If cloning were possible, we could be everywhere at once. But it’s not—yet—so, for now, we must resort to finding other ways to stretch our reach. That’s where automation comes in. By identifying the tasks and activities that truly require your warmth and expertise—and then automating everything else—you can maximize your time as well as your staff’s. If you read yesterday’s post on optimization, you may already be connecting the dots: automation is a great way to minimize waste and thus, improve efficiency, productivity, and value. Think how much better your practice would run if the mundane tasks you perform over and over again did themselves.
If you’re waiting for your patients to arrive at their initial visits before handing them a clipboard with a paper intake form to complete, you’re wasting a whole lot of valuable time—theirs and yours. Plus, what will you—or your staff—have to do with that form once a patient returns it? I’m guessing you’ll probably either manually transfer everything the patient just hand-wrote into your EMR or add pertinent information onto yet another form within the patient’s chart. Not only is this method ripe for error, but it’s also incredibly time consuming—and silly, considering that there are so many better options available.
Automate the process with an electronic medical record (EMR) that provides a patient intake tool. When a patient schedules his or her first appointment, you can send a template email with an appointment confirmation and other pertinent information—like what to expect, what to bring, and what to wear—as well as a link to the patient intake form. Patients can then complete the form at home—where they can easily gather all of their relevant medical history information. This process cuts down the amount of time patients spend sitting in your waiting room. Plus, their information automatically will transfer into the patient record within your EMR. No pesky data entry—double or otherwise.
You’ll also be able to send your patients automatic appointment reminders via email, phone, or text, so no one at your office has to do so manually. And if you use an integrated scheduling solution, appointments will be linked with patient records, so you’ll know exactly who’s coming when—and you can track no-shows and cancellations.
Printing, Scanning, Faxing, and Shredding
If you’re still operating your practice on paper—eek—then the floor in your clinic is probably worn bare in the paths between the printer, scanner, fax machine, and shredder. Then there’s the filing, organizing, and searching to consider. Even if you’ve made the switch to an EMR, unless it integrates with your billing software or allows you to fax directly from the system, you’re probably spending far too much time shuffling paper that would have been better as tree bark. Save the forest—and your practice—by automating it all with a complete EMR and practice management solution that does the organizing, transferring, sharing, and storing for you. Some even offer internal communication tools, so you can message someone in your office to ask a question while you’re working in a patient’s chart—without leaving your desk and hunting that person down.
As a business owner, you’ve got bills to pay. However, you no longer need to cut paper checks to do so. Instead, automate the bill-pay process by requesting electronic bills (a.k.a. ebills) and scheduling automatic reminders and payments. You can do this through the vendor itself or through most banking institutions. You can even set alerts to confirm payments and receive notifications if a bill is unusually high. Speaking of paying people, you also can automate your payroll and your benefits processes with services like Dwolla and Namely.
When it comes to collecting money, there’s automation available for that, too. Ditch the calculators and spreadsheets, and use a software that helps you collect, track, and manage co-pays and reimbursements.
There are so many opportunities to automate your marketing efforts. Instead of sending out a tweet or making a Facebook status update whenever you remember, you can keep a constant queue of follower-inducing posts using a tool like Buffer, which will send your messages to the world at the times your followers are most likely to read them (yup, there’s an algorithm for that).
Plus, MailChimp, Emma, and TinyLetter allow you to create really well-designed automated emails and newsletters for your mailing list. Therapydia Portland clinic director Jason Villareal, DPT, ATC, sends his patients an automated survey to ensure he and his staff are providing top-notch customer service and care.
You also can automate referral tracking—right from your EMR. If your automated intake form includes a question about how patients heard about you, the system will compile that information into a super handy report, so you’ll know whom to thank and whom to remind of your awesomeness. No more guesswork—and no more tally marks on a notepad.
Running low on hot or cold packs? What about foam rollers? You can use an inventory management system to track your supplies and alert you when you need to order more. You also could consider automating your purchasing schedule, so what you need shows up when you need it—without you having to lift a finger. At the very least, ensure your ecommerce platform automates re-ordering so you can get your essentials in a snap.
Managing the Facility
Want to automate the lights in your office? How about the thermostat, the locks, the plant-watering schedule? With the latest advancements in smart home—and work—technology, you can automate just about everything that goes into managing your office. While these tasks might seem inconsequential by themselves, they add up over time.
When it comes to business, someone has figured out an automation process or software for just about everything, so when you identify anything cumbersome in your practice, do some research. There’s probably a way to make it a whole lot better—no cloning necessary. And if there isn’t, then you’ve got an idea for a side business.