Regardless of where medicine is practiced, efficiency and profitability are dependent upon processes and procedures. If the processes and procedures are automated, the Clinic becomes dependent upon automation to the degree that no alternative process is readily available. And yet, holding onto the “old way” for sake of avoiding dependency simply precludes the commitment necessary to engage improvements. The net result is change made for the sake of change.
We need to recognize that any change implemented by a practice will create a risk. The “old” way of doing things, i.e. writing letters on paper, will no longer be available or we won’t have stamps to post the letter. Automate every office function and process you can. Interconnect the functions you automate so one piece of data is entered manually only once. When data comes from a machine or device of some kind, an automated interface will eliminate manual data entry and with it every opportunity for human error. Depend on the defined process, tools and your people.
Whether the processes and procedures deliver efficiency at a level which produces a satisfactory profit depends on a number of variables. One of which is the process itself. For the purpose of this discussion, the process is the general category of automation, specifically Electronic Health Record software and Billing software with all their appendages and inter-connections. Create user friendly interfaces between automation and people. Give your people tasks that require thinking, experience and knowledge, supported to the fullest by automation and training.
Training can release you from unprofitable and therefore undesirable dependency. Better trained people not only do better work and more of it in less time, but they are happier and make the workplace for others enjoyable. Training is the most often overlooked and underused tool to increase efficiency and therefore profitability. Becoming dependent upon well trained staff, using any reasonably good software and other automated tools, is a good thing for business.
Take out the emotional attachment to changing EMR and billing systems. Remove yourself from the glitter of the newest and the best. Instead, rely on running a good office, with all its shortcomings, in the best way you can. A new EMR system, expensive or cheap, will not fix an office whose procedures are lacking and whose people are not fully trained.
Training alone will increase the value and functionality of your software. Whether you have great software, average or marginal software, your office will gain significant advantage by investing in your staff through training. In most cases it will cost less and deliver more than buying new software. Not one or two training sessions but routinely established training for updates and as a refresher for less frequently used functions. Learn more about training in my full length article devoted to training.
If you precede training with a thorough review of office processes and functionality of your existing software, you can implement new functionality and appropriately modified office processes before beginning training. Now you are in position to dramatically increase efficiency and profitability. If after this effort you still find the software inadequate, you are in an excellent position to select the best software for your office.
It is sometimes difficult to run a business without emotion but it is essential for a well run clinic. Businesses can’t afford to make “buy” versus “training” decisions based on frustration or complaints. Efficiency and therefore profits, come from doing the same thing well over time. Using the same tools, working with the same people (good people and well trained), elevating people to tasks that require their best skills and diligent thought process. These are the elements of profitable companies. Repetitive change becomes a business into itself, is often poorly planned, only partially executed, costs more than expected and delivers less than expected. Change puts off the favorable dependency of doing the same thing well over time, for its own cycle of “change again” in five years or so.
I do not sell training (except to a very small client base, maybe 2% of revenue) but I do sell lots of data conversions. Offices that skimp on training, then buy new software to make up for it, are my bread and butter. I recommend training and all that goes with it but personally prefer they keep changing software. As for dependency, if you are committed to using it, you are dependent upon it. Take advantage of it, automate everything, and become dependent on well planned and fully integrated automation. Make it work for you. Don’t fight with it.