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Adding ancillary services at independent primary care practices

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As a primary care physician, you are focused on making sure your patients have what they need to lead healthy lives. You provide basic services, coordinate with specialty providers, and work with labs and pharmacies to be sure your patients receive the appropriate care. You may also be considering expanding to include ancillary services at your independent primary care practice.

The first step to take when considering whether adding ancillary services is right for your practice is to determine the financial ramifications. Those services will probably bring in additional revenue, but they will also carry a cost with them. Rather than purchasing expensive equipment to provide ancillary services, for example, it might make more sense to lease the equipment or to have a contract service come to the practice on a regular basis.

Determining whether the ancillary service will actually be useful to and used by patients is another important step. Bringing lab services in-house may be enticing to patients who feel more comfortable having their laboratory tests done at the practice itself rather than having to go to another facility. Doug Graham, a practice consultant at DoctorsManagement in Knoxville, Tenn., advises that independent primary care “practices need to determine whether or not they have the requisite demographic to truly benefit from the service.”

Potential ancillary services to provide at an independent primary care practice include those laboratory tests, mobile mammography services, ultrasound, allergy testing, imaging, transitional care, and chronic care, among others. The added services must make sense to the practice and to the patient base.

Graham adds that the independent primary care physician should look carefully at the potential reimbursement for ancillary services, particularly where billing codes could become an issue. He cautions that “even though Medicare says they will pay for [a service], a doctor should always check with their local coverage determination. Some of these ancillaries will have a global CPT charge, a professional fee, and a technical fee.”