It takes money to operate a medical practice from day to day. Money to pay monthly expenses. Money to stay up-to-date with technology, equipment and the latest clinical trends. Money to expand your medical practice. Medicine is a business, whether you’re a physician, dentist, veterinarian or some other type of specialist. Without reliable cash flow, you cannot achieve your business goals. Medical practice loans can help improve your cash flow.
WHY IS CASH FLOW SO IMPORTANT?
Your medical practice represents a tremendous investment: Extensive education and the debt that goes with it, cash (or loans) to purchase a practice or get started on your own, and now you have considerable ongoing operations expenses. The revenue you earn treating patients is the working capital that flows into your practice. It has to cover all those payments. And pay you, too.
When you have adequate working capital, you can:
- Hire top-notch staff
- Reliably pay your monthly expenses
- Save money to reinvest in your practice
- Stay up-to-date with technology changes
- Upgrade your office environment
- Buy out another practice or add a second location
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
The Medical Group Management Association says the average American medical practice fails to collect 25% of their receivables. Sometimes things go wrong. Billings are incorrect, and have to be redone. Medical equipment or computers break down. You could be the victim of a natural disaster, or a fire, or theft.
Physicians are largely dependent on reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies. The process is notoriously slow. You can have a record-breaking month. But you might not see that money until two or three months later. This drawn-out revenue cycle is a chronic condition that plays havoc with healthy cash flow. It’s hard to implement your plans because actual income is unpredictable.
Other types of medical practitioners – dentists and vets, for example – rely less on insurance payments. But cash flow is still erratic. It would be great if you could bill a consistent amount, week after week. But your schedule isn’t like that. Some periods are slow. When that happens, your cash flow might not cover your regular monthly expenses.
When cash flow is insufficient, bills go unpaid. You go unpaid. Your practice’s credit rating drops. All that puts your dream of a thriving practice on hold.
PLAN OF CARE TO IMPROVE CASH FLOW HEALTH
Word of mouth and some well-place advertising might be enough to grow your practice. But you’ll do better if you have a strategic business plan in place. Medical Economics says, “Without a formal process to identify your mission, values, goals, projects, timing, barriers, opportunities, and strategies, you are likely to miss good opportunities and make serious and expensive mistakes.”
With a deliberate plan:
- You’re in day-to-day control, you’re working proactively, not merely reacting to daily events.
- You can set priorities.
- You can focus on your patients instead of worrying about your finances.
- You have benchmarks to measure progress in growing your practice. When new ideas or opportunities present themselves, you have a way to evaluate them.
- You can be flexible without wandering off-course.
LEARN THE BASICS OF CASH FLOW MANAGEMENT
If you don’t understand the financial mechanics of cash flow, you cannot manage your practice effectively. Or budget profitably for the future. Dental Economics says, “You can control your cash flow, and with it your practice, lifestyle, and financial future.” They say cash flow is “arguably the least understood and most dreaded subject for dentists.”
That’s true for many other medical providers, too. That’s why our mission at United Capital Source is building long-term relationships with our medical clients. We want to help you understand your options when it comes to small business loans. That way you can make informed cash flow management decisions.
How much revenue will you need to cover operations, planned improvements, etc. for the year? That tells you how much production you’ll need. And how much you’ll need to collect. If you suspect a shortfall, don’t assume your only option is to add more patients. Yes, you want to grow your practice. But if you don’t have the tools and staff to give those new patients superior service, it’s not a viable plan. Instead, consider:
- Cutting expenses.
- Putting improvements or expansion plans on hold.
- Short term small business loans to fill in the gap. If gaps have become the norm for your practice, rethink #1 and #2. If you routinely depend on borrowing, your practice will only sink farther into debt.
It takes more than balancing your bank statement to know if your practice is making money. Periodic assessment of your practice’s vital signs shows whether you’re on track with your plan. It also alerts you to potential problems. You can predict when you’ll need more money. That’s when you’ll want to look at small business loans.
GIVE PATIENTS AN EASIER WAY TO PAY
Dentists, optometrists and veterinarians are not dependent on insurance reimbursements. In fact 64% of dental patients have no insurance. You can improve collections and shorten your revenue cycle by creating your own “in-house membership plan.”
ESTABLISH A CASH RESERVE
Saving money enables you to weather revenue fluctuations. You can pay your bills on time. And you don’t have to go into debt to do it. Cash reserves cover planned extra expenses. And they allow you to immediately handle emergencies without putting other payments in jeopardy.
SMART BORROWING IS A VITAL COMPONENT OF YOUR HEALTH PLAN
Small business loans can give your practice needed working capital to:
- Fill in when cash flow comes up short
- Fund long-term, high-cost improvements or expansion
In general, you should use long-term small business loans for long-term needs. Bank loans and SBA-backed loans are there when you need large sums for things like purchasing real estate and major equipment to expand your practice or add a new location.
Short-term business loans are best for short-term needs. They replace the uncertainty of reimbursements with cash right now. That smooths your cash flow. And it protects your practice credit rating by ensuring you can pay your bills on time. These small business loan options include accounts receivable factoring, merchant cash advance and short-term unsecured loans. Your practice’s credit cards and business line of credit are also types of short-term loans.
When your cash flow is healthy, you can build the medical practice of your dreams.