That’s right, your clinic is effectively one of your patients.
Sometimes it requires assessment, treatment and a program or pathway to achieve the results you would like. You may even need to refer it to a specialist at times and it certainly requires an MOT every year!
So why not use your clinical skills?
Just as you would consider you patient’s welfare in a multi-regional / systemic approach why not do the same for your clinic?
Let’s think this way for a moment and break it down into a simplified consultation:
Presenting symptoms I can’t seem to get enough patients in my dairy ….. there’s just too much administration after my working day …. I’d like to expand but can’t handle the paperwork. Take your pick or add your own!
Previous history: I’ve tried advertising and talks, nothing seems to work … There’s still loads of voice mails at the end of the day …. There’s always letters to type up and send…
Aggravating factors: It costs so much both financially and mentally! I’m working flat out as it is already! Missed calls, DNA’s and cancellations …
Relieving factors: None reported.
Diagnosis: Seasonal clinic fatigue!
Treatment plan: Take a look at your clinic as you would a patient and fix the root cause not just the symptoms.
There are always some “easy wins”. They’re the no brainers, the simple solutions and often the most cost effective and time effective.
A little investment now could provide big gains in the future. Break your time down into an hourly rate, if you can see 2 patients in an hour let’s say that’s £60-80, so if you are saving just 2 hours a month by using a practice management system you are already potentially quids in. That is easily achievable if you consider the time savings on letter templates, invoices, finances, reporting and wage calculations! Now add in the possibility of not missing any new patient enquires by using online bookings and reception services, well that can be another 3 appointments added that you might of missed (a new patient = 1 Initial consultation and conservatively 2 treatments). So all of a sudden the return on investment is looking rather attractive. That’s not to mention the reduction of paper notes and files. There are lots of courses out there on practice and business growth. All of them will tell you that you need to record, measure and monitor what is happening under your roof and then look to improve. Your practice management system should be considered to be the neural network of your business. It collects and processes what is happening in your clinic. Some of this is might be conscious actions such as adding expenses and other parts might be automated, like invoices and receipts. A classic example of this is when you come to produce annual accounts. Your practice management system should be collating all this information in the back ground for you so when it’s time to hit the buttons it only takes a moment or two instead of days lost hunting around for misplaced patient invoices and receipts. If you have multiple clinics then potential problems and benefits are magnified!
For those well-seasoned Osteopaths running clinics may be second nature but remember that at college the focus is on the clinical world and passing the FCC’s but I’m sure you’ll agree “out there” it’s very different. Let’s split your clinic into simple systems. It roughly comprises of:
Potential patients / General public
Reception & Administration
Advertising / Marketing
Not so simple after all, it’s complex. The clinical aspect for which we are all highly trained accounts for one fifth of the total picture. The interactions between all of these “systems” will affect the health of your clinic.
Potential patients / General public
The trick is to figure out how to get people on your plinth. You know that you can help most of your patients most of the time and even if you can’t you are able to send them on the right path to recovery. So take a cold hard look at how you interact with the general public. The days of putting your name outside a door and patients pouring in are long gone, if in doubt ask any new graduate or anyone looking to open a new clinic. There needs to be interaction in a different way. Patients are more sophisticated in all aspects of their lives and expect their healthcare interaction to reflect this also. Online bookings give patients flexibility but can be controlled by the clinic. The old fears of people seeing all of your dairy doesn’t need to happen any more. Access to appointments whether via networks such as Pronto which includes Zesty, What Clinic and BUPA are changing the healthcare horizon. A true network opens up enormous opportunities to you and grows without you having to work, it’s the future.
Reception & Administration
Why not list out what the actual roles are and who is supposed to do them (of course it might only be just you!). Take a look at how each area performs and look for improvements. Often clinics approach this in an entirely subjective way. Nothing wrong with that but you wouldn’t only assess a patient subjectively would you? You would palpate, interact, test and get a feel for what is happening deep down and eventually come up with your objective findings. Let’s take reception as an example. Frequently it is assumed that the phone is been answered correctly and in a way that you want but I can guarantee you that human nature will lead to some very interesting interactions with patents on your behalf, such as: “Thanks for cancelling … call back any time…” ….. “Oh don’t worry no cancellation charge today” …. … “just pay next time” … “you don’t have your authorisation code, don’t worry .” Sound familiar? Do the sums for your clinic, a mixture of 5 cancellations and DNA’s a week that are not charged for can end up being in the region of over £10,000 per year. So I would suggest that you come up with a strategy to manage them, after all no one wins with a cancellation. Practitioners don’t practice and patients don’t get treated and then tell their friends how marvellous Osteopathy is. Text message reminders can be an extremely effective way of reducing cancellations and DNA’s, they can also help you apply your cancellation and DNA policy if sent out 24hours before. Give them a go and see what differences they can make. That’s just the tip of the iceberg but a great starting point to get you thinking. What about how you deal with insurance companies? Do you get the correct information from your patients or do you spend endless hours chasing patients for codes and membership numbers? All these little things add up and distract from time you and your clinic can be spending looking after your patients.
It’s interesting that for this particular article the clinical element is actually going to have one of the smallest amounts of text (do not fear a whole article on clinical notes is coming soon). That’s not to say it’s not the most important, after all, if you are not fixing people all the other parts don’t really matter. Here’s a few points to consider. Efficient note taking via electronic patient notes may not on the surface seem to be of benefit to your patients but once you consider the time savings on admission, discharge letters and reports the improved level of efficiency in your service may make just enough difference to set you apart from the rest. Delays in medical letters, referrals and results are frustrating and likely somewhere along the line, don’t let it start with you!
Finance / Accounting
Take a look at how to collate your financial data. Don’t wait until the last minute and panic. It’s the biggest waste of time and emotions, believe me. Get it right from the start and plan out how you are going to approach it, maybe monthly or quarterly? Get a plan and stick to it. If your financial information is neatly stored it should in theory reduce you accounting bills and it will save time when coming to fill out the tax returns. Bags of receipts and random pieces of paper will do just the opposite. Of course finances can also include monthly wage calculations. I have seen some very interesting sliding scales of pay and formulas for appointments delivered by practitioners and to cut a very long story short, if you are using a calculator and spread sheet to come up with the figures get a custom report built as soon as possible! A custom report will be accurate and potentially save many hours poking at the calculator.
Advertising / Marketing
Anyone will tell you that this is one of the hardest parts. Have you hand delivered 1000’s of leaflets only to find that the response rate is around 1%? Have you spent £1000’s on a glossy advertorial and not recorded the response rate? These examples probably sound familiar. Word of mouth is still by far the best but slowest way to build your practice. That’s why it’s so important to look at how you deal with each patient the whole way through their patient journey with you and your clinic. They are your marketing champions! Don’t be afraid to ask them to recommend your services to their friends and relatives. Use your database for contacting your patients with special offers or relevant news about your clinic. Thinking of doing a charity open day? Send everyone an invite at the clinic of a button.
We have only scratched the surface in this article but I hope it’s given you something to think about. Your clinic truly is your patient!