Five Signs Your Practice is Out of Date

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outofdatewebWhat to look out for so you don’t get left in the dust

Has your administrative staff never touched a PC? Is your waiting room furniture scuffed, worn, or ripped? Are you signs rusted, dirty, and faded? Does your website contain “current” office news from the Bush administration?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your practice is a bit out of date, and you could be in big trouble when it comes to remaining competitive in your community. Following are five signs that your practice needs updating—fast! See if you recognize yourself in any of them and read our solutions.

#1: Your practice or your vendors are not utilizing the fullest capacity of an EMR.

An electronic medical records (EMR) implementation is a large undertaking for any practice and is most likely your biggest financial investment. One of the reasons many practices are willing to invest thousands of dollars into an EMR is that it can creates greater efficiencies, saving you money in the long run and allow physicians to spend more time with their patients.

It also allows you to share patient information, such as lab results, more easily between your practice and your lab vendors. But if your staff or vendors are re-entering standard patient data whenever a lab test or treatment is performed, you’re merely wasting time while increasing the opportunity for errors, defeating the purpose of obtaining an EMR in the first place.

If this is occurring at your practice, examine your and your vendors’ EMR systems to determine if it uses a modern barcoding process to enter patient data and track samples rather than entering it manually, suggests Matt Watson, CEO of PathCentral Inc. in Irvine, Calif. If not, upgrade to a more modern system, or switch vendors, such as lab companies whose systems are out of date, for more progressive companies.

A similar scenario is that perhaps your practice intended to go “paperless,” but you still find yourself submitting claims on paper, calling, or visiting individual insurance company websites to check eligibility, or even dealing with EOBs by mail. Or perhaps you’re submitting manual lab orders, writing paper prescriptions, or using a client-based rather than a cloud-based EMR system.

You can fix these problems by implementing web-based electronic systems to determine real-time insurance eligibility and healthcare-specific point-of-service payment processing, suggests Mary F. Dees, president and COO of Preferred Health Technology, Inc. in Carrollton, Texas.

Integrated web-based electronic systems or web portals allow you to verify patient benefits in real time with any insurer. Healthcare-specific patient payment processing systems also allow you to automatically collect any patient balances that may be due after service from the patient’s payment information on file—eliminating the need to ever send out a paper bill.

In addition, research cloud-based automation systems that allow you to access a wealth of information at your fingertips and perform operations quickly with little paper or manpower.

“It’s important to think ‘integration,’ ” says Brian O’Neill, president and CEO of Office Ally in Boerne, Texas.  “The more providers can do electronically and the more integrated a practice is, the higher the likelihood of success.”

#2: You don’t utilize “green” principles in the daily management of your practice.

Modern practices are aware of environmentally sound operating methods and incorporate them into their daily routine. Whether it’s the cleaning supplies you use, how you handle waste, or how much water and electricity you use, be informed about your practice’s carbon footprint and jump on the green bandwagon. 

Becoming more eco-friendly will also help with your bottom line. In an article we ran last week, Greg DiMedio, CEO of Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Greener Expressions, noted that more practices are conserving energy, reducing water consumption, and minimizing waste not only to help the planet, but to also help reduce operating costs as well.

“In tough economic times, sustainability done right can really make a difference in the economics of business operations, and buildings and facilities management,” he said.

Saving money by going green won’t happen overnight, warns Robert Pierce, project manager with Healthcare Real Estate Advisors in New York, NY. It will take some time to start seeing a real cost savings. He says that one of the things you want to do is raise the consciousness that green does not have to be so expensive that your CFO will not approve your initiatives.

“In the long run, the financial benefits will be great and that is how you can justify the upfront costs to management,” he says.

Two examples on how you can save in the long run include HVAC and electricity. Pierce says that your HVAC should be a VAV (variable air volume) system, which serves as a function of user demand, not blanketing the facility with uniform temperatures.

“Also, electricity usage should be limited by use of solar heat where possible; use of efficient window treatments to minimize air conditioning demands; and movement sensors in individual offices,” he says.

#3: You haven’t updated your décor in the past decade.

If you can’t remember the last time you chose a wallcovering or assessed your flooring and furniture, it could be time for a décor upgrade. Reception areas and treatment and exam rooms that aren’t fresh-looking scream “I’m out of date,” so this arena is just as important as your operating systems.

Remember, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to upgrade, and the time, money and effort investment will be noticed by your patients. 

Now, if you choose to upgrade your furnishings and upholstery, you may want to consider splurging a bit for quality.  If you purchase non-commercial furniture, it will wear out quicker and you will have to spend twice as much because you have to replace it faster.

“Considering the amount of times a chair changes owners per day, the most frugal decision you can make is to purchase commercial-grade furnishings and fabrics that meet heavy-duty abrasion testing with anti-microbial treatments,” says Libby Laguta, president of L2 Designs, Inc. in Roswell, GA.

Also, be sure to test the durability of the furnishing’s fabrics by using the Wyzenbeek method, a commercial testing method that tests fabric strength and determines how many double rubs it can withstand before tearing. Choose nothing less than 50,000 double rubs. You may also want to consider furnishing with vinyl on the seat pad and fabric on the back since some vinyls are impervious to moisture and some are not, according to Laguta.

#4: Your signage is looking shopworn.

Your signage, both indoors and outdoors, is your practice’s face to the world. Often times, this is the first impression you make on your patients, particularly new ones. So if your signage looks tired and worn out,  or your digital signage isn’t working properly, it could reflect poorly on your image as a whole.

Don’t forget to update it so that it looks fresh and “pops.” Once the color in your signage begins to fade or crack, it’s time to replace it. Consider colors and designs that will be visually appealing and most importantly—easy-to-read. Also, be sure to keep your outdoor signage clean by washing it twice a year, once in the spring and again at the beginning of fall.

If you’re using digital signage, make sure that all of your lettering is lit—if not, get them repaired immediately. Are you using photo slides in your internal digital signage? Try to update them every month with new eye-catching imagery.

Signage can do a lot to attract patients and help with wayfinding, and up-to-date signage indicates that you’re modern and current with medical practices and procedures as well.

#5: Your website hasn’t been updated since you first opened.

A website is an important component to your outreach and marketing initiatives. It’s a highly effective, low-cost way to promote your practice throughout the year, according to Joe Polk, founder and owner of Thirteen Ball in Mt. Lebanon, Pa.

“In today’s fast-changing digital age, patients not only expect you to have a website now, but it should be constantly updated,” he says. The greatest liability with developing a website is not updating it, adds Polk. This can reflect poorly on your practice. Develop internal procedures for posting the latest information and make sure outdated information is removed. A static website with old information means that your practice is out-of-touch. 

Content is king. When you provide your patients with quality information that informs, you’re not only gaining their trust, but you’re also building your credibility. You can do this by asking members of your staff to post a new article every week—or at least providing information relevant to your patients. For instance, during a really bad flu season one year, Southwest Ambulance in Arizona provided information on their site on where local visitors can obtain a flu shot. Even though they don’t administer flu shots, they knew patients might come to their site to find some information about it.

Finally, review your website periodically for any broken links and missing images, and always check the content for correct spelling and grammar.