Streamlining operations is the name of the game for many industries today, and medicine is an area where that transition is long overdue. Increased costs, changing health insurance procedures, and a more educated patient base has led to a growth in telemedicine offerings from medical practices around the country.
The ability to stay home and contact a health professional is a big deal, considering that when telemedicine began to take shape over half a century ago it wasn’t considered a serious option for receiving care. Today, telemedicine is changing the way patients view about their health, and in turn, changing the ways that practices serve their patients.
Medical practices should all be looking at ways to embrace telemedicine and telehealth technology, since it will undoubtedly be crucial in the future.
How crucial? A 2017 survey found that 77% of patients would like to take part in a virtual care session. This statistic alone is evidence of the effect telehealth technology has already had on our society. Mobile health apps have made patients more proactive about keeping track of their health. This is an increase in patient engagement, which means better communication between doctors and patients. When doctors’ offices spend a bulk of their day calling patients, following up on appointments and info requests, another avenue to easily communicate with multiple patients at once is needed.
Telemedicine also helps smaller hospitals that may not have access to specialists or are short on staff, freeing up time to focus on patients currently in the building.
Another attractive aspect of telemedicine is the effect it’s having on costs, or rather the way it’s addressing unnecessary costs.
There are several reasons for why this is happening, including:
- Declining ER visits
- Adherence to medication / treatment
- Substitution of in-office appointments for video calls and chats
There are costs, however, for maintaining a telemedicine operation on a large scale. But any practice can integrate small telemedicine measures into their operation without fully replacing it. Small web cams are a start, and as patient needs change then the equipment needed will also follow suit. However, many offices are currently supplementing their practice with telehealth technology.
Get with the Program, or the App
The patient landscape is changing, and the use of apps like iBlueButton and MyChart are helping hospitals and medical practices evolve in tow. Your practice can take small steps towards telemedicine implementation by using one of the many popular apps designed for patients and healthcare professionals. There are also automated scheduling programs and apps currently being used by medical practices looking to stay ahead of the curve.
Some trends are permanent; if your practice isn’t taking advantage of telehealth technology then it’s not reaching its true potential. Telemedicine can make life easier for your patients, and equally as important, your staff.
From an early age we’re taught that teamwork yields some of the best results. It’s why in sports we pass the ball or, as students, get divided into groups for big classroom assignments; goals are reached and often exceeded when we harness the power of teamwork.
Traditionally, the relationship between doctor and patient has been one of “teacher” and “student,” where the doctor or physician hands the patient their homework in the form of prescriptions, diet recommendations, etc. We’d like to think that the patient always goes home and completes their homework right away, we’d like to think that. The truth is, a patient may get their prescription filled but fail to adhere to dietary restrictions, exercise, or make other lifestyle changes advised to them.
This disconnect is what’s driving more medical practices to push for more patient collaboration. Working together with patients ensures that the efforts of doctors or physicians remain effective even after the patient walks out the door. Patients also feel like they have someone on their team, who is also working toward the same goal, which is improving your health.
The need for increased accountability on the part of the patient is currently being met with the help of technology. Health tracking apps give patients a chance to monitor aspects of their health in between appointments. Other apps allow patients access to their test results, immunization records, and other aspects of their health. Miscommunication leads to problems in the healthcare industry, whether it’s missed appointments or insurance related issues, communication between doctor and patient is key to maintaining a successful practice. Scheduling apps that can reduce scheduling discrepancies, with less calls needed between appointment setters and patients, are now being utilized more than ever in an effort to keep the lines of communication open between doctor and patient.
Telemedicine is one of the driving forces behind patient collaboration, and with more practices taking advantage of new technology, software, and mobile apps this trend shows no signs of slowing. We’re not saying that opening an app at home is the same as going into an office for a diagnosis. In-person visits will never be obsolete, but they can be improved so that more patients can be treated in less time, with fewer repeat visits. In fact, you improve the quality and effectiveness of each in-person visit since prior to the appointment you will have had more communication with the patient and are aware of any recent symptoms, changes in blood pressure, or other issues they are experiencing.
Your practice’s commitment to patients cannot be undermined if you are taking steps to collaborate with them on improving their health. This is the ultimate measure of a medical practice’s worth, the ability to act as the patient’s teammate, setting both up for a winning season.
There are more than enough reasons to go pursue a career in the healthcare industry; where most industries are susceptible to downsizing, pay cuts, and increasing competition, healthcare remains a stable and promising job market for new workers. Despite the benefits of working in this industry, individual healthcare practices around the country struggle to retain their current employees. According to a CompData 2017 survey, the total turnover rate for healthcare was 20.6% in 2017.
So, where’s the disconnect?
The healthcare industry requires a bit of resilience on the side of the employees; dealing with extensive paperwork, constant changes in regulation, difficult patient situations, all while trying to maintain their personal lives is not a life everyone can live.
Simply put, your medical staff needs some R&R.
But we’re not talking about the “rest and relaxation,” think of it more as recognition and replenishment.
A job that requires listening to patients should warrant a workplace that encourages the same relationship between management and their staff. People want to be heard, they need to feel as if their frustrations are valid. You’ll find that many of them are, but just listening to them is the first step to ensuring you do your part to address them accordingly.
Recognize Hard Work
We know that there are members of your staff who receive praise daily from the patients they help, but they wouldn’t mind hearing the same from management.
Even better, plan small events that offer you a chance to thank them for their hard work in front of their fellow employees. Realistically, your practice should have some sort of yearly event that says a collective “thank you” to your whole staff.
Depending on the practice, the day-to-day operations can be physically and emotionally draining on your staff. No one expects you to be the sole reason your employee has a good life; their quality of life also depends on the choices they make in and out of the workplace. But their job can be an area of their life that they view in an overall positive light. You can alleviate some of the fatigue and frustration felt among your staff by:
- Awarding time off to exceptional or long-time staff feeling burnt out
- Letting workers know how they can move up into a new role
- Offering training opportunities in areas that may interest the employee
- Planning fun events outside of work – you’ll get an idea of an employee’s situation this way
Turnover can have a serious effect on the bottom line at the end of the year, and in hospitals this can mean millions of dollars. Keeping a high retention rate ensures that your hospital not only avoids these costs, but also demonstrates the workplace culture you’ve helped to create.
Keeping a clean and organized office not only looks good to your coworkers, but also helps keep your mind at peace. For many of us, problems keeping an organized work space go all the way back to our parents asking us to clean our room. A messy work space can have a destructive effect on your sense of clarity; sifting through piles of paper and digging through shelves takes valuable time away from projects and tasks that need it. Luckily, there are ways you can keep your office organized that will have a significant effect on your work.
Encourage Organization at the Door
How many times have you lost your keys? Although we use them every day, we somehow find a way to misplace them. The same phenomenon occurs in the office, we walk in with literature, keys, coats, and food that ends up scattered around the desk and sometimes the floor. Curb this behavior by adding shelves, hooks, or bins right at the entrance so that you get into the habit of staying organized from the moment you enter.
Get Rid of Paper
Paper accumulates quicker than anything else in your office, and before you know it that memo or two you receive a day can turn into a massive pile before you know it. Do yourself a favor and get rid of it, now. Shred or recycle anything that isn’t important, be sure to mark out any personal information. Take your remaining paper and begin organizing it, which brings us to the next organizational tip.
Buy them, use them. Binders used to be the coolest back-to-school supply when many of us were still young, and now they serve an even more important purpose. Dividing up your literature into separate binders complete with plastic sleeves makes your life a lot easier since you can find what you need without having to dig. The best thing about binders is that they can all easily fit on to a shelf or two, which opens up more space in your office.
Cut the “Home” Out of Your Home Office
More people than ever work in remote jobs from home and doing so requires them to establish a work space. This can range from a table in the corner to a whole room set aside as a home office. If you’re fortunate to have a home office it’s imperative that you treat it as such, an office. Resist the temptation to bring in food, drinks, iPads, instruments, shoes, or anything else that can become a distraction and take up unnecessary space.
It can be hard at first to break the habits attributed to disorganization, but like any habit, they can be broken with time. By implementing these small changes to your work or home office, you can seriously help the way you feel about yourself, which will make people feel better about your work.
A growing trend among companies, hospitals, and non-profit organizations is the use of outsourcing. Whether it’s customer service, data mining, network security, or automation services, the benefits of outsourcing have outgrown our expectations. If you were to ask any organization why they chose to outsource, you will probably get one of two answers, it saved them time or money… or both. In fact, Deloitte Consulting reported that 65% of companies utilized outsourcing due to lower costs. For a practice short on resources, outsourcing can provide much needed salvation.
Where Are the Costs Cut?
BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) can help your practice with contract processing, patient communications, and even payroll. Costs can be cut when new employees are introduced to your organization. HR operations are costly, which is one reason many places hold off on acquiring new, much-needed talent. Outsourcing HR operations means that your management team can spend more time training your new employee instead of trying to balance all the paperwork and processes associated with hiring.
Speaking of training, outsourcing can also help train your staff in new software or systems used in your practice. Again, with expert training being handled by a trusted partner, your management can feel confident about the employee’s ability to handle the change. Not only can outsourcing train your employees to use new software, but it can also provide the means to develop and maintain that software for you.
Software development, along with IT services, are extremely popular with companies looking to outsource these days. Patient records, health insurance information, and other important data can require custom software or systems that your in-house IT team is not capable, or doesn’t have the time, to create. Security is also a huge factor in outsourcing these operations, especially in the medical industry. A recent survey of 1,300 physicians found that 83% had experienced some form of cyber attack. It’s because of this that many practices have outsourced their data storage and security operations for fear of a data breach that could result in theft or even lawsuits.
Time is Money
The phrase is all-too familiar, but the fact remains; time spent doing tasks your employees weren’t hired for means time away from their actual job. This ensures that your employees aren’t feeling taken advantage of, which results in stress, and eventually resignation. You have a talented staff, and the addition of an outsourcing partner provides them professional support and lifts a huge weight off your practice. If you feel that your staff’s time is being taken up by menial tasks, or that your business is throwing away thousands attempting BPO on its own, then it’s time you start researching outsourcing solutions.
Do you ever feel like you’re too busy? Is your workload becoming so large that it’s impacting the results of your work? Try delegating more tasks to your team or outsourcing to an organization or agency. Delegation can be difficult, because we often feel that we are the only ones who can complete something the “right” way. It can be hard to trust others to take care of important tasks, but it’s important to take that leap of faith to improve business practices. Remember – you hired your staff for a reason, and your time is better served away from administrative tasks. Here are some ways delegation will help you and your team:
Establishing Trust and Self-Esteem
When you delegate projects to your employees, you are fostering a culture of trust within your staff. By giving them important tasks (even the task of outsourcing tasks), you are showing them that you trust their capabilities and talent. This is good for both team morale and individual self-esteem. When your staff’s self-esteem is high, it will motivate them to do their best work and lead to everyone accomplishing their goals.
Increase Team Flexibility and Efficiency
By delegating tasks and projects, you are budgeting time more efficiently. As a result, your team will get much more done. When tasks are moved around among staff members, you are also encouraging your team to learn and develop new skills. It’s impossible to take care of everything on your own (and you don’t want your team to stay idle), so delegating projects provides everyone with an adequate and reasonable workload.
Providing your team with interesting projects and tasks makes their work day more enjoyable. When you give your staff more authority and responsibility, they will begin to take their own initiative within their position and use their imagination. This can lead to great ideas being brainstormed, such as solutions to problems that you might not have previously recognized.
Delegating work to your staff will keep them motivated and interested, making them less likely to leave your team. By demonstrating that your team recognizes and uses everyone’s talents as best they can, you will keep your staff happy. The longer a team stays whole and productive, the more their stability and productivity will grow. This is great for everyone involved!
Delegation is an important skill for effective leaders, and a happy, effective team is great for business. Keep this in mind the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with your work load, and consider assigning additional projects to your staff.
There was a time when financial institutions and businesses faced the constant threat of having their cash registers and banks cleaned out by criminals. As security systems evolved, so have criminals; where the prize was once money in the drawer, now it’s data in the servers. Medical practices face the prospect of this new threat that will grow and change naturally with the technology available to society: cyberattacks. It’s essential to take preventative measures to protect patient privacy, sensitive information, finances and more. Read on to learn how to protect your medical practice from a cyberattack.
Why Medical Practices?
Despite their lack of coverage in the media, medical practices are successfully attacked every year. A recent survey of 1,300 physicians found that 83% had experienced some sort of cyberattack. Why are they being targeted? Doctors’ offices and hospitals are attractive targets because the information they store is extremely sensitive, which gives hackers an advantage in leveraging payment. A medical practice experiencing this type of attack will undoubtedly be faced with an interruption of services.
An interruption of services due to an attack can cost a practice thousands of dollars, as well as hindering the trust of your future and current patients. Advancements in cyber security and initiatives by the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force have proven effective at deterring attacks, but arguably the most important aspect of cyber security is what goes on inside your practice.
Take Control of Data
Addresses and insurance information alone present a tempting opportunity for cyber criminals. Keeping this information safe should be your first step in securing your practice, and you can do so by educating your employees on what cyber security looks like in their day-to-day work. Emphasize the importance of logging out of systems every time employees leave their computers, and make sure everyone’s login information is unique. Attention should also be placed on access restriction, with only authorized members of your staff given access to the most sensitive information. Employees that have been let go, or have resigned, should immediately be stripped of all access authorization to prevent retaliation or outside breaches.
In addition to removing permissions from ex-employees, it’s imperative that you change your passwords afterwards. Choosing a new password doesn’t mean adding one more character to your current one or reverting to passwords in the past. Passwords should be unique to each system, device, and employee; cutting corners only leads to more problems in the future. Software also presents an opportunity to cut corners; whenever you’re notified of a new update for your software, notify your IT team, and then wait for their assessment of the patches, updates, and possible risks to your systems.
Plan for the Worst
If you have not moved all or the bulk of your data into cloud storage, then your practice is playing a dangerous game. Not only does a cloud keep information off vulnerable in-house servers, but also gives your practice a safety net in the event your data is held ransom. Risk assessments should be performed regularly, and your staff should be informed of each new security threat or process. The rate of recovery after a cyberattack depends on the measures your practice has taken ahead of time. Communication among security personnel and unaffected data in a cloud are your practice’s best bet at bouncing back from an attack.
Like any business or organization, a medical practice needs to invest in the proper marketing to ensure a steady influx of patients who know and trust the practice with their healthcare. Whether through social media marketing, print marketing or networking events, medical practices must be willing to make an effort – as it doesn’t matter how amazing the practice’s care is if no one can find any information on it. Check out these helpful tips for marketing a medical practice.
Establish Branding for Your Practice
Branding will help potential patients instantly recognize your practice across many forms of media: social media, newspaper ads, and your website, for example. Choose a color scheme and business name that appears professional and symbolizes your practice. It helps to make your logo stand out from others as well – so, don’t use other logos as “inspiration,” rather come up with something that will relate to your practice’s unique philosophy. Keep this branding consistent throughout all of your marketing materials so patients can easily recognize that the information is coming from your practice.
Be Accessible to Internet Users
Most people who will be looking for services will use the internet to search for providers, look at reviews, and email/message to ask questions. It is a good idea to have a mobile-friendly, professional website with frequent blogs as well as active social media pages to ensure your practice’s services and contact information are readily available to the masses. In particular, social media provides an avenue for you to be personable and professional with users – as well as run ads in your local area, increasing your outreach. Make sure to post at least 5-10 times per week to help your business appear more frequently on the feeds of people in your community.
Give Out Health Tips
By providing health tips, you are reassuring patients that they are being considered and that you care for their well-being, even when they aren’t in your office. You can provide health tips through physical or digital newsletters, social media, or blog posts. Including these in your marketing plan reaffirms your practice’s professionalism in its field, as well as the compassion of its staff.
Send Out Appointment Reminders and Follow Ups
Patients notice and appreciate attentiveness, especially in the form of appointment reminders and follow ups. If your practice uses a HIPAA-compliant reminder system, it’s very easy to set up. However, if your practice is smaller and you have the staff available for it, personal text or phone call reminders are useful as well.
Be Active in Your Community
Maintaining a presence at sporting events, health fairs, town festivals, and anywhere else you can set up a booth will lead to more people knowing your practice’s name. At these booths, run small raffles, or at the very least hand out pens, small fridge magnets, and other accoutrements advertising your business. This way, your practice will be on the fridges and in the offices of local residents.
Another effective way to be active in your community is to donate a physical or other basic service to a local charity auction. You should also be available to local news centers for interviews that can advertise your practice. These methods will help spread your practice’s name to the community and potentially those that surround it.
For any medical practice to succeed, it’s paramount that patients can have access to information and be able to easily spread the word. Start by establishing branding, maintaining an active website and social media pages, following up with current and potential patients and being an active presence in the local community.
Convenience is the name of the game in modern days. Whether it’s the meals we prepare for our families or the shows we stream online, the ability to do things with relatively less effort has gained appeal worldwide. In the world of health and medicine, convenience’s appeal is no different, and telemedicine is answering the call for a more streamlined and efficient industry.
What is Telemedicine?
What began as a concept that was more sci-fi than medical, telemedicine has evolved since its original beginning during the 1950s. The original intent of the practice was to reach patients in rural areas who did not have access to medical services nearby. While telemedicine still serves the same purpose for people in said locations, the practice has grown beyond strictly lengthy commuting purposes primarily due to its general efficiency. The ability to stay home and contact a health professional without having to worry about driving to the nearest office is having a serious effect on the healthcare industry as a whole.
Effect on Patients
Mobile health apps – one aspect of telemedicine – have had a rolling effect on future patients, changing their behaviors and attitudes toward their own health. The convenience of medical websites and tracking apps has inadvertently made patients more proactive when it comes to their own health. More patient engagement means better communication between doctors and patients, allowing for better care and follow-up when necessary. Telemedicine also helps smaller hospitals that may not have access to a specific set of specialists on staff – with consultations just a video call away, there is always someone who can address a patient’s needs.
Although it seems like telemedicine is a no-brainer solution to the health industry’s problems in the future, it is not without its faults. Not all service providers have the same policies regarding reimbursement and other fees, so its best to check benefits beforehand.
Effect on the Industry
Telemedicine is having a huge effect on the overall industry, and everything from consultations to apps are playing a unique part. For instance, iBlueButton allows a patient’s medical records to be stored into one single app, which simplifies the process of filling out extensive paperwork at the doctor’s office since its readily available. Another app, MyChart, connects patients directly with their doctor and service providers to schedule appointments and set reminders for not only them, but their whole family. A move toward scheduling automation will surely change the nature of medical office staff’s role in the appointment process.
Telemedicine is having a major effect on healthcare costs as well; whether it’s a decrease in ER visits or more self-discipline concerning medications, the industry can take comfort in knowing that unnecessary costs are dropping. While unnecessary costs may drop, it does not mean all costs will follow suit. The technology needed for telemedicine can range from a simple web cam to a large dedicated server or system – which will require training to use. It will be up to healthcare facilities to decide whether these costs will outweigh the benefits already evidenced by telemedicine’s growth in popularity.
For more information about telemedicine services, see:
Guest Post by Kelly Gooch
Outsourcing the revenue cycle management process can prove beneficial for healthcare organizations, according to Joel Gleason, senior vice president and global market head of the provider segment at Cognizant.
Mr. Gleason shared the following tip with Becker’s Hospital Review.
“For hospitals and standalone healthcare providers, it’s all about delivering top-quality care, not necessarily managing the revenue cycle. Collecting payment is crucial to success. But chances are it’s not a core competency.
“In fact, 57 percent of businesses outsource because it allows them to concentrate on what they’re good at, according to Deloitte. Focusing on the core business is the second most popular reason to outsource, just two percentage points behind cost-cutting. Outsourcing revenue cycle management to an organization that understands the process often is an excellent choice.
“While most companies outsource to save money, I’d argue it’s equally important to get outside help because it allows a healthcare organization to focus on what it does best, which is providing patient care.
“By outsourcing the revenue cycle management process, healthcare businesses can reallocate human and financial resources to use them in other parts of the business, and utilize the most up-to-date services.”