The Paperless Practice
The digital age has brought invaluable knowledge in an easily readable and transferable manner and the Holy Grail for many practices is to create the “Paperless Practice”
A Business Briefing by Bob Hutchinson
Principal Eros Business Consulting
We take a look at the advantages in striving towards a paperless practice.
The paperless practice has been highlighted as one of the benefits of integrated technology that is now possible in every practice. Originally only affordable by companies who could write bespoke programmes tailored to their needs now even the smallest practice can join the digital revolution.
But, perhaps the use of the phrase “paperless” is in itself putting too greater emphasis on the lack of paper and not enough weight to what is really created, a knowledge based business.
Being paperless has many advantages of course, not least less paper and records to collate, file, store and retrieve, as well as cutting down on the time it takes to assimilate and read them. Being knowledge rich means that access to information that you have pre-decided is useful to your business will be automatically provided on screen wherever you want, desk top, laptop, iPad or android.
Just as the use of the facsimile machine has all but died out, replaced by the digital network so too has the written sales report, memo and appointment book become a thing of the past. Let’s highlight some of the major advantages that practices going paperless can provide for a better managed and successful business and a happier staff and customer base.
Better knowledge collection and data transfer increases efficiency, speeds up the processing of patients, reduces human error, make staff accountable for their individual actions, and enables the practice to closely monitor the performance of every staff member, control stock and control the financial aspects of the practice.
Yet another positive result on achieving these goals, is that is becomes evident that all the staff involved become more empowered in their jobs, more aware of the aims of the business creating greater team work, loyalty and improved staff retention.
Let’s look at the paperless journey for every patient starting with the diary. Appointments for existing patients are easily made and new patients are easily added to the database with all their details taken including email addresses and mobile telephone numbers. The paperless system then sends the patient a text message to remind them about their appointment according to the flexible timings that have been set by the practice manager.
The modern IT solution can be demonstrated by a system provided by Ocuco in the form of Acuitas Retail where to collect information about the patient during the patient journey takes no longer and is not extra work. Indeed it stays as a permanent and editable record for every visit the patients make in the future. The system collects information from other technology, and from a number of members of the staff team and can compare this information with that recorded at previous visits.
Every pre-test result can then be viewed on the paperless record. During the sight test, every symptom, diagnosis, result, advice and recommendation are quickly and easily added to the record. Any form of electronic examination or refractive result can be transferred to and from the paperless record at the touch of a button.
This knowledge base could be vital for a successful prognosis, key to refining practice governance and motivating the work force. Ready to be interrogated for chosen results, KPIs and referral patterns selected and sent to all or selected members of staff on any digital media. Just as patients can be informed by text, email or snail mail so can they be reminded at a chosen time by text of their appointment time. Just reducing DNAs by 3 to 5% makes a startling difference on a practice’s bottom line profit.
Practices tell us that it’s the way patients notice the difference that has become the real business builder. The whole process is perceived by the patient to be far more professional than the old paper system. Previous visit data easily read is vital to continuity of care. Patients rightly expect the Optometrist to immediately know all about them on a return visit and this is only easily possible with a paperless system.
With eGOS its almost paperless bar the GOS form you need to get signed and retain, but that’s printed anyway so it’s no big deal. Key though is that the system automatically checks its composition is correct and it bears no mistakes that will be bounced backed with delayed payment for possibly another 5 weeks away! In fact it’s agreed electronically within 20 minutes, when corrections can be made for re-submission, and is then added to a five day payment queue. Yes that’s right 5 days not 5 weeks!
And then there’s running the business, the stock, the credit control, the product mix and the HR, yes it can all be done.
At all stages of the dispense journey, the order can be tracked by any computer linked in the practice. The patient payments and balances are always easy to check. The paperless system can also track the NHS benefits and will process invoices to any organisation.
Direct Debit information is now also covered by the system and along with stock can be easily transferred to a 3rd party accounts package.
The key to a successful transition to a Paperless Practice is giving time for training and discussion with solid assistance from a company such as Ocuco. Ocuco are renowned for their training and providing easily understood advice to all the practice staff. Explaining the benefits to each individual in the business provides a great motivation to successful installation in a time that best suits the practice and staff.
Managers can keep tabs on the business when and wherever they please by each practice automatically sending text messages on its daily turnover and other KPIs direct to mobile phones at the close of business every day. The data from each practice is backed up constantly during the day in the cloud, at 2 separate sites therefore keeping all the patient data totally safe.
The Paperless Practice provides a stimulus to growth allowing acquisition and new start up practices to be developed and overseen from a remote office or head practice. It also means more quality time with patients whilst streamlining the patient journey.
You can recap on the basics of PMS by reading another briefing paper.
Or read our intermediate briefing on using PMS in the practice.
Bob Hutchinson has been working in the centre of the optical sector since becoming an optometrist in the 70’s.
Recently retiring from clinical optometry, he continues to act for many SMEs as well as larger groups in strategy, PR & marketing and financial advice with a specialism in optical VAT.
His client base also includes large industrial companies in equipment and IT involved in the optical industry to name a few.
Still involved in optical decision making his aim has always been to encourage regulators and negotiators to allow the sector to flourish, and to assist others to own and manage financially robust businesses.
Eros Business Consulting