Quick Suggestions for Podiatric Practice Management Innovation
As medical professionals, we of all people should realize full well that “the way it’s always been done” usually doesn’t cut it.
After all, that’s why even after years or decades in practice, continuing medical education credits remain necessary for license renewal. And even if continuing education wasn’t professionally required, most of us would probably still go anyway. Who doesn’t want to learn new skills, enhance their abilities, be on the cutting edge of research and development?
In a science and medicine sense, we get it. Our knowledge base and treatment technology keep advancing, so we as professionals must keep up. And we know how to do that.
In a practice management sense, though? Oh boy.
Many of us default to “the way it’s always been done” because frankly we don’t know any better. And because it takes all our mental energy just to keep up.
But shaking things up on a fundamental level—even in a couple of small ways—can honestly make a huge difference. Below, you can find a few suggestions of innovations to try—or how to implement a system that makes innovation easier.
Online Appointment Booking
Allowing patients to see their preferred doctor’s schedule and appointment availability, then reserve a time slot—all from their computer or smartphone—is a great way to lower the barriers that might keep a patient from seeing you.
Unlike a human receptionist, an online scheduler can be available 24/7. And, quite honestly, many patients might avoid calling simply because they are nervous for one reason or another (language barriers, generalized anxiety, privacy concerns, etc.)
Plus, allowing patients (or at least those within certain categories, such as those seeking an initial exam, diabetic checkup, etc.) to book on their own frees up your front desk and reception staff to help patients already in the office, or perform other internal tasks.
Secure Online Forms
Most practices have patients fill out a new patient form or other paperwork while they sit in the waiting room. Many others might put the forms online, but as static, downloadable documents that the patient still must print out and fill in.
But what if you offered intake and medical history forms that could be completed online, and connect directly with your EMR? How many hours of manual data entry would that save your team? How many fewer mistakes would you make?
No, you’re not going to fully eliminate paper forms anytime soon, unless you can put a tablet computer in everyone’s hands in your waiting room. But if you could get even half of your patients to participate in the digital process, it could make a huge difference.
These days, almost every patient you see is carrying with them, in their pocket, a device that can record high quality audio and video and send it over the internet in real time.
At the same time, many patients have difficulty getting to your office for one reason or another—poor mobility, lack of transportation, inflexible work and family schedules, etc.
See where this is going?
Sure, you might not be able to dispense treatment or run an X-ray over a videoconference. But for many kinds of appointments—say checking on a diabetic wound, or many basic examinations—telemedicine can be a great way to “fill in the gaps” between in-person appointments and stay in contact to drive better outcomes for your patients. It also allows you to fill up those appointment slots that otherwise would have sat empty, of course.
Obviously, there are a lot of medical services that can’t be fully automated. But many can, especially when they are routine and don’t necessarily require the time or expertise of a physician.
Automating the approval process for prescription refills, for example, can take a big load off your plate. And how about automatically sending out not only appointment reminders, but also appointment “encouragers” to high-risk patients if they haven’t scheduled yet, but you know it’s time for a diabetic foot exam or orthotics checkup?
There’s even software out there that can automate the process of filling last-minute cancellations via sending a text or email to patients on a waiting list, which can significantly reduce empty appointment slots and save your team a lot of needless phone-tag-related headaches.
You can even automate the process of requesting and collecting online reviews and testimonials from happy patients in order to boost your profile and reputation in the community!
Open a Shop
Most local pharmacies carry some basic over-the-counter footcare products—antifungal creams, wart kits, gel insoles, that sort of thing.
But as a podiatrist, you have access to higher quality OTC products that would typically be available at a corner drugstore. And of course, you know your patients and have the medical expertise you need to curate and select these products based on effectiveness and need, and you can explain the value and benefits to patients effectively.
Setting up a small shop where you can sell a selection of footcare products not only saves your patients an extra trip to the pharmacy, but also allows them to come back and buy from you when they need to restock.
Seek Ideas from INSIDE Your Team
What percentage of your tower is made of ivory?
Okay, we tease. But it’s important to remember that good ideas can come from everywhere and everyone. And that the doctor and even the practice manager don’t necessarily see the 100% full picture or get the same view that the MAs or the receptionists do.
We’ve written about this before in our blog about improving your workplace culture, and it’s honestly so important. Creating an environment where employees feel empowered to offer suggestions and opinions and participate in the deliberative process can draw out some really great ideas!
Never ignore a suggestion just because of who it came from. The innovation that makes you a multi-millionaire might come from an MA—or the cleaning staff. You never know.
Seek Ideas from OUTSIDE Your Team
Again, this should be familiar to you if you’re already a member of the AAPPM, or you’ve been reading our recent blogs.
There are thousands of other podiatric professionals out there, facing the same kinds of challenges, working with some of the same tools—and maybe some other tools that work way better, or worse.
Being able to tap into that collective wisdom and experience, and applying what others have learned, really can lead to quantum leaps in your practice. We’re talking customer service and satisfaction, patient compliance and retention, revenue cycle management, marketing, coding, billing … the works.
The AAPPM is set up specifically to foster these kinds of connections and facilitate the kind of rapid, explosive innovation and learning that’s really only possible when you have a team of like-minded professionals—thousands of them—united for a common purpose and sharing what they know.
Want to learn more? Your first step is to check out our website. There’s tons of great practice management blogs, as well as information on upcoming conferences, membership benefits for doctors and staff, and much more.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (517) 484-1930. And of course, if you’re ready to join the friendliest group in podiatry, you can do so online at any time. We look forward to meeting you!