The Automated Clinic – Updated
There’s lots of talk these days about automation and ‘bots but how applicable is this to a busy healthcare clinic?
When many of us think about these words they conjure up negative images of walking and talking robots taking over the workplace but the reality is far more positive.
These kinds of technologies are revolutionising many industries by targeting the mundane, time-consuming tasks that frustrate many of us and drag us away from the things that we should be doing, like treating clients!
If you fancy eradicating those boring, repetitive tasks that you find yourself doing why not take a step back from your day to day activities and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there tasks that I do again and again and again and again? – you get the idea
- By doing these repetitive, potentially low value tasks am I making the best use of my precious time?
- By undertaking these tasks am I adding some intelligence/insight that means that it can’t be automated?
- By undertaking these tasks am I inadvertently having a detrimental impact on the experience and service that I offer to my customers?
- By undertaking these tasks am I introducing errors or mistakes because its just plain tedious?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the questions above you could probably benefit from some AUTOMATION. Below are some simple examples of the kinds of tasks that can readily be automated:
Forms are a day to day staple of clinic life and so finding ways to automate the completion and management of forms can be a major time-saver. Do you find yourself doing any of these things?
- Scanning forms that your client has completed and uploading them to your practice management system
- Sitting with your client and going through pre-assessment forms during their session
- Waiting for your client to complete a paper-based form before their session can begin
- Transcribing answers from a paper form completed by your client to an electronic form in your practice management system
All of these time-consuming tasks can be automated by providing your client with secure access to a portal where they can self complete pre/post treatment forms. The video below shows how this works in reality:
To put this into context, if you’re seeing 10-20 appointments per week and you’re spending 5 minutes per appointment managing forms you could save 50-100 minutes per weekly automating form completion.
Better still, this also saves your clients time and hassle as they no longer have to complete forms before, during or after their treatment.
Appointment Confirmations & Reminders
Yes, this technology has been around for a while now and most practice management systems are capable of sending out automated emails or texts. But, we still come across large numbers of clinicians who aren’t sending out appointment confirmations/reminders or worse still, they’re sending them out by hand – sometimes not very successfully
You can set up most systems so that an appointment confirmation email or SMS is sent to the client when you book an appointment for them. In addition, most systems will also allow you to send out a reminder email or SMS within a few days of the appointment to make sure they’ve not forgotten about it. In most cases this is a fully automated process.
Clients love it because it makes life a little bit easier and avoids them missing appointments. From your perspective it:
- Reduces admin time
- Cuts out the need for appointment cards (in most cases)
- Significantly reduces no-shows
Like confirmations and reminders, online booking has been around for a while but there are still a significant number of clinics that don’t offer this capability.
If you’re unfamiliar with online booking click on the example site below to see it in action and book a dummy appointment in to our fictitious clinic, Honey & Desk:
The benefits for your clients are:
- Ease of booking – no need to ring up or remember your phone number. They can just go onto to your website and book immediately
- 24*7*365 booking – no need to wait until someone is in clinic to answer the phones
Perhaps more importantly, the benefits from your perspective are:
- Increase first-time bookings – clients search for a clinician online and book immediately with you as opposed to your competitor because you have online booking and they don’t
- Lower operating costs (if you employ reception staff)
- Lower admin time (if you book your own appointments)
- Self-registration by your clients – they enter their own details which means you don’t need to
- Increase fee-earning time in-front of clients
Again, the whole process is automated.
- Clients book themselves in online
- They enter their own details/demographics which automatically forms part of the client/patient record
- They receive an automated confirmation email/reminder
- You receive an automated message letting you know that you’ve received an online booking
- Your diary is automatically updated with the details of the appointment
None of us (me included) enjoys invoicing. It’s tedious and time-consuming but as the adage goes: “Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality”
With this in mind it’s helpful to try and make the process as streamlined as possible to avoid finding an excuse to do something else!
Ideally, you want a solution that:
- eradicates the need to manually go through your diary and tot up the sessions
- automatically calculates the total cost and applies appropriate taxes
- allows you to add one-offs like mileage or supplied items like splints
- automatically generates a nicely branded invoice that can be emailed (preferably) to the client
- allows the client to quickly and easily pay the invoice – lest you forget, negative cashflow is the single biggest cause of SME failure
- maintains a log of each invoice that has been raised for the account and whether or not they have been paid
The video below shows a quick example of a rapid workflow for generating an invoice. It automatically lists the non-invoiced appointments, builds the invoice content, generates a clean branded invoice and allows you to mark it as paid.
Issuing an invoice is one thing but getting paid is another and often this can be one of the most time-sapping jobs for any small business. The trick here is to:
- Eradicate customer-facing time spent getting payment i.e. before/after treatment
- Make it super easy for your client to pay
- Minimise any manual reconciliation that might be required i.e auto verifying that payment has been received and reflecting this in your chosen practice management system
In WriteUpp we integrate with Stripe (but other system providers may link with other payment gateways) and the video below shows exactly how it all works:
Not all systems offer this capability but some (including WriteUpp) provide the ability to generate a document based on an event, like a new appointment.
In this scenario, if you booked an appointment and you wanted to send the client a printed appointment confirmation letter you could set up a triggered document that would automatically be generated every time you booked a new appointment. The client’s details would be automatically populated and all you would need to do is print the letter and post it.
Looking to the future we’re now starting to see an increasing number of Hybrid Mail providers who negate the need for printing a letter and putting it in an envelope. Instead, you just send them an encrypted file and they handle printing, addressing and physical delivery. All for less than the cost of a 1st Class stamp!
Looking to the Future
Going forwards we expect there will be some fantastic automation opportunities in areas like:
- Prompted exercise routines – automated SMS messages in between appointments “its day 3, have you completed xyz?”
- Voice-controlled assistants “Who am I seeing at 11am?”
- Automated feeds from biometric data that could trigger communications from your practice
- ..and even using chatbots to automatically communicate with clients to provide advice and guidance ahead of treatment