When the Competition Becomes Your Strongest Ally

colored ladders

Create strategic alliances with those going through the same struggles.

By Alecia Johnson, CPB

A notice shows up in your email from your local Medicare administrative contractor indicating that in the coming months they are implementing a new policy that will impact your practice, and you’ve got to take action.

While these sorts of things don’t happen too often, who does your staff turn to when they need guidance on a notice such as this? As a private practice owner, it may sometimes seem like it is your practice against the world, and everyone expects you to jump through hoops just to keep the doors open. As practice owners, when we come up with new ideas on how to run our businesses a bit better we often want to keep them to ourselves. It is ideas like these that will ultimately separate our practice from the practice down the street. As much as we prefer to keep these things tucked away in our pockets and hidden from our peers, there is a lot to be learned if time is taken to create strategic alliances with those going through the same struggles as you are every day. If you find yourself asking the following questions, it might be time to build your alliance:

  • “Are we providing a benefits package comparable to our competitors’?”
  • “Does the state labor and industries payment policy really require me to do this?”
  • “What are the guidelines on that new supervision bill that was passed?”
  • “Can I bill a patient if the insurance company has denied the request for prior authorization?”
  • “If a patient doesn’t pay their bill, what are the next steps?”

So really—who do you call?

Over the course of the last three years, some of the most valuable information I have learned has been from peers who are going through the same daily tasks as I am, just in a different practice. As a board member for the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association (WSPTMA), I have had the opportunity to see these strategic alliances blossom. Practice managers from across the state gather once a quarter to share knowledge, work through problems, and further their education in the field of private practice physical therapy. The members who attend these meetings might be a front office coordinator for a single practitioner, physical therapists who manages their own front office, or someone managing billing and credentialing for a staff of 70 providers. Just being in the same room as people who can understand what language you’re speaking can be a huge relief. Through my participation in the WSPTMA I have not only been able to connect with peers I can seek advice from but also connect with an entire group of practice managers I can share my own experiences with.

Furthermore, the WSPTMA works very closely with the Physical Therapy Association of Washington (PTWA) to share information from the ground up. PTWA recently fought to pass legislation regarding the prior authorization process, and it was able to speak directly with private practice managers from the WSPTMA to provide real-life experiences. The strategic alliance that exists between the WSPTMA and PTWA is essential to bringing personal patient stories directly to the capitol. In addition, if your practice is aligned with your local state organizations you will have the opportunity to support them as they fight to make changes that impact your scope of practice. The people who work at these organizations are fantastic resources if you are seeking clarification on what you can and cannot do regarding licensure guidelines.

Outside of state-specific groups, there are organizations designed to support your business with a multitude of resources. As a member of the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), I am connected to practice managers, inpatient and outpatient coders, medical auditors, compliance officers, and more. While many of the people I interact with through AAPC do not work in private practice physical therapy, they might potentially have other beneficial resources. As an example, through my participation in this group I was able to connect with a practice manager for a large surgical group, which gave me the opportunity to share my practice information with her to build a new referral source.

Strategic alliances can exist on a much smaller platform as well. Taking the time to create bonds with the people you encounter on a regular basis can be quite beneficial to your practice. Starting conversations with those who are like-minded and hope to achieve similar outcomes will ultimately help your practice, not hurt it. While there are many questions that can be answered by everyone’s favorite search engine, it is much easier to trust the words and experiences of a fellow private practice manager. Strategic alliances can be formed with your office supply delivery person, the owner of the collections agency you use, or those responsible for processing your electronic claims transactions. The opportunity to grow your professional work is right at your fingertips, so keep expanding!

Alecia Johnson

Alecia Johnson, CPB, s a credentialing specialist with RET Physical Therapy Group in Washington State. She is also a board member and treasurer for the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association. She can be reached at ajohnson@RETPT.com.

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