The question, “what software do you use to run your business?” hits my inbox at least once per week. Today it arose during a business coaching conversation with an experienced business owner who is planning to sell her business in the next five years. I cannot emphasis how valuable your data base and your business systems are. They are gold and critical to the value of our business and I would like to suggest your mental health.
Being a bit of an organisation and business systems freak, I have always, right from the get go, used heavy duty, highly functional Practice Management Software (affectionately abbreviated to PMS from here onwards) to run my business. For me, it is vital to have all my information efficiently and effectively organised in one place with set levels of security for everybody who needs to access it. For over 10 years, Front Desk practice management system was the backbone of my first multi-site private practice. I continue to use it today in my second business Nacre Consulting. Yes, it has been an investment but one that has delivered many benefits.
Going paperless is a current trend but not one for the fainthearted. It may take years to move from paper files to electronic files and each business will have its own logistics associated with this. Remember that the paperless commitment does bring to task the human time required to scan documents and then file them in the software correctly. Which reminds me, a PMS is only as good as the data that gets put into it, so train your team, then train them again and then check up constantly. Going paperless for many clinicians and business owners demands a lot of planning, policy writing and procedural support. Essentially you may be needing to change the professional habits of a lifetime. Despite these challenges, nothing beats having all your clinical, appointment and communication (SMS, email, phone) data and so much more at your fingertips both in the office and when out on the road.
Having all your data in one place supports customer service. Your team’s clinical decision making, client tasks and professional communications are all streamlined. Clinical reports, scanned in referrals are all attached, clinical notes are neatly listed in date order, photos attached, as are the running list of all SMS, phone and emails communications. In addition, other professionals working with the client can be listed, along funding schemes reminders and compliance alerts. The whole picture is available to support your therapists clinical and customer service interactions. Don’t underestimate the power the PMS has in the daily life of your admin team – it honestly makes or breaks their day. All aspects of invoicing, receipting, banking, handling queries is easier when all the information is in one highly organised quick visual space.
Customer service can be beautifully streamlined with your practices service agreements ready for auto formatting, printing or posting, at the end of which a copy then stored on the clients card. Reminders can be set up to check that documents are returned and SMS reminders set to prompt this and the client’s next appointments. Letter formats to support compliance with Medicare, DSS and other funding agencies can be built, used and then stored on the client card. A time saver for clinicians and one central record should clients want copies of any documents.
Clinical excellence is supported with the use of clear and consistent information. Any document required for clinical service provision can be designed, stored and auto formatted in the PMS. Ideas include:
- checklists for clinical observations
- reporting writing
- goal setting
- handouts and programme design formats.
This works to ensure consistency of clinical service delivery and reports to clients and stakeholders. All documents can be written, edited and checked in the PMS, reducing the risk of client documents being stored on external hard drives.
If you are selling products, these can be included in the PMS for seamless integration between your clients and their clinical services. Stock items can be listed, stock levels, suppliers and purchase orders managed, GST sorted and many other features. Best of all when you clients purchase therapy products the items are easily added to their therapy invoice.
As the business owner, you need daily access to current financial and management information. A PMS will provide you with sleek multidimensional reporting for reflection and planning purposes. Monthly referrals, number of cancellations, sales of specific items, daily, weekly, monthly sales, aging debtors and loads more will all just be a few clicks away. You will also have full visibility on your team’s client and time management. Work with your finance team to decide exactly which reports will be best and the best day of the week or month you will take the report. This is the start of your financial policy and procedures and should be written down.
I could go on, but these are the key features I have noted during the ten plus years I have worked with a practice management system. For me it is better to have a system that you can grow into rather than struggle on, make do and make errors that ultimately only serve to compromise both your personal and your business brand. There are an increasing number of practice management systems to choose from so research time is required. Having been in the position of having to restore an entire business from a backup, I’ll leave you with the words. Back up all day every day.