Streamline Your Practice Using Technology

May 13, 2010

At least once a week I hear clients complain about difficulties they are having organizing simple work flow processes.

At least once a week I hear clients complain about difficulties they are having organizing simple work flow processes. For them, monitoring provider time-off is a major headache, templates can’t be shared across individual PCs, and employees can never seem to put their hands on the information they need. So much time gets wasted searching for and managing information that it becomes a big productivity drain.

Many offices have a large laminated calendar that hangs in the office that lets staff members know which providers are going to be out in any given week. Even though this is much easier than combing through the patient scheduler to see if providers are blocked off the schedule, it doesn’t help physicians when they are at home discussing vacation plans with their families. Without a costly server to make pertinent information accessible to everyone, many practices rely on one main computer to house that information. Unfortunately, information can only be accessed by one person at a time, and if the computer is tied-up, not accessible at all.

Even if your practice has an EHR, in all likelihood you still have faxes, daily deposit slips, reconciliation reports, and returned checks to contend with. All of these paper records take up lots of storage space, and will eat up considerable staff time - think filing, trips to the bank, and general record management.

Why not get rid of your paper and go digital? Today’s technologies offer ever-more efficient solutions. You don’t need a costly server. You don’t need a tech-savvy staff. You simply need to take advantage of some cost-effective, readily available tools.

Here are some of my favorite time-saving tools and office organizers:

1. Web-based services for organizing data. These simple applications act as a secure central depository for storing all kinds of information. Easy to use, these applications allow you to post files, notes, lists and schedules to “pages” that are easy to build and edit and can be accessed via the Internet anytime. Applications include: Back Pack, Evernote (capture and organize), WikidPad, and DevonThink.

2. Google Sites. Here you are essentially creating a free Web site with calendars and other features, but you can set it up for internal use only. And if you don’t yet have a Web site for your practice, Google Sites is a great place to begin. By posting key practice information, FAQs, and informational resources, you’ll reduce the number of calls coming into the office, saving you time and money.

3. Remote deposit. Save hours a week by not writing up deposit tickets and making trips to the bank. Most commercial banks now offer remote deposit services, accompanied by a complimentary scanner. You scan in your checks, which are then digitally transferred to the bank for processing. The scanner software pulls dollar amounts and other information directly from the scanned items, producing a deposit slip for reconciliation to your account. Banks offering these solutions include HSBC, Capital One/Chevy Chase, Bank of America, First National, PNC, Sovereign and Union Bank.

4. Fax-to-PC solution. Instead of faxes being delivered to your fax machine (requiring toner, paper, and line costs) have the faxes come into your e-mail inbox instead. Worried about how to send faxes out? An inexpensive scanner is all you need. Some e-Fax solutions to consider include: www.efax.com, www.MyFax.com, and www.smartfax.com.

Go digital wherever you can. You’ll be glad you did!

Susanne Madden, MBA, is founder and CEO of The Verden Group, a consulting and business intelligence firm that specializes in practice management, physician education, and healthcare policy. She can be reached at madden@theverdengroup.com or by visiting www.theverdengroup.com.