If you run a small private practice there’s a chance that the festive season left you wondering how to take a well-deserved break and have the peace-of-mind that your practice was running optimally at the same time. On the one hand, you know the importance of taking time out but for many doctors, R&R comes at a price.
Some of you might manage to get away but spend your holiday very much in work mode – replying to messages and emails from your mobile device. And even though you’re keeping a close eye on things at work, you may still experience the seemingly unavoidable consequence of losing revenue when you’re not in your consulting rooms. While being completely unavailable may be an unrealistic option, there are practical ways to minimise financial loss and give you more time to relax and unwind.
Prepare your team
You may be satisfied with your practice staff’s performance throughout the year but if you can’t trust that they can manage the practice in your absence, there may be an opportunity to improve communication. Practice staff should be empowered to make decisions on your behalf. In order to do that you will need to discuss with them:
- the dates that you will be away
- what cases you will be available to take an emergency call
- who will be filling in for you
- the best ways to reach you in the case of an emergency
- how to adequately inform referring doctors and patients of your leave as early as possible
Having these discussions will enable staff, to solve problems and handle patient queries without needing to be in touch with you constantly. In the run-up to your holiday, it’s also important to inform your patients and schedule new patient appointments for your return. Some of the ways you can inform patients include:
- telling them personally during a consultation;
- posting on your social media pages and website;
- putting up a notice in your practice;
- leaving a voicemail message on your answering machine.
Streamline routine tasks
A digital billing and practice management solution lets you minimise the admin that can take up too much time during the working year, let alone while you’re on holiday. With the right solution, there’s more capacity to generate benefit checks, invoices, statements, SMS appointment reminders, and claims. You can also automate your eRAs and integrate with a digital patient appointment booking platform. Together with preparing your staff, technology is the key to balancing taking a break with running a business.
It’s crucial though, that you are also disciplined in your use of technology. A cloud-based solution means you can access digital files from anywhere giving you the assurance that you have the information you need on hand should you need it. But the temptation to make use of this online access is the very reason why you don’t completely unwind during your leave. It’s a good idea to choose what devices you will take with you and what technologies you will use while away. Put a plan in place beforehand and adjust your settings accordingly. You may want to consider only using technology on certain days at specific times for a limited time. Or only in areas with Wi-Fi and only certain platforms, such as Whatsapp. It’s important to communicate this with staff as soon as possible, preferably in writing so they can check if uncertain.
Hire a locum
If you’re planning to take leave in December, you might struggle to find someone to stand in for you from your network. The next best option is to hire a locum doctor. Although a locum is a practical solution, it also means cutting further into your revenue so it’s important to try to match the role with the right person as far as possible so you don’t lose on quality of care or end up with unhappy patients. Some criteria to consider could include: whether they are familiar with the digital tools you use at your practice, recommendations by other doctors, familiarity with the area and affordability.
If your usual route to finding a locum isn’t helping you find the right fit you could enlist the help of a reputable medical staff solutions agency. Using a credible agency comes with the reassurance that the medical professionals they can connect you with are suitably vetted and experienced so you can take leave without unnecessary stress.
Once you have found a locum that you trust it’s advisable to think long term and maintain ongoing professional contact with them and others so you have a few locums to call on when you need cover. Using the same locum also gives them and your practice team a chance to build a solid working relationship that can go a long way in putting your mind at ease.