Today’s medical practices face a diverse range of problems. These include, to name a few, controlling increasingly high operating costs, raising patient satisfaction, and navigating the confusing maze of government regulatory requirements.
Though different problems, each one of these contributes to making clinics inefficient, and in turn, weaken the bottom line.
In this post, we look at how clinics can leverage the certain tools, technology, and practices to treat more patients, cut operating costs, and enable physicians and other clinic staff to work more productively.
Strategies for Managing a Medical Practice
Efficient Medical Offices Give More Ownership to Their Patients
One of the first things your clinic can do is empower your patients to take more ownership of their healthcare needs. The idea behind these steps is to cut your staff’s workload by removing tasks that you can either automate or give to the patient. Some examples include:
Enable Patients to Schedule Their Appointments
According to Accenture, 66% of health systems will offer self-scheduling, and 64% of patients will use self-scheduling in 2019.
A major driving force behind the move to let patients manage their appointment schedules is that they’re digitally comfortable. Your patients know how to use apps, calendars, and the like, so there generally isn’t a steep learning curve or much friction.
You can acquire this capability from a SaaS (software-as-a-service) application equipped with self-scheduling, automated calendar updates and appointment reminders, and other features.
These solutions can free up your office staff’s time greatly by removing the need to manually enter, track, and manage a time-consuming and low-value task. In some cases, this may cut major costs by trimming the number of staff hours you need.
Set-Up Patient Portals
A patient portal is a web application that enables the end-user to view their medical information.
(Source: Middletown Medical)
In practical terms, patients can use these portals to track their recent clinic/doctor visits, view their discharge summaries, and see their prescriptions. They can also message their doctors, enabling both sides to communicate outside of visits if necessary.
A major benefit of patient portals is that they allow the patient to get up-to-speed on their health information before visiting their doctor. In other words, the physician can spend more time on the purpose of their visit and work faster, i.e., boosting patient satisfaction.
Besides raising patient satisfaction, portals enable physicians to support more patients per day (by spending less time on each), i.e., boosting clinic productivity.
How to Improve Clinical Practices in Other Areas
Move Your EMR/EHR to the Cloud
If you’re using an electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR) system, then you should move it from on-premises to the cloud.
EMR/EHR software is resource intensive, and by relying on limited on-premises hosting will put it at risk of being slow and vulnerable to frequent crashes.
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These issues will hold up physicians and slow their productivity. In our experience, clinics can serve 2-3 additional patients per doctor per day if not for slow or unreliable EMR/EHR systems.
You also have the risk of patients sitting idle in the waiting room while the EMR/EHR loads. This could make patients feel frustrated, and that can put you at risk of lower patient satisfaction rates.
Hosting EMR/EHR on-premise also adds to your operating costs. In addition to the cost of purchasing servers, you must also pay for licensing, maintaining, and powering them. As you try adding capacity, each of these costs will rise significantly.
With the cloud, you don’t have to worry about the servers at all. Instead, you pay a flat-rate fee for the capacity you need for efficiently running your EMR/EHR.
Make Better Use of the Right Templates in Your EHR
Templates are a staple of EMR/EHR systems. They standardize the data-entry and note-taking process of recording and viewing patient data. You’d be surprised just how many clinics only use the default templates that come with their EHR.
Learn More on How to Make Your EHR Faster & More Reliable:
- Why EHR Interoperability is Important in Healthcare
- The Impact of Physician EHR Usage on Patient Satisfaction
- Top 5 Challenges with EHR Integrations
You should use as many different types of templates as needed to deal with each of your patient situations. If you try shoehorning many different scenarios into a few (default) templates, you raise the risk of errors and other inefficiencies in the future.
For example, when you need to revisit that patient’s information in the future, it won’t be organized in a way that’s easily accessible for the use case.
Issues like incorrect or inadequate templates can waste countless minutes per patient visit. Over the course of a day, it can amount to seeing more patients in the same amount of time.
Integrate Billing, Scheduling & Medical Devices to EMR/EHR
You can also integrate many of your clinic’s devices and processes to your EMR/EHR, and achieve a chain of cost, time, and human resource savings.
For example, you can integrate scheduling and billing to the EMR/EHR to automatically bill and document patient visits. This can enable insurance agencies to verify and release funds sooner (i.e., reimburse your clinic sooner).
You can also integrate medical devices to your EMR/EHR. Doing so will free you from hours of manual data-entry work by automating the task of both recording and updating the EMR/EHR with your devices’ findings.
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(Technician setting-up x-ray machine. Source: DepositPhotos)
You could take it a step further by using the correct templates (discussed above) to lay out your device information correctly for that patient. This saves you time by making it easier to pull-up and understand the data at a later date. It also reduces error-rates (e.g., from mistakes when inputting the data manually).
This also saves your patient’s time both at your clinic and with other health care providers (which may need to see the same information). In this way, EHR integration also delivers better patient experiences.
By cutting out the vast amounts of manual data entry work, integration also helps you run an efficient medical practice. You could free more of your doctors and physician assistants’ time for patient care instead of manual data entry work or correcting EMR/EHR information.
Ease Compliance Challenges & Work
As a clinic managing electronic health data (e.g., through EMR/EHR), you must follow HIPAA and HITECH. However, a challenge with these compliance frameworks is that you must audit your IT systems on a regular basis, especially if you want to secure government funding.
By properly templating each patient visit type (to ensure data accuracy) and by using cloud-based EMR/EHR hosting (for fast loading), you can drastically cut the time you spend on auditing. This will enable you get approvals and funding faster.
These steps also help prevent costly compliance violations by placing your patient data and EMR/EHR platforms in HIPAA/HITECH compliant IT environments.
Avoid Costly HIPAA Violation Fees by Using Our HIPAA Compliance Checklist
Prepare for Disasters & Breaches
Finally, HIPAA requires you to maintain a disaster recovery plan in case of a fatal error and/or cyber breach of your EHR/EMR platform.
This is a very costly requirement because you must store your health data in a HIPAA compliant data center. In addition to the capital expenditure (CAPEX) of building the hosting environment, you must also spend on maintaining, securing, and expanding it.
These costs can escalate as your resource requirements grow. One solution is to work with a HIPAA compliant cloud service provider (CSP). The CSP will own the infrastructure side; you’ll only pay a flat-rate fee for the cloud resources you need to fulfil your needs (and no other cost).
See Other Ways to Improve a Medical Practice:
- Cloud-Based EHR/EMR
- Transitioning From Paper-Based to Electronic Medical Records
- Everything You Need to Know About Cloud Computing for Healthcare
To correctly implement these steps, you need experts with experience in integrating health care systems and processes to the cloud. There’s no point in wasting time and money trying to build this capacity internally; find a partner.
Be it cutting IT failures by 60% in 4 months or making your EHR load lightning fast with cloud performance that’s 2X faster than the industry average, we’re ready to help. Continue here to get started.