Over the last ten years or so, a significant trend has emerged: new and established therapists alike are more frequently choosing to forego a solo practice for the conveniences and collaborative culture a group practice can provide. Among their most attractive benefits, group practices are often outfitted with an in-house billing and credentialing team, a forward-thinking marketing and development team, and competent receptionists fielding requests for appointments.
Combined, these efforts largely free up therapists’ time and eliminate added stress so they can focus on providing the best care for their clients. Here are the top three stressors that a group practice can eliminate for providers:
Insurance, credentialing, and billing
It used to be that most independently practicing clinicians would set a private rate for services to avoid the hassles of billing insurance. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates mental health benefits in insurance coverage, and the Mental Health Parity Law, which requires private and public insurers to cover mental health benefits at the same level as medical conditions, consumers have come to expect that therapy will be covered by their insurance.
In turn, providers are expected to accept insurance from their clients and thus participate in the sometimes cryptic, often time-consuming, and occasionally frustrating world of credentialing, billing, and claim submission.
Here are just a few of the hassles of these endeavors:
- Being paneled, maintaining annual good standing, and accepting multiple insurance plans increases the complexity and time needed to submit claims and follow up on any issues as there are multiple formats and requirements for each insurance company.
- Some insurances don’t allow certain provider types to submit claims independently which could limit the size of your potential caseload in private practice.
- Verifying patient benefits can be time-consuming, and reaching insurance representatives to ask questions can be difficult. Explaining benefits to patients may feel like it interrupts the therapeutic process.
- Rejected claims and patient balances require follow-up and problem-solving.
Fielding calls from potential clients and fulfilling requests from current clients is another time-consuming task for solo practitioners. Without the help of a receptionist, challenges are likely to present themselves, including:
- Taking calls from potential new patients and scheduling those initial sessions can be difficult since clinicians are often in session with other clients. You may feel pressure from potential clients to work with issues outside of your scope because you’re screening clients yourself and you’re trying to add clients to build and maintain your caseload.
- Screening clients to make sure they are a good match for your practice (matching both specialties and insurance) can be time-consuming – and mistakes mean you won’t get paid for your time.
- You may be pulled into therapeutic conversations with potential new clients on the phone when you’re acting as your own receptionist.
- If you have a disgruntled patient or a patient who is no longer appropriate for your practice, or perhaps even someone who is harassing you, there is no one there to act as a barrier or shield you from those calls or contacts.
Marketing and promotion
Without the expertise of a marketing team behind them, solo practitioners are burdened with learning the ins-and-outs of maintaining an online presence in order to generate referrals. Consider the following:
- Keeping content and marketing presence up to date and “fresh” requires technical skills providers may not possess or may not want to pursue.
- Maintaining an online presence capable of consistently filling a caseload can cost thousands of dollars and takes countless hours of maintenance and upkeep.
- Consistently getting marketing materials and content in front of the right audiences can be challenging and expensive.
- Analyzing reporting on the effectiveness of your marketing and deciding what to increase or decrease requires expertise, training and a complete redirection of your focus away from clinical work.
Your time is valuable
In all, joining a group practice achieves one overarching goal: it liberates the clinician’s time, allowing them a better chance of establishing the all-important work-life balance necessary to thrive.