While many doctors these days make use of consultants for certain functions, others are reluctant to take advantage of this useful resource. While they may recognize that they could use some help in their practice, they are frequently worried about costs and the complexities of finding a good consultant. In fact, many doctors have no idea how to go about even finding and hiring one. Keep in mind the following tips when choosing and working with a consultant.
1- Do You Actually Need One?
A consultant is most effective when used for specialized purposes, such as succession planning, coding audits, insurance contract negotiations, strategic business planning, practice valuations, practice assessments, practice startups, mergers, DHR selection and other kinds of projects for which help is needed only occasionally. If you have any needs in these areas, an experienced consultant is worth the investment.
2- Not for Long-Term Use
Consultants should not be used for things like credentialing, billing, finance, day-to-day management and human resources. These are daily, long-term activities. For long-term functions, you should permanently hire someone in-house with experience or outsource such activities.
3- The Goal of a Consultant
A consultant is generally a professional who is extremely specialized and who focuses on single, specific issues so as to help you implement solutions. Consultants are usually engaged short-term with the goal of achieving results by a specified date. An example of this would be bringing in a consultant for contract negotiations.
4- Service Agreements
If your business has ongoing, daily needs, such as human resource management for patient billing, there are numerous companies you can turn to for outsourcing these kinds of functions. There will usually be a service agreement in which you agree to engage this company for at least a year – and sometimes longer. For these kinds of administrative functions, it would be far more expensive to use a consultant.
5- Locating a Consultant
When you want to find a good consultant, ask business colleagues. Your medical society might also offer a list of consultants they have evaluated over the years. If the listing of consultants provided is a bit too broad for your purpose, check the Internet to see if there are companies that specialize in addressing your particular issue.
6- Hiring a Consultant
After identifying a consultant you may want to hire, present that consultant with a rough outline of your current concerns and those areas where you require the most assistance. This will be necessary before the consultant can provide you with a proposal. As the consultant examines your outline, he or she may find that your current problem is simply a symptom of some other broader issue that needs to be addressed.
7- Signing a Contract
You should expect professional consultants to clearly describe the services they will provide. They should list any required information, identify milestones and lay out a clear timeline. The information you need to provide could include things like profit and loss statements, accounts receivables files, etc. The contract you sign with a consultant should list costs, payment dates and how the billing will be conducted.
8- View Consultations As a Partnership
Consultations often produce the most effective results when the doctor views the consultant as a partner. This means that the doctor and his staff still have to be involved in what the consultant is doing. The temptation to hand an annoying issue over to the consultant and forget about it is certainly understandable, but collaboration and engagement is a much better approach. If you’re uncertain what a consultant is doing for you at any given moment, simply ask.
9- Return on Investment
A consultant’s job is not merely to aid their clients in solving their current business problems. Their goal should also be to help clients by educating them on the best way to get maximum return on investment from the consultation services. Effectively and efficiently delivering consultative services to the client is always the principal goal of course, but consultants can also help doctors better make their own business decisions in the future.