Why January is the Most Important Month of the Year for Therapy Clinics

Every year, your therapy clinic likely goes through an evolution of sorts. Patients come and go, there’s an ebb and flow of seasonal activity, and you adjust to lots of changes in the industry. When January comes around again, it can feel like you aren’t quite ready for a new year. The sense of overwhelm just after the holidays can cause many clinic owners to neglect the small tasks that would benefit their clinics during this busy month. If you can relate, we have some suggestions for how to make the most of January professionally.   

January is a Critical Month for Business Goal Setting 

As it does for many other areas of life, the start of a new year presents an opportunity to renew the way your business functions. Not only is January a time to get organized in general, but it’s the perfect month to set new goals for your clinic.   Some items to consider as you begin the goal-setting process: 
  • How many patients would you like to see this year? Per week, per month, and per provider?  
  • Did you encounter any challenges with scheduling appointments last year? Could you acquire any new technology that would help you avoid lost revenue resulting from cancellations, etc.? 
  • What improvements could you make to your clinic administration? Is it time to transition from paper-based records to an EMR? 
  • Do you have any current challenges with staffing or turnover?  
  • Have you managed to accurately monitor your providers’ credentials and associated requirements? What about business licensing and taxes? 
Once you’ve reflected upon these questions and more, write down your answers. Create SMART goals and ask a trusted colleague or business partner to review them. Having established what you’re looking to accomplish in the year ahead, you’ll be much more poised to dive into the details.   

Adjust to Patients’ Insurance Changes  

One of the most significant January shifts you’ll be familiar with is the renewal of deductibles for those of your patients who have commercial insurance. How does this affect your clinic’s operations? 

Most importantly, January can be a tough month to maintain your revenue. Delays in payments from all types of insurance can be common, due to the holidays. Patients can be low on cash as well. Overall, collections in the first quarter of the year tend to be lower than the rest of the year. Thus, it’s a good idea for your providers to collect patient responsibilities at the time of service for any patients whose deductibles have started over, so your staff won’t have to expend the time and effort later to track down the payment owed.   

Patients should also be aware of their insurance contracts and fee schedules. Create a plan for how your admin team and therapists will remind patients of the need to check on their own insurance. This will help you avoid last-minute confusion, lengthy benefit checks via phone, and any balance disputes.   

Update Clinic Forms and Policies 

At least once a year, you should complete a review of clinic policies and the associated patient forms. January is the perfect time to conduct this review.  

Not only must the forms be accurate, but you’ll need to have patients sign off on any updates or changes to your office policies. Decide how you’ll communicate these policies to your patients. Will there be signs up in your office prompting them to ask for new forms? Will your admin staff need to present each patient with new forms at check-in?   

Review Business Processes 

No matter the size of your practice, the new year is a time for analyzing vital business processes to ensure they are happening in a timely and accurate fashion. These processes include: 
  • Authorization requests and filing 
  • Eligibility checks 
  • Collections 
  • Marketing 
It’s likely that the goals you identify at the start of your January review will reveal which processes need to be reworked. January is a great time to test the effect of outsourcing tasks to EMR software or a competent billing agency   

Audit Your Practice’s Information Security Status 

While information security should be a priority year-round, you can use the beginning of the year as a time to verify your employees’ access rights to all technology. If you’ve had any employees leave your practice in the months leading up to January, ensure that they do not still have access to any residual systems or interfaces. These include hardware in your clinic and any web-based software that your therapists may access from home.  

It’s crucial to review all technology solutions for safety and data security as well. For example, check that your EMR is HIPAA-compliant and ensure that all devices on your office network are password-protected.    

Make January Your Clinic’s Most Organized Month 

In addition to reviewing the specific facets of business outlined above, we suggest conducting a general inventory of how you run your clinic. The particular pieces that are relevant to you will vary, depending upon your specialty, market, and business stage. There will be lots of external forces affecting your therapy business as a fresh year gets rolling, so having a customized plan is a must in order to remain in control of your clinic’s direction. 

For more advice on how to set and meet your therapy clinic resolutions with the use of an EMR, schedule a demo. We’ll show you how TheraPlan can bring together all your goals and help you embark upon the journey to ultimate efficiency.