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March 13, 2019

Purse in the Road

Growing up in a small town – the ‘no stoplight, one doctor, Sonic Drive-In was the only national brand around’ kind of small – meant you had to make your own fun.  I am not sure of the statute of limitations on these things, so I have no comment on any questions related to Mrs. McConnell’s cat.

One of the best games involved some fishing line and a women’s purse.  You know how this goes…tie the line to the purse, leave the handbag in the middle of the road, and when someone tries to pick it up, give the purse a good yank.

Earl, the school janitor famous for mangling the English language, got out of his car and bent over in the sharp glare of his head lights.  As he reached to pick up the purse, it scooted about three feet. Earl about wet his pants shouted something you couldn’t say in church.  He threatened to beat us, whoever the ‘us’ was hiding in the bushes.  Then he burst out laughing.

We’re all tempted by the purse in the road, which gets us to a couple of general warnings about potential ancillary revenue streams as you move from being just a practice to the broader idea of a platform.

First, many of these are just sleezy.  Beware of hucksters pitching you easy money because the compliance cops eventually catch up.  I continue to be shocked by the number of physicians looking to make a quick buck who end up in the news because they had to write a really large check to payback Uncle Sam.

Second, some are too cheesy for a legit medical practice.  If the rack of creams and incense candles in the waiting room reminds someone from a late night HGTV infomercial, that might not be the image you want as you discuss a life-threatening disease with your patients.

Finally, remember, we’re trying to lower the cost of care.  If your new line of business has no value other than to increase your personal income, it will be short-lived, I promise. 

It should go without saying that you want to build service lines and revenue streams that help the patient, improve care and lower overall costs (there, the healthcare pledge of allegiance) while improving the top line for your practice. 

The good news is that opportunities abound because in the overall value chain of healthcare, physicians sit adjacent to the very expensive hospital segment.  And the technology to allow care to be moved to lower acuity settings is working in your favor.  There is plenty of opportunity to capture revenue that currently belongs to someone else and move it into your boundaries in a way that benefits everyone (except who you took it from, obviously). Don’t feel bad…they are actively trying to steal yours. It is called ‘competition’ and it makes the system better.

Build your revenue streams, but don’t get caught looking for the ‘too-good-to-be-true’ purse just lying in the middle of the road. Do the work.

Tim Coan
Tim Coan

CEO and founder

Tim Coan, ALN’s CEO, writes an insightful and witty blog weekly about a variety of topics relevant to independent physician practices.