Improving and expanding a pain medicine practice can be summed up this way: look inside and outside. Looking out is, of course, about referrals and marketing. And when it comes to marketing, social media’s benefits sometimes come under fire. It provides an relatively inexpensive way to reach potential customers, but it makes many practitioners uneasy.
Interestingly, marketing experts say social media is the right place for pain management specialists to tell their story. They believe many patients avoid pain management clinics because they’ve been associated with ethically questionable practices. “Patients who experience chronic pain tend to stay away from pain management specialists because of their tainted image,” says one consultant. “However, in the end, this just causes them to suffer more. Through pain management marketing, you will not only entice patients who suffer from chronic pain, you’ll also educate them on the benefits that’ll receive if they seek professional help.”
As for all-important referrals, experts recommend the following steps. First, educate physicians in your community to understand that you are not a competitor—rather, you can help their patients and improve their care. Second, reach out consistently to the providers you work with (and those you’d like to) through newsletters, case studies, and other forms of appropriate peer-to-peer communication. Third, establish reciprocal referrals by sending patient to doctors you’ve built relationships with when it’s warranted. Fourth, look for opportunities to speak at local medical seminars to establish your expertise and network with other providers. Fifth, nurture the relationships in your referral network by checking to make sure they’re happy with the services you give their patients and asking if there’s anything more you can do to help.
The Truth About Timing and Coding
The key factors when looking inside a practice involve avoiding coding issues and improving efficiency. Not surprisingly, efficiency improvement starts with data, and practice managers may be surprised at some of the findings. The authors of an article on enhancing pain practice efficiency note that most articles about running a pain clinic assume that patients arrive on time, most guidance on practice management assumes all patient waiting takes place in a waiting room, and virtually all academic work on clinic flow assumes processing rates are independent of the system state—and that each of these is false.
The authors advocate for measuring actual activity times, not standard times or billing standards. This creates a path to data collection and analysis in pursuit of improvement, such as reducing clinic congestion through no-lateness policies and using technology to enhance patient throughput. For example, automated data collection in one clinic showed it was possible to better manage the interruptions experienced by attending physicians to increase their time with patients while reducing session times.
When it comes to coding, experts say pain medicine specialists can avoid payer approval issues by continually educating themselves about what constitutes a well-documented operative note. They also recommend striving for a varied patient population (i.e., one that includes patients with commercial and workers’ comp insurance) and a strong understanding of procedure costs to determine whether or not reimbursements justify the costs (with an eye toward renegotiating if not).
Finally, patient-focused care that includes a warm welcome by office staff, a short wait time, and patient interactions that are respectful and friendly without being patronizing is aways an effective strategy.
- Gallway, Rona. “Marketing Strategies That Will Help Your Pain Management Practice Grow.” Dr. Catalyst, 2 Feb 2021. https://www.drcatalyst.com/blog/effective-marketing-strategies-that-will-help-your-pain-management-practice-grow
- Hughes, Simon. “How to Grow Pain Management Practice Through Referrals.” Coronis Health, 12 March 2019. https://www.coronishealth.com/blog/how-to-grow-pain-management-practice-through-referrals/
- Chambers, Chester, Dada Maqbool, and Kayode Williams. “Tips from the Field: How to Enhance Practice Efficiency.” Practical Pain Management, 3 August 2020. https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/resources/practice-management/tips-field-how-enhance-practice-efficiency
- Clements, Julie. “Tips to Improve Revenue in Pain Management Practices.” Outsource Strategies International, 22 May 2017. https://www.outsourcestrategies.com/blog/tips-to-improve-revenue-in-pain-management-practices/
- Morton, Ruth. “Building a Successful Pain Practice.” Anesthesia Business Consultants, accessed January 2023. https://www.anesthesiallc.com/about-abc/58-communique/past-issues/winter-2009/206-building-a-successful-pain-practice