Minimise the time you spend doing admin tasks, while growing your business at the same time.
Take a moment and think back to the vision you had for your practice when you were just starting out. Try and remember your ‘why’. What made you open your own practice? What did you envision for your private practice journey?
There’s a good chance that what you imagined and the reality are vastly different. For starters, your idealised version of running your own practice probably didn’t include endless hours of admin.
And that’s where practice management processes to automate come in handy. The more efficiently you can get your admin done, the more energy you’ll have for clients, for growing your practice, or for something else that’s important to you. Conversely, without processes in place, practices find it much more difficult to grow; always coming up against a hard edge.
The statistics are alarming, finding that business owners spend around 20% of their time on work that could be automated, with most occupations able to save 30% of their time if automation was incorporated into their workflows, but most alarming is that businesses lose up to 30% of their revenue every year on inefficient processes alone.
At Power Diary, we’ve found that practices with strong processes in place:
- Are the practices that grow! Processes free up time and create room for growth – and more often than not growth happens (see a case study here).
- Have time to do lots of interesting things, including workshops, writing books, and following personal pursuits.
- Have a greater sense of control, resulting in decreased stress levels.
We’re going to talk about 12 practice management processes to automate. Some of them are obvious, some you might not have thought of, but they’re all important and they’re all going to free up time so you can focus more on what’s important to you and your practice.
1. Automate SMS (and Email) Appointment Reminders
This is one of the most crucial aspects of your practice as it has a direct impact on your profitability, with studies showing that appointment reminders dramatically reduce a practice’s no-show rate, making it one of the most important practice management processes to automate.
So, how do you automate appointment reminders?
- Use a combination of email and SMS reminders. Our suggested strategy would be:
- Email: 3 – 4 days in advance;
- SMS: 1 – 2 days in advance;
- Tip: try to avoid sending reminders over the weekend.
- Rather than sending them manually, automate sending via your practice management system. Doing this will:
- Save you or your team a lot of time;
- Be more consistent;
- Allow for automatic appointment status updates (i.e. confirmed or cancelled) and notify the right people.
2. Online Bookings
Allowing clients to book and manage their own appointments is a game-changer. People regularly book appointments for other services online, so it’s very likely that your clients are very comfortable (or even expect) to be able to do so.
Managing appointments (booking, cancelling, rescheduling) is one of the most time-intensive administrative activities for a practice, and the manual management of appointments also has opportunity costs. Think about it this way, if you offered online bookings you could:
- Reassign your admin team to do other value-adding activities.
- Prevent missing new clients, as they called to book but your practice missed the call.
- Avoid missing appointment bookings from existing clients because you weren’t open when they wanted to book (i.e. 6am before work, or when they wake up in the middle of the night with an issue).
3. Waiting Lists
A powerful way to improve the productivity of your practice is to implement a tight waiting list system. Doing this automatically introduces efficiencies, particularly when the following information is captured, as it ensures the right people are offered cancellations at the right times:
- Who they are;
- The date they are added to the list i.e. how long they have been waiting;
- What days/times suit them;
- Which clinician(s) they are able/would prefer to see.
The right practice management software will also have the functionality to bulk message those on your waiting list, offering them available appointment times.
4. Client Follow-ups
Most practices need to recall clients for follow-ups at various times. It might be for an annual check-up or to follow-up on the outcome of their treatment. When these appointments are booked manually it can be easy to overlook them or make a mistake, which is not in the best interests of your clients, nor is it good for your business.
Automation of recalls, therefore, gives you peace of mind knowing that your client will receive reminders at the right time, which can be set at the end of the last consult.
5. Treatment Note Templates
Whether you use paper or electronic notes, it’s considered best practice to use templates for all key types of sessions including intake, review, the closure session, and phone calls. Templates make it easier to:
- Take notes faster;
- Use a standardised structure and include the most important information;
- Reduce supervision and training time for new team members;
- PLUS, if you are using electronic notes: ‘Copy Last’ note is a very useful time-saver!
6. Letter Templates
From referral feedback letters to thank you letters and marketing mail-outs, finding the right words and structure to get your message across can be a challenge. There are usually a few types of letters that each practice sends regularly, and using templates is the fastest way to get these letters out whilst ensuring consistency in your communication. Standardised templates within a practice management system also mean that no time is wasted on manually including routine information such as the referrer’s address, client name, DOB etc.
7. Online Forms
The ability to auto-send online client intake forms helps to streamline the new client process for both clients and practitioners. Information collection from clients is important, but getting it via paper forms is time-consuming, messy and creates unnecessary opportunities for human error to creep in! For starters, you need to have the client come in early, so you can provide them with the paperwork, which then needs to be collected, entered into the system, and filed.
All of this can be eliminated by using online forms that are sent automatically to clients, with any information returned by the client updating their record directly.
8. Invoicing and Payments
This is an area where healthcare practices often struggle. It usually stems from clinicians feeling uncomfortable talking about money, preferring to solely focus on helping their clients. This is understandable and even honourable, but cashflow is the lifeblood of any business, and automation can help take out a lot of the stress from the invoicing and payment process.
Automation strategies that can improve your collections include:
- Encouraging prepayment at the time of booking wherever possible. This can be done through your client portal where the client makes payment using a credit card.
- Keeping client credit card details on file, with consent from the client and in a compliant manner.
- Ensuring prompt, clear invoicing, making sure you can easily identify and reissue any outstanding invoices. Also, make it easy for people to pay right away by including a payment link.
A practice management system can streamline the invoice preparation process even further by storing treatments and their associated costs, allowing them to be applied to invoices with just a few clicks.
9. Session Number Tracking
In many cases, third-party payers such as insurers or employers will only offer reimbursement for a set number of sessions. But tracking session numbers manually is time-consuming and there is a high risk of making a mistake and then having a compliance or non-payment issue.
Rather than allowing session number tracking to take up unnecessary energy, you can implement a system for tracking sessions, ideally one that enables you to set an approved number of sessions and then count down.
10. Bulk Email Sending
Healthcare practices often only send bulk emails when they have something specific to promote, or to communicate other clinic news. But this is a missed opportunity. If you are in regular communication with your clients (past, current and potential), you can expect better engagement, increased repeat bookings, a rise in recommendations to friends, AND a bigger response when sending a special promotion such as a workshop.
Effective strategies for automating your emails include:
- Setting a regular schedule, this might be a monthly calendar reminder on the 1st of the month.
- Allocating topics, articles, and content to team members for each month.
- Creating a Google Doc with a section for each month. This can be used to collect info for topics and create draft content.
- Sending email newsletters using your practice management system to the right groups of clients.
11. Data-Informed Decisions
Get into the habit of making decisions based on reports and data, rather than relying on your intuition or a general sense of what is the best course of action. Whether in a meeting, supervision, or recruitment, you should aim to use data routinely. Data-driven decision-making will be more efficient, reduce defensiveness, lower the risk of making wrong decisions, and help you achieve your goals.
And all this is much easier if you have a practice management software system that allows you to generate reports on how your practice is operating.
Scheduling is key to growth, fun and life balance. Owning your own practice can quickly mean that you work 12-hour days, leaving home before your children wake up and eating a quick sandwich at your desk between clients. It might be fine in the short-run, but over the course of your career, it’s going to lead to burnout, and you’ll miss out on important time with your family. Time is your most precious resource, so to make the most of it you may need to automate:
- Taking regular breaks during the day;
- Setting aside time for marketing and growth;
- Prioritising professional or personal development;
- Taking mornings off to spend at your kids’ school;
- Carving out two hours every week for writing that book;
- Making time for health and fitness, such as going for a ride every Friday afternoon.
Once you have prioritised and scheduled in time for important tasks, you need to keep your schedule with you at all times to give yourself the best chance of sticking to it.
Automation and strong systems make the world of difference, not just for business growth but also personally, freeing up headspace so you can start working on your business rather than in it. The main sticking point for most practice owners is the first step: getting started. It’s important not to get overwhelmed so start small, choose one process, make one small automation, and just keep going.
Need some practical tips to help you get started? Download our FREE guide: The Freedom Workbook, written by experienced practice owners specifically to help others make the transition from working IN their business to ON their business. Get your copy here.