Healthcare professionals have been putting off digitising their practice processes for years. However, when COVID reared its ugly head, for some, digitising their practice was the only way they could keep managing their practice & treating patients. Unfortunately, some lessons were learnt too late.
Here are the top 4 big lessons we learnt from over 1 000 medical practices that prove that healthcare professionals can no longer operate without key digital processes in place.
Lesson 1: Anywhere, anytime access is essential for both the medical professional & their staff
COVID saw mass mobility shutdown like never before. Whether enforced through government or personal situations (sickness, caring for a loved one, children forced to stay at home) most of South Africa was forced to find ways to work from home – including medical professionals & practice staff.
“My whole practice is sitting in the cloud & I access it from anywhere on my Macbook. I have patient files, billing information & Telehealth at my fingertips. I would advise doctors to start & try until you find a system that works for you. Start somewhere simple – find a solution that allows you to issue prescriptions digitally, for example. Even that is a great way to realise the value of having information available at your fingertips when treating patients.”
Dr Lee, General Practitioner, Pietermaritzburg
Why is a cloud-based practice important for healthcare professionals?
More & more healthcare professionals are gravitating towards cloud-based medical practice software because the benefits are too many to ignore. There is no comparison between paper-based & cloud-based systems including:
- Anywhere, anytime access: Working from home is a reality & your practice needs to be equipped to operate outside of your practice’s physical space. Patients too, are working from home & often unwilling or unable to visit the practice. Essentially, to treat at the top of your license you need always-on access to your practice & patient information.
- Improved security: Cloud solutions are a much more reliable way to safely store & share sensitive data because of secure encryption, off-site backups, protection against malware attacks & unauthorised data breaches.
- Reduced costs: When you’re using cloud-based software, you don’t need to invest in specific hardware or equipment because cloud solutions are largely device-agnostic. Cloud-based solutions are also typically subscription-based & calculated on the volume of transactions so that you only pay for services that you use.
- More storage space: You need expensive floor space & filing cabinets to store a growing number of paper-based patient files. However, when you are using cloud-based systems, you have the option to devote additional practice space to income-generating services or alternatively, you can opt for a smaller practice space & reduce your rental overheads.
- Less IT admin: On-site IT staff interrupting the workday with system updates is a thing of the past. With cloud-based solutions, system updates & upgrades are carried out remotely by a team of skilled IT professionals.
- Easy access to new Telehealth capabilities: Telehealth is a convenient, cloud-enabled mechanism to deliver health services that’s readily embraced by patients. But truly connected Telehealth is only possible with cloud computing that gives you secure access to patient files where & when you need it.
- Improved collaboration: For multi-disciplinary teams to truly be effective, each medical professional in the team needs to work from the same, up-to-date patient information. Cloud-based software makes clinical decisions & continuity of care all the more possible & results in better quality patient care.
To find out more on how to go about purchasing cloud-based software, click here.
Lesson 2: Electronic patient files are no longer a ‘nice-to-have’
You can’t plan when patients get sick, conversely, you can’t plan when you get sick. Working at the top of your license means having access to your patient files wherever you may be, whenever you may need them.
“Healthcare itself is evolving. Doctors need to be able to function outside of their practice, as well as offer better care within their practice. A user-friendly digital system is a key enabler to a quality health service.”
Dr Rajendra Naidoo, Family Practitioner, Gauteng
Why are electronic clinical notes important for healthcare professionals?
Secure, easy access to up-to-date patient data has numerous uses & benefits such as:
- Easy access to patient files: In a world of unpredictable & rapid change, you want to know that your patient data is safe & that you can securely access it from anywhere, anytime.
- Simplified medication prescriptions: Medicines, dosages & instructions are quick to add within electronic clinical notes. Electronic systems can also suggest medicines based on your diagnosis that can save you time & effort.
- Quick navigation of patient information: Flipping through paper files to get a full picture of a patient’s health & medical history is not ideal. With digital clinical notes, all patient information is filed & organised for quick, at-a-glance access, so you can get a complete picture while in front of a patient.
- Clinical data insights: Preventative care has & will continue to become a priority at doctors’ appointments scheduled to treat disease or illness. Digital clinical notes mean that trends in blood pressure, height, weight & BMI are automatically captured & stored to enable proactive patient care.
- Accurate & complete billing: After completing your diagnosis, good electronic clinical notes will suggest the applicable procedures, consumables, & medicines for you to confirm. Once confirmed this information is then converted into an invoice so you don’t forget to charge for procedures & consumables that can eat away at your profits.
- Simplified admin, amplified efficiency: Electronic clinical notes typically integrate with medical billing software so that you can streamline your practice’s appointment scheduling, clinical records, billing & much more.
- Easier patient communication: Electronic clinical notes enable you to set up automated SMS alerts reminding patients of upcoming appointments, seasonal vaccinations, & other important practice information relevant to them.
Lesson 3: Integrated clinical & billing software is essential for smooth practice processes
COVID highlighted the importance of having a medical billing software solution that can securely share data with your electronic clinical notes. Having two separate systems that don’t ‘talk’ to each other negates the benefits of efficiency, especially when there needs to be some kind of communication between the user of one system & the user of the other system.
“Moving to a paperless system doesn’t bear the same results as working with a system that has been designed with both clinical & financial capabilities that integrate seamlessly. Using Healthbridge’s technology we have eliminated the need for a separate accounts department & improved our profitability.”
Dr Francois Nieuwoudt, General Practitioner, Western Cape
Why is an integrated system important for healthcare professionals?
When it comes to your medical practice software, full integration is the epitome of efficiency. Here are a few of the primary benefits of integrating your electronic clinical notes with your billing software:
- Improved efficiency: Manually entering data is tedious, time consuming & opens the possibility of error & duplication. Integrated electronic clinical notes & billing systems cut the effort, time, & risk in half because a user only needs to input information & demographic data once. The data is then stored & seamlessly transferred between systems, saving time on admin & boosting efficiency.
- Fewer errors: With human entry comes human error. Even the most conscientious employees are not above making the occasional mistake entering data. A simple mistake in the digits of a medical aid membership number can result in costing a practice money & mistakes are even more likely if staff members are stretched thin by mounting administrative tasks. Integrated systems mean less data entry & as a result, fewer capturing errors.
- Building trustworthy relationships: Integrating your electronic clinical notes & your billing system creates transparency in the medical billing process. This means submitting ‘cleaner’ claims, reducing rejection rates & a better patient experience when it comes to collecting for services.
- Reduced paperwork: Integrated software means that healthcare professionals & healthcare staff no longer spend valuable time filling out forms & processing claims manually. The reduced workload gives staff more time to focus on creating a better patient experience.
To find out more about how an integrated system can help your practice, click here.
Lesson 4: Telehealth may not always be THE solution but sometimes, it is the only option
In the height of lockdown, medical practices turned to Telehealth as a feasible way to get healthcare to patients who were unable or unwilling to visit the practice’s premises.
“We will never replace in-person consults, but Telehealth helps us to reduce waste in our lives, wasting time in waiting rooms & traffic, wasting money on goods & services that could be digital. By & large I find that treating chronic patients works well with Telehealth. Issuing repeat prescriptions, follow up, & communicating test results are all quicker & easier to do without needing the patient to come in.”
Dr Lee, General Practitioner, Pietermaritzburg.
Why is Telehealth important for healthcare professionals?
For many healthcare professionals, the hypothetical value of Telehealth had to be proven in a real-world use case & COVID offered exactly that. Below is a summary of the immediate benefits healthcare professionals realised by using telehealth services:
- Reduced front-end admin: Telehealth is inherently digital & therefore supports processes like digital patient check-ins, virtual waiting room management & electronic patient file access. This alone alleviated the pressure & admin burden on front desk staff.
- Better patient reach: Telehealth eliminates the distance & barriers to providing health services. Online consultations enable you to care for patients who are too far, sick, &/or elderly to travel to your practice. This can improve not only your reach, but the impact of your services & patient retention.
- Improved revenue potential: Besides the potential to generate additional revenue, doctors can also follow up with patients faster – instead of consuming office appointment time & inconveniencing patients- telehealth is a more efficient way to relay patient test results &/or other communication. Patients appreciate the added convenience & practices who can deliver the same quality of care & value as in-person visits are directly impacting the likelihood of increased revenue.
For a complete guide that offers checklists & decisions that need to be considered to successfully implement telehealth in your practice, click here.
Technology in healthcare is no longer the elephant in the waiting rooms, as was the case for several years before the pandemic. This was the key theme taken from 1 000 healthcare professionals that decided to digitise their practices during COVID. For them, the alternative of not having a practice or the ability to run their businesses was far more daunting than implementing the right technology.
If you or a colleague are considering digitisation, click here to talk to an experienced Business Consultant about the requirements & benefits of going digital.