Strategies for Trimming Operational Costs

With reimbursement shrinking and contracts in flux, many practices struggle to make ends meet. By analyzing your checkbook, identifying your largest monthly expenses, and approaching those costs differently, you may be able to find extra funds, says Barbara Hays, coding and compliance strategist for the American Academy of Family Physicians. Here are some operational areas that can be sources of savings.

Waste Disposal

The safe disposal of medical waste is necessary but often costly. Check your waste management contract and see whether you are receiving the services for which you are paying. “These contracts are based on volume and frequency of pick-up,” Hays says. If you are receiving contracted services, analyze whether they are the right ones. You may be generating more—or less—waste than you did when the contract was originally signed, and your vendor may be offering new services or pricing that could reduce your bill.

Telephone Services

Make sure to regularly revisit your telecommunications contracts. The price of phone service has plummeted since the introduction of voice-over Internet protocol (also known as VoIP) calls, which rely on the Internet to carry telephone calls and data. Multiple suppliers may vie for your business, and your current vendor may make price concessions to keep you. You should also analyze how your practice uses phones to make sure that you have the right number of lines and are not leasing equipment you do not use.


Many practices spend a small fortune on paper, which can often be avoided, Hays says. For example, patients can easily lose brochures. If you can send the same material to the smartphones of your patients, they may be more likely to read it, and you can reap the savings.

If your electronic health records (EHR) system offers Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act–compliant secure messaging to patients and other clinicians, you can skip the print-and-fax step and send documents electronically. In addition, start looking for electronic alternatives to the paper superbill if your practice still uses one, Hays advises. The 100 or so codes on a typical superbill have expanded to more than 800 under the ICD-10 coding system, and superbills have become obsolete.

Expired Supplies

Many practices throw away outdated vaccinations, test strips, and other supplies, Hays notes. Use your EHR or electronic billing system to figure out how much you typically use and don’t overorder.