David Walker didn’t come to private practice via the traditional route, but instead, he studied mechanical engineering at University in Edinburgh, Scotland – switched across faculty to medical science and then spent the first half of his working career in academia teaching functional anatomy and biomechanics to budding podiatrists in University training. With a cutting edge approach to podiatry clinical and theory education, David was recruited to a brand new school in Melbourne (Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences), which was later absorbed into Latrobe University. As deputy head of school, he had a pivotal role in helping to develop a modern approach to this new, tertiary-level, professional curriculum.
After devoting many years to this endeavour, David became increasingly disappointed that the science-backed treatment approaches he was teaching in the classroom were rarely being applied in the real world. Eventually, the frustration that “people weren’t necessarily getting appropriate treatments” drew him to leave the education sector and go out into private practice. So, in 1982, David opened the doors to his new podiatry practice; focussing on the principal underlying causes of patient complaints of pain and discomfort. He took a pragmatic engineering approach to diagnosis and management and his practice grew to have 5 practitioners operating across 3 locations.
Initially, the practice was managed with a “huge A2 paper diary that they had specially printed – constantly shuffling pages – back and forwards between our admin team.” Realising that this was not a sustainable way to manage the business as they grew, they then set about writing their own practice management software. However, this proved to become more complex than initially anticipated and so they moved to an installed practice management system from Australia. Disappointed with the functionality this provided, they later changed to use PPS – a well-known practice management system from the UK. Unfortunately, though, this didn’t go well either. It was an installed system – so they had installations for each of their 3 locations, but, the problem came about when they had a serious hard drive failure. “The hard drive had failed; but we thought ‘no problem, we have sequential and multiple backups’. But when we went to restore our data, we found that the backups were all corrupt. We lost everything – it was devastating!”
Luckily, they still had paper records and were able to continue operating by slowly recreating this data, but; it was a big lesson – you don’t know that your backup will have integrity (or not) until you try to do a restore.
It was at this point that David decided never to use an installed system again and to move to a cloud-based practice management system to secure and future-proof his practice. He says that he and his team did exhaustive research online and then narrowed down their selection to 3-4 systems. When they did their comparisons, he says:
“Power Diary seemed like the best by far. We watched their tutorials and loved the user interface – it’s exactly the way I’d design it myself.”
“As an engineer, I liked the logical way the system was laid out and the way that we were able to move from section to section in a relational way to complete each task. It was all very logical.”
The Power Diary team was able to get them up and running “surprisingly quickly” and within days, they were completely set up and transitioned over to Power Diary.
“The Power Diary team did all the data conversion we needed to port everything over to their system – and very quickly.”
As well as having the security and peace of mind from an online practice management system, David says he’s been surprised by how useful it is to be able to access their information from anywhere and on any device.
“We can log in from a phone, tablet, or PC – we could never do that previously.”
“Even though I’m ‘old-school’, I’ll often check my appointments calendar from home or from my Engineering design office. I might find out that I don’t start at 9:00 tomorrow, so I can take it easy in the morning traffic. Before using Power Diary, I wouldn’t find out about that until I got to the office.”
David’s team uses the automated SMS reminders and he says that their no-shows are virtually zero – as low as maybe one or two clients a month! They also use the Xero integration which saves their office manager and their Accountants/bookkeepers a lot of time.
The team also uses the notes in appointments to communicate particularities or specific instructions regarding individual clients. “The client notes feature is very useful as they facilitate communication between team members and just help everything to run very smoothly.”
“We really can’t fault Power Diary. My staff has very high standards and they won’t hesitate to tell me if something is not working well, but everyone is always very happy with how it works. Power Diary just does the job for us.”
With almost 40 years of experience managing clients and growing a podiatry practice, we asked David for his advice to younger podiatrists who are just starting out in private practice. He thought for a moment and then offered two pieces of wisdom:
- “You need a cloud-based practice management system in place from the start. In fact, I think it’s reckless and unprofessional not to have a proper system in place.”
- “You need proper administration support. When I started, I was determined that I would never answer the telephone, issue invoices, or handle fees myself. I hired a part-time receptionist before I could really justify the expense, and I recommend that everyone do something like this. The professionalism portrayed by having administrative support is invaluable.”
Obviously, both of these cost money, but David says that without these things in place, you’re not taking your practice seriously. Instead, you need to plan for success and set things up to scale from the start so that you can focus on actually giving your clients the best advice and treatments possible. As David says: “Professional clinicians are trained to diagnose and treat. It seems a waste of talent to answer the phone and/or make out receipts etc.”
When asked what he would say to other podiatrists about Power Diary, he says:
“Power Diary revolutionises a practice. If you’re still running a health practice manually, Power Diary is like a gift from God. It’s like discovering Google – it gives you everything you’re looking for – in one very smart, but easy to use and well-supported package.”