Managing a podiatry practice is completely different from working in one. From motivating your staff to staying on top of finances and managing the client relationship – there are so many different areas that require your attention. Unfortunately, practice management isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone, and it’s unlikely to have been covered during your studies. However, the good news is that effective podiatry practice management can be learned.
By following a few simple steps, you’ll be able to target the different areas of your practice and make decisive changes which will have long-lasting benefits for both your practice and your clients. When it comes to management, there’s always more that can be done but covering the basics will ensure that your podiatry practice continues to grow and improve.
Step 1 – Begin with the end in mind
One of the most important things you can do for your practice is to establish your mission and values, then break it down into specific goals that can be implemented in the different areas of your podiatry practice.
Having a bigger picture outlook will help you focus on the most important areas, and ensures that everything you do contributes to those end goals and is in line with your mission. For example, your overarching mission might be to “help those with underlying conditions to manage their foot health effectively for long-term improvements and increased quality of life”. This will then inform the type of clients that you target, and will ensure that you maintain a client-first approach in all aspects of your practice.
Step 2 – Set up streamlined processes
If you give five people the same task to complete, but with little to no guidance on how you want the job done, it will be done in five completely different ways. Practice managers, as they expand, try to use the same approach that worked for them when they were solo practitioners. This usually means that you do most of the work yourself, often end up redoing things that other staff members have done incorrectly and spend a lot more time putting out fires than is strictly necessary.
Turning this around isn’t easy. First, you have to unlearn your approach – it’s not working for you, and it’s time to up your game. Second, you need to make a list of all the processes that happen in the practice, from welcoming clients and completing new client forms, right through to client follow-ups after their last appointment. Third, you need to write step-by-step guides for each of your processes in your Practice Operations Manual. Fourth, you need to distribute the guides to your staff. Fifth, you can ask your team for feedback, and monitor how they navigate the process guides, then make changes and updates where necessary.
Step 3 – Start automating admin tasks
This is where podiatry management software can make your life a lot easier (don’t take it from us, read the case study on Denise Setton who had a paper-based podiatry practice for 37 years and went digital 2 years ago). If you rely on manual invoicing and payment receipts, keep a paper diary of appointments, or rely on your admin staff to make appointment reminder calls, then you’re going to love the features that the right software can offer your practice. It’s estimated that up to 75% of the time is spent on paperwork and client preparation, leaving only a small amount of time left for diagnosing and treating clients. If automation can free up even a small percentage of this preparation and management time, there is going to be a huge impact on your bottom line, not to mention your sanity.
Power Diary, for example, is one of the leading practice management software options and has grown in popularity with podiatrists because it effectively streamlines back-office functions saving time and reducing costly errors and delays.
These features include:
- Online booking;
- Automated appointment reminders;
- Telehealth services;
- Calendar management;
- Clinical notes.
Step 4 – Schedule regular staff training
So many practices make the mistake of onboarding a new staff member then leaving them to fend for themselves. Staff training isn’t a one-off event; it should be regular and continuous as it improves employee engagement and the level of service you can offer your clients, as well as ensuring that your staff stay on top of your internal processes and protocols at all times.
Step 5 – Grow your podiatry management leadership skills
Within podiatry practice management, there are many different aspects to being a great leader, and not just one right way of leading a team. But if your talents lie in being a good podiatrist, there may be some leadership skills that you need to work on to get the best from your team and increase the profitability of your practice.
Learn to Listen
This goes for patients and staff. For patients, give them the time they need to get to the point, ask clarifying questions and pay attention to their nonverbal cues. This communicates that you are interested in them as a person as well as a patient. And if they feel heard and appreciated, they’re much more likely to return.
For staff, you need to make time to check-in with each staff member one-on-one on a regular basis. This helps your staff to feel valued, as well as providing an opportunity for them to air any grievances before they become a bigger issue. An “open door” policy where staff members know they can always come to you if they have questions or issues can further boost the morale of your staff.
Learn to Delegate
Don’t fall for the thinking that, “if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself”. Studies show that the opposite is true; if you give staff adequate training and communicate your expectations, giving them free rein can actually improve outcomes. It will be difficult to grow and expand your practice effectively if you’re still trying to do everything yourself, and you place yourself at risk of burnout.
Learn to Communicate Clearly
Poor communication is the largest contributor to relationship breakdowns. Make sure you communicate your expectations and instructions clearly. It makes a big difference if your staff know exactly what you expect of them and how you want them to go about doing it.
This also holds true for communicating your appreciation. Let your staff know that the role they fulfil is essential to the success of the practice and you value their contribution.
Learn to Lead by Example
Often called ‘servant leadership’, as the leader of your practice if you can make every situation about others and not about yourself, it will boost morale and instill a positive culture. This means being generous with your time and attention, sharing your passion, and communicating your appreciation to clients and staff regularly.
Part of this is also being an inspiration to your team. Your staff want to buy into your vision for your practice. You can do this by sharing your goals, giving them responsibilities, equipping them for their tasks and trusting them to get the job done right. Let them take ownership in making your practice a success.
Learn to Manage Staff Workloads
It often happens gradually where some staff members, over time, will become overloaded. It’s usually your most productive, high-performing staff members, but it soon becomes impossible for them to be effective if there is too much for them to get done during the day. Practice management software can help with this, but you still need to be paying attention to the workload and morale of your staff. You may need to take further steps to distribute tasks, provide further training or consider hiring additional staff members.
Step 6 – Improve relationships with existing clients
With some of the back-office tasks out of the way, you can now shift your focus onto the most important part of your business: your clients. Your practice will succeed or fail on your ability to attract and retain clients. All the research indicates that existing clients are significantly more profitable than new clients, so what should you focus on?
- Offering excellent service – this should go without saying. Even if you get everything else right but can’t offer the service that they’ve come to you for, they’re not going to return.
- Getting to know them – write notes on their records so you can remember personal details that you can follow up on.
- Keeping in touch – you can set up a regular newsletter that gets delivered to their inbox, keeping you top of mind, and up to date with your services.
- Expanding your offering – if you can add additional related services, you can cross-sell to your existing clients.
- Instilling a client-first culture – by keeping the client experience front and centre, you will show that you care about your clients and that they aren’t just a number.
Step 7 – Set up sources for new clients
When your practice is running smoothly with processes in place, happy staff, and satisfied clients, you can turn your focus to growth. Growing a podiatry practice is an exciting challenge, and with so many low-cost marketing avenues to pursue, it puts the ball firmly in your court. What types of patients do you want to attract, and what is the best way to go about it?
Determine the ideal client
This will take you back to Step 1, where you defined your vision and values. Look at your current client base and the podiatry services you offer. Consider the clients who are the most profitable and the ones that are best suited to your service offering; then you’re ready to start targeting others just like them.
Let your target market know about your podiatry practice
Podiatry services are generally local; most of your clients will be based in your area, so your marketing efforts should be focused locally too. While there are many avenues that you can pursue, it is helpful to start with one or two, evaluate their success, and then either continue with them or expand into other areas.
The most effective channels for podiatry practices include:
- Your own website – People searching for a podiatrist in their local area should find yours at the top of the search results. This means having an up-to-date website, a Google My Business listing, and a Facebook page (at the absolute minimum). From there, you can start adding blog posts to establish yourself as an authority in your niche and begin growing your mailing list.
- Facebook and Google Ads, here you can target people in your area, and narrow down further by demographics and interests. The laser-focused targeting means that only people who are interested in your services and fit into your identified target market will see your ads.
- Referrals – This is the best long-term strategy for podiatrists but may take time to show results. Reach out to GPs in the area, local businesses, community leaders and other health professionals who offer related (but different) services, and start building a relationship so that, in time, they will feel confident referring clients to your practice.
In the end, effective podiatry practice management is simple. It can be divided into processes and people. Streamlined processes will free up significant amounts of time for you and your staff, which can be better utilised seeing additional clients or focusing on marketing and growth. People management, both staff and clients, is a bit more of a challenge, but if you can get it right, it will pay dividends for years to come.
If you know a podiatry practice manager who could benefit from a fresh perspective, please pass this article on to them. It might help them with an aspect of the practice they have overlooked or to give them fresh ideas on how to manage their practice more effectively.