Tools to Reduce Burnout
The right technology can improve operations and your bottom line.
By Brian J. Gallagher, PT*
In today’s world, we could not imagine running our private practice without the proper electronic medical record (EMR) system in place. Not that long ago many therapists’ documentation of sessions consisted of handwritten notes that were often illegible and/or incomplete. This made it difficult for coworkers and payers to review notes and get the accurate information needed about a patient’s care. We not only needed an improved system for documentation, but we also needed enhanced technology that could bring together multiple systems of control into one area. As a result, we now have a wide range of EMR systems available to us that offer scheduling, billing, and practice management solutions in one product. Another technology tool that can help us in our day-to-day practice is the use of virtual or video technology. But first, let’s start with EMR.
It is very important to choose the right EMR system for your practice due to the time commitment and upfront costs of switching systems. Here are the criteria that I use:
1. Your EMR system should be a fixed rate system per location, not a pay as you grow system. The success of your practice is due to your ingenuity, time, energy, and effort. Why should the EMR company make more money over time as a result of your hard work and success?
2. Many EMR systems provide a customizable scheduling feature that helps your front desk better organize the scheduling of patients based on their diagnosis and the specialties of your clinicians. One thing to look for inside your EMR system is an automated patient appointment reminder system, and the ability to flag authorization dates and future reauthorization dates to be met.
3. The practice management component of your EMR system needs to be able to track practice statistics, with customized reporting to complement what you are able to obtain from QuickBooks. Measuring your practice’s success by statistics as a representation of whether or not you are achieving your intended goals is the most effective management style in the world. If you are not managing by statistics, then you are managing by personality, which is very ineffective.
4. Your EMR system needs to have the ability to adapt to changes in your practice. It needs to be customizable should you choose to specialize in women’s health, pediatrics, aquatics, or take on a cash-based business with personal fitness training. Each practice area will have varying documentation needs. Poor time management as a result of inefficient documentation processes, such as having to go through too many, is frustrating. One of the main benefits of electronic medical records is the ease of sharing data between professionals and payers without printing, scanning, or faxing.
The use of video/virtual technology can be very useful during the orientation and onboarding process for newly hired staff members. This technology can allow you to record the sessions and to screen share and connect to a whiteboard app that will save the pages for follow-up for the new employee’s reference. The time associated with the onboarding process will be greatly reduced, and the level of consistency between staff members will be enhanced, decreasing the costs of the hiring process. Video/virtual training is a perfect fit for today’s Millennial generation. Chances are anyone you hire under 35 years old has had some experience with it already as part of their current learning style. Since this will be an autonomous means for them to learn, with greater accountability, you will often find improved morale among your staff.
One way to use video/virtual technology is through digital classrooms. They can be used for online continuing education, webinars, professional enhancement days, and clinical mentorship training. A majority of those who are graduating with the doctor of physical therapy degree today have had some experience learning through prerecorded video classes and online training. New grads are going to expect to have a continuing education budget, but if you invest some of that money into a digital classroom, overall you’ll be saving money. Having the proper video conferencing software combined with an HDTV, HD webcam, with high-end audio speakers and microphone, you’ll be able to offer a more professional experience. Having a virtual setup will also save you time and reduce travel costs away from the office. Last, you’ll be able to bring together staff from multiple offices regardless of the distance for meetings and training.
These innovative tools can prevent you from wasting time, money, and the resources of your good staff away from your patients. The technology you use will only be as good as the planning that goes into its utilization. If you don’t have a business strategic plan, a marketing plan, and meeting protocols, then you’ll be inconsistent in message and in operations throughout the year. So many practices that I have evaluated ride what I call the “PT rollercoaster,” where new patients and patient visits go up and down throughout the year without any apparent reason. Most often, owners are reacting to this unpredictability instead of being in control over it.
Brian J. Gallagher, PT, is a Private Practice Section (PPS) member and the owner of MEG Business Management in Belleair, Florida, providing consulting/coaching and billing services for “startup” private practice owners to multisite owners all across the country. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The author has a vested interest in the subject of this article.