MSO Success Starts with Standardized Tech: 3 Considerations for Leaders

Four out of 10 physician practice leaders say finance and revenue cycle projects will be their top area of focus in 2024, an MGMA survey found.1 But for managed services organizations (MSOs), the key to financial improvement lies in an area that falls lower on leaders’ list of priorities: technology investment—and specifically for MSOs, tech standardization. 

At a time when private equity interest in physician practices is expected to increase this year due to anticipated reductions in interest rates, consolidation of technology systems is a must-have for MSO success.2 As these organizations grow rapidly, sometimes adding as many as 5 to 10 new locations per quarter, technological consolidation and standardization is a matter of when, not if. Relatient’s work with MSOs and other PE-backed healthcare organizations has shown that organizations that invest in standardization initiatives sooner rather than later enjoy faster ROI due to streamlined operations. They also benefit from improved provider and patient satisfaction. 

For one, standardization positions MSOs to reduce the operational complexity of running a physician group by ensuring every practice in the MSO has the same tools to strengthen efficiency—from improving staff productivity to minimizing wait times. Further, it eliminates the breakdowns in processes that occur when patient appointments and referrals are captured via legacy paper-based systems, fax, spreadsheets, and documents, or the increasingly common disparate technology stacks found at various practice locations.

In addition to operational success, MSOs striving for operational maturity must also become adept at using standardized technology and processes to efficiently accommodate provider preferences. Success also rides on the ability to “make the grade” when it comes to delivering the level of care access patients crave, which takes not only the right combination of patient access solutions, but also a strategic approach to implementation and engagement.

From EHRs to solutions for intake and scheduling, MSOs are better positioned to thrive the sooner they standardize technology across the board. Here are three key actions that can give MSOs an edge in their approach to technology investment and deployment for operational success.

Action 1: Consolidate the EHR across locations. Several practice leaders surveyed by MGMA indicated they plan to implement a new EHR, a move that is common among organizations adapting to a change in ownership. It can be a big undertaking, which is why some organizations hold off on this step for as long as possible. But for MSOs, which benefit from a sophisticated, “one organization” model of operations, transitioning individual offices to the same EHR or practice management system is a vital step toward aligning the efforts of practice staff and clinicians, supporting seamless information exchange with referral partners, and strengthening visibility into performance. Most MSOs should consider moving this step from the backburner to a top priority as soon as possible. 

Action 2: Bring physician offices onto the same patient access platform. Today, 75% of providers rate the quality of patient scheduling and communication as “very important” to the success of their practice, yet 47% believe patient access has gotten worse.3 4 Leading MSOs stay ahead of this challenge by investing in technologies that can automate scheduling and put appointment management in the hands of patients, freeing staff to devote time to more value-added activities like connecting with patients around their care plan, health needs or the desire to learn about new services. More face time with staff also boosts loyalty when patients feel “seen”—and those positive experiences contribute to higher levels of employee satisfaction as well.

Action 3: Be intentional about your implementation strategy—and use data to monitor results. Resurgens Orthopaedics, a metro Atlanta-based orthopaedic practice part of United Musculoskeletal Partners, has more than 150 providers across 24 locations. As the organization continued to grow, it chose a deliberate path to transforming its patient access model to accommodate provider, staff, and patient needs. First, it implemented intelligent scheduling within its contact center to improve operational efficiency across locations. Then, it deployed self-scheduling technology to eliminate a “binders and Post-Its” approach to tracking provider preferences. The addition of referral self-scheduling helped automate scheduling of referrals, boosting continuity in care, health outcomes and revenue. The impact: Resurgens Orthopaedics achieved a provider utilization rate of 83%, with 20% of appointments and 40% of referral appointments self-scheduled online. Its approach became part of the overall strategy for United Musculoskeletal Partners.

Making Tech Standardization Part of the Equation Now, Not Later

In our experience, tech standardization among MSOs boosts efficiency by easing patient scheduling processes and increasing provider utilization, with a 5%-10% average improvement in provider utilization alone. By investing in a one-organization model for technology and operational processes, including patient access, MSOs can establish continuity in service across locations while building a foundation for growth sooner to maintain a competitive edge.

Ed Kenney is vice president of business development for Relatient and spent 25 years in healthcare technology.



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