by Pat Rosenzweig
Years ago, when most offices still ran on paper, and computers were just being introduced, we saw a lot of doctors and staff members who preferred to continue to do all their scheduling and chart notes on paper. They just used the computers for patient accounts and billing. We've come a long way from those days and our software has become much more useful. We now have great software (such as those from Ortho2) available that can keep the office flowing, maintain all patient information, and keep everyone communicating. We know this great software is available and most of our practices currently own one version or another, so what's my point? My point is that while the doctor spent a decent amount of money on the software, most of our offices are currently using half of it...at best!
Every day we go into offices and see piles of unnecessary paper and many unneeded spreadsheets because someone likes to do it this way. Believe me when I tell you no one likes to do more work, but someone who doesn't know how to use the software properly will stubbornly insist the old way is their preference before they'll figure out how to do it more quickly and easily with the computer. This is a big waste of both time and money.
So what's the solution? Fire everyone who isn't totally comfortable with computers? Not likely, unless we want to share about 20 staff members among 100 offices. Many of our staff members need more training on using their software, and on computer use in general. We hear more mature members all the time saying they aren't good with computers because they weren't raised with them. The sad truth however, is that the staff members who are young enough to have been raised with computers have, in most cases, used them only for email, photos, and games. They are no more capable of picking up software without training than someone who has hardly ever used a computer.
The real solution lies with the leader in every office, the doctor. Only the doctor can make the real changes that result in smooth, well run practices. As consultants, we can offer some training for your software, but will frequently suggest bringing a trainer in when there are a number of staff members who need training, but the real mover and shaker has to be the doctor. Also, the doctor has to be onboard with using the software. Those paper charts belong on a storage unit, not at the front desk announcing your lack of technological savvy. The doctor has to say, in no uncertain terms, “Get rid of the routing slips, sticky notes, paper charts, and spreadsheets and put the information in the computer.” Only the doctor can make it stick in telling staff to stop wasting time creating spread sheets when the computer could run the report for you. And finally, only the doctor can insist that treatment plans, contracts, and (heaven help us!) recall cards come from the computer and not a handwritten sheet or card. I actually had a staff member tell me she wrote out patient recall cards because she felt patients paid more attention when something was hand written. What a lot of nonsense to avoid admitting she didn't have the first idea of how to run them on the computer and had no intention of learning!
I mentioned earlier how we save time and use already paid for resources by using our computer software, but there's one more point we may be missing. Using the software for everything is great marketing. If a patient goes for two opinions on treatment and leaves one with a little handwritten sheet, but leaves the other with a nice computer printout, with explanations of fees, treatment and payment plans, which office do you think they'll choose? You may even have the better treatment plan, but perception is everything and if you're perceived as old fashioned you will lose the patient. You purchased a wonderful marketing and management tool, so now how about deciding and insisting you and your staff actually use it!