Streamline & Simplify Practice Management for Increased Productivity
The “5S” method helps to overcome the management and organizational challenges that private practice physical therapy clinics face every day.
By John Carpenter, CPA and Larry Briand, MS, PT, ATC
As both a clinic and a small business, private practice physical therapy clinics face management and organization challenges every day. Since most aspiring physical therapists go to college to focus on becoming clinicians and not businessmen and women, it can be difficult to effectively run all aspects of a private practice while still being able to spend the most time where it counts—with patients.
It is important to realize that although we may be clinicians, we still have to develop our management arm. Many aspects of our clinic are affected by management—both good and bad—and being able to effectively manage a clinic can either make or break you.
“5S” is the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words as a guide: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke, which translate, respectively, into sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. This method, intended to enhance operations and efficiency on a daily basis, uses simple and easily implemented ideas to achieve high levels of quality, safety, and productivity. By organizing both your mind and workspace, you will be able to spend more time on patients and less on all the other things.
1. Sort (seiri): Make sure your clinic is organized in all ways possible by removing all unnecessary items and disposing of them properly, such as broken equipment, old files, or anything that is unnecessarily cluttering your clinic. This especially applies to administrative areas. Being organized in documentation and clerical aspects results in fewer errors in billing and communication with patients, and with payors in general. If you are having trouble deciding whether or not to keep a piece of equipment or other item, evaluate it with regard to whether or not it will positively affect your cost.
2. Straighten (seiton): Arrange all workspaces, both clinical and administrative, so that it is easy to locate what you need immediately. For treatment areas, keep them as clutter-free as possible so that patients can focus on their exercises. In administrative areas, make sure that all classified files are in order and, of course, properly stored out of sight. Especially if multiple administrators and/or clinicians share a workspace, make sure all resources are organized for quick and easy finding. Because many administrative factors determine reimbursement for services, make sure that workspaces promote proper workflow. Also, keep in mind that these workspaces should be evaluated regularly to ensure proper utilization by new staff members, equipment, or software.
3. Shine (seiso): Very simply, clean workspaces and treatment areas to ensure your clinic is both attractive and safe for your patients. This also applies to cleaning and taking care of your equipment, as it will further protect it and prevent deterioration or breakage.
4. Standardize (seiketsu): What sets our private practice clinic apart from other settings is how unique our approach to therapy is. We are very dedicated to individualizing our patients’ therapy care, and therefore, many patients prefer to receive treatment from private practices. Thus, the “standardize” concept of the 5S method applies to practice management, not clinical aspects. Promote best practices and simplify administrative aspects of your clinic. This will streamline office activity and promote quicker, more efficient work, which will save time and money. For example, using practice management software to its full potential can help to keep all information in one place. Also, having regular team meetings with your entire staff to discuss policies, procedures, and ideas ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding all aspects of the clinic, and, in turn, this can save you time and money on the whole.
5. Sustain (shitsuke): Once you develop a system that works at your clinic, make sure that it is sustainable. This is also where team meetings come in handy. The more that all staff members are aware of specific processes for your clinic, the better they will be able to do their duties, and to uphold the specific ideals of your practice. As with any process, you should periodically assess its success and evaluate areas for improvement.
Still, while the 5S system is very effective in organizing your clinic, sometimes further steps may be necessary to enhance your practice. Keep in mind that outsourcing certain tasks may be the best option for some private practice clinics. Billing and collecting, technology, staff training, and process-improvement methodologies are a few aspects of a private practice that can be outsourced to improve quality, efficiency, and turnaround. This can help to reduce costs while allowing you to focus on other aspects of your clinic, such as seeing patients, which in the long run can make you a more respected, profitable, and overall better managed clinic. Always remember that cost is only an expense in the absence of value.
Of course, keep in mind that with the changing times come new, more efficient ways to organize and manage your practice. These innovative technologies, such as cloud storage, can help you to improve operational efficiencies, preserve space in your clinic, increase accessibility for customers, and overall make your practice function faster.
As a private practice clinician, remember that there are plenty of tools and ways to organize and manage your clinic—you just have to keep an open mind, evaluate methods that work and do not work, and always keep looking forward to the future.
John Carpenter, CPA, is the founder of TAG-FAO, a cloud-based finance and accounting outsource (FAO) service for small businesses located in Racine, Wisconsin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larry Briand, MS, PT, ATC, is chief executive officer of Rehab Management Solutions in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. He can be reached at email@example.com.