the easy money, athena’s dashboard catches everything, including—especially—the trickiest claims to crack. No digging required.

I’m an in-the-flesh example of why, so long as the technology works, a percentage-based model can be the most beneficial one for small practice managers. Due to the successful revenue cycle management functionality, I’m bringing in more money and collecting more payments than I ever have—and that increase in revenue has far outweighed the cost of any financial transition I’ve undertaken.

The game-changer is: athenahealth’s livelihood is based on my own. Its goal is to make sure we capture every penny—because that’s how it makes its money, too. I brought on a partner that cares so deeply about my own success, it’s dependent on it. The rest fell into place.

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