There’s a lot we look forward to as the end of the year approaches: holiday parties, goodies from patients, the general spirit of goodwill and cheer. But for rehab therapists, the end of the year also represents the time for annual planning, patient eligibility checks, patient reminders to meet their deductibles (and pay off their outstanding balances)—you know the routine. You might also be asking yourself if the end of the year is a good time to evaluate—and potentially switch—your existing physical therapy software. It’s natural, after all, to wonder what your organization could gain from a different (and maybe more suitable) technology partner. Out with the old, and in with the new, as they say!
To provide some expert insight on when is a good time in the calendar year to switch your PT software, and what other factors you should be weighing when making this decision, we’ve consulted WebPT’s Director of Solutions Architecture, Joseph Russolello, PT, DPT, MBA.
Why would you need to switch?
To kick it off, let me first outline why you may need to make a switch. While necessity will vary from clinic to clinic, there are some clear indications that it might be time to say goodbye to your current software:
- Your current software is not web-based.
- It is not rehab specific.
- It can’t scale alongside your clinic.
- Your billing software and EMR aren’t integrated.
- Your software partner doesn’t provide free training and/or support.
- You find yourself falling behind evolving compliance standards.
If you’re still unsure, that’s OK. Russolello advises folks to always come back to their “why” and revisit their clinic’s goals and objectives. Ask yourself: “What am I trying to accomplish next year and where do I see this clinic going?” Then, follow up with this: “Is my current software going to get me there, or hold me back?”
When is the best time to switch software?
So, perhaps you’ve decided, “yes, I’m going to switch my software—but when?” Unfortunately, there is no one answer for this, either. However, we have some definitive timing tips you can use to guide your decision and ensure success for your clinic.
Know the seasonality of your clinic.
The first and most important aspect of timing this transition is knowing the seasonality of your own clinic. Russolello points out that every clinic has a life cycle of its own and the diversity of clinics in practice today really determines the optimal times to make a switch in software. As Russolello states, “the fourth quarter [of the business cycle] is usually a good time for strategic planning to evaluate partners and look at prospective [ones].”
Regardless, your clinic will be influenced by staff PTO, holiday periods, insurance deductible resets, end of fiscal years, and much more. To set your software transition up for success, knowing your clinic’s specific ebbs and flows is a necessity. (If this first step seems like a big ask, that’s another clear sign your current software is letting you down—and that you’re making the right decision.)
Consider periods of low caseload.
One commonality often seen across clinics are the periods of low census that come from scheduled events. These events often include holidays, school sessions, and insurance changes (e.g., new deductibles). According to WebPT’s data, we’ve found that from the last week of December 2021 through January 17, 2022, our EMR Members saw the largest percentage (over 25% of scheduled patients) of patient cancellations and no-shows.
These lulls, although annoying, can provide you with a great opportunity to work on your business when you can’t work in it. Use this time to get ahead of housekeeping tasks like internal chart audits, compliance training, and/or continuing education. Better yet, this respite can be the perfect time to transition software. Using these low stress sessions in the clinic will provide all staff ample time and opportunity to learn the new software—without sacrificing caseload management or devoting extra time outside of work hours.
Plan around your staff’s concerns and be transparent.
Change of any type is difficult, so the more you and your leadership team can work with your staff to alleviate their concerns, the better positioned your organization will be for something as significant as a software transition. As Russolello puts it, “when you are in the weeds and stressed, you tend to think any change is bad already.” So, it’s important to get your staff in the right mindset before enacting any and all organization-wide changes.
Holding staff meetings or workshops are great ways to gather your staff’s feedback—and make them feel as though their voice and opinions matter. It’s also crucial to remember that these are the folks who will likely be utilizing the software day in and day out. With that in mind, your front office staff and therapists can be tremendous sources of information when it comes to selecting a software that has the right features and workflows that supports their (and your organization’s) needs.
Plan for enough time for your staff to learn the software—better yet, ensure the software you choose has a proven framework to make this a painless transition for staff. (Bonus points if you choose a software with unlimited product support and training, like WebPT.)
How should you implement new software?
Now that the need to switch and the timing of said switch have been determined, putting this plan into action is the next step requiring some forethought. Too often, Russolello has seen new software launches go astray due to poor planning. To combat this, he recommends having a solid strategic plan in place.
Forming a strategic plan around new PT software implementation provides you and your staff with clear guidelines that pertain to software goals, budget constraints, specific timelines, any necessary hardware or infrastructure changes, and creating a backup plan should the transition go awry. The key takeaway from the strategic plan is to set goals for both leadership and staff to work toward. (For more on this topic, get our free guide on implementing software in your PT clinic.)
Also remember that adding a new rehab software is as much about getting a good program as it is forming a relationship with a partner who’s invested in your success. Lean on this new partnership to get the software up and running smoothly. Take for example, WebPT’s stellar Success, Support, and Solution Architects teams (the one Russolello heads up); they offer unlimited onboarding and training support to all folks who purchase a WebPT product—and that really should be table stakes for any technology provider you’re working with.
Switching software can be nerve wracking. But when you find a partner (like WebPT) that works tirelessly to contribute to your clinic’s success, makes goals attainable, and helps you provide the best care possible to your patients, the decision becomes clear—and the process, easy.