How to Keep Overhead Under Control

June 20, 2017
Karen Appold

Keeping hard costs under control isn't magic and it does require some time and research, but your bottom line will thank you.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"60891","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_1093506138046","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"7695","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 218px; width: 300px; float: right;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Overhead expenses always seem to be going up. In order to stay viable, a practice should make efforts to keep these costs down-even small savings can add up. Melissa G. Young, MD, FACE, FACP, ECNU, endocrinologist at Mid Atlantic Diabetes and Endocrinology Associates LLC and medical director of Novo Nordisk Diabetes Center, both in Freehold, NJ, details some strategies that she employs in a variety of areas to keep her practice’s overhead under control.

Office space. “Plan well and use rooms wisely,” Dr. Young says. “The office I purchased had a lot of wasted space. A large room was previously used for radiology procedures and then for medical records storage. We turned it into our procedure room. We maximized exam room space by keeping cabinet and countertop space to a minimum. We really didn’t need more than a few inches of countertop space next to the sink; this allowed us to comfortably fit an exam table, scale, visitor's chair, and a physician's chair and desk.”

Furniture and equipment. Look on the Internet for furniture without specifically searching for “office furniture.” Dr. Young has found that to be more expensive. “I found nice waiting room chairs and breakroom furniture on a discount furniture site,” she says. “I buy desk chairs, trash cans, and lights bulbs at a warehouse club when they’re on sale.”

Medical supplies. Find a good contact person at a medical supply company who is willing to work with you and match competitor’s prices. “My representative makes it easy to order; I usually just email him my order and he knows what size I need and how many to send based on prior orders,” she says.

Office supplies. Shop around. “Buy things that are on sale or have rebates,” Dr. Young says. “I've found the best price on envelopes at a warehouse club. They also offer a small discount on stamps.” Stock up when you find a great price.

Insurance. Having a good agent is key. Regarding health insurance, determine how much coverage you want for yourself and employees. “Good benefits, not necessarily salary, is what keeps employees happy (and staying at your practice),” Dr. Young says.

Promotion and marketing. First determine if marketing is actually necessary, and if so, determine whether you want to target referring physicians or patients. An inexpensive way to promote your practice is to give lectures, either to other physicians or the community. You can also print inexpensive postcards or brochures, or advertise in a local newspaper.

Information systems. Determine your needs. Will regular phone service suffice or do you need voice over Internet protocol (VOiP), which is much more expensive and requires a very fast Internet connection. If you use an electronic medical records system, will you need a server or will you use a cloud-based service? Having your own server will cost you more upfront, but the monthly fees can be higher for a cloud-based service.

Outside professional services (legal and accounting). Ask colleagues to recommend a good firm. And don't be afraid to name drop. “If your colleague has been using the same accountant for 10 years, his rates might be lower for him than for a new client, but his accountant may extend his rate to you since he referred you,” Dr. Young says. Another tip is to check with a local hospital or state medical society-they may have contracts with professional service companies that provide discounts to physicians.

The bottom line is, in order to protect your bottom line, you need to do your homework-shop around and take the time to do the necessary research.