MPP 011 :: Using Tools and Technology in a Healthcare Private Practice

In this episode we will be looking at using tools and technology in a healthcare practice and the benefits of these.

Show Notes :: Using tools and technology in healthcare practice

Oliver :: So, in today’s episode, I thought we should be talking about tools and technology, in a healthcare practice, or for healthcare practitioners in private practice. And how they could possibly think about technology or use technology in their practice.

I think it’s quite clear that technology is here to stay. There was some doubt in the early 90s, about, whether this is gonna happen or not. But I think we can clearly say that it’s it here. I worked with a consultant, who always reminded me and would say. They sent a man to the moon, with less technology than what most of us carry in our pockets. This though always kind of sobers me, in terms of thinking around technology.

So are you, are you quite a technology person?

Shaz :: I think the most technological I am would probably be my gaming consoles. But I do definitely agree on the fact that we’re in a world at the moment where technology is definitely the way forward. We’re moving more and more away from that manual process of getting things done. And anybody who uses that wonderful saying of I’m a technophobe, they are definitely starting to fall behind at the moment.

There’s so much that you can do just on your smartphone or your tablet, let alone, were using other forms of technology to help you get to where you need to get. So I’m slowly converting into a more technical aspect, but for me at the moment is definitely just my phone and my PlayStation.

Change Management with Tools and Technology

Oliver :: I think for me, I definitely struggled, during the early days of working with healthcare practitioners. And maybe even before that, even from a consulting point of view. Because for me, it’s quite, easy to change over and just try something new. Definitely from a technology point of view, and just see, does it work? Or does it not work and kind of make up your mind from there. But over the years, I’ve definitely realized that not everyone has that propensity to do that.

I get that, I remember, on my last consulting project, there was this whole idea of change management. And coming from an IT background, for me Change Management meant that you have to put the change into the system? How are you going to deploy that to production, and, make the change on to production systems. That was my idea of change management.

But obviously, this wasn’t the context, the context was the whole organizational change management. Which maybe, at some point, in a future episode we could probably cover. But the whole idea is how receptive are people to making a change, because it’s not as simple as just moving from a Microsoft base laptop to a MacBook. And for most people, that that is a huge change.

Once I’ve once figured out something that works, I’m also very resistant to changing.

Oliver :: But I do want to say, once I’ve once figured out something that works, I’m also very resistant to changing. And maybe that’s how we should frame this discussion as well.

With every change, there is that switching cost and there’s a little bit of that hurt or nastiness about changing. Whether it is that you lose half your documents, which hopefully is not the case, or have to spend two months learning how the new system works.

Yesterday someone was telling me she moved to a MacBook from Microsoft and the email doesn’t quite work in the same way. And I thought “Okay, that’s interesting” I have never really thought about it that way. But it was a very real thing for her.

If I talk about technology and healthcare practitioners, most of the clients that we work with are woman. And I think from a technology point of view, they’re not completely against it. But they’re definitely more on the, approach of let’s wait, we not going to jump on it almost immediately. And I think that’s a really good, perspective to have on this.

The reason I was telling you about this is, even I am resistant to change as well, in some way. It is because of the, amount of effort that you need. So I would say when you’re looking at technology, in my in my opinion, it should be that you’re looking at probably three factors. Will it save you time? Will it save you money by doing this? And will it bring you value?

Cost Benefit Analysis.

Oliver :: Now, in corporate terms, whenever we were thinking of embarking on a new project, or we had to convince a client that this project was a was a good idea. We used to call it a business case. And, that’s basically looking at the costs, looking at the benefits and saying, does the benefits outweigh the cost. And if the benefits outweigh the costs, just do it, because even with the pain and the hurt, overall, this is a good decision.

The simple way I used to explain it as well is. If you went to the Casino, and you played on the slot machine, and every time you put R 10.00, you got R15.00 rounds out. You would just keep on putting R 10.00 in, it just doesn’t make any sense for you not to do that. But if you were unsure, then just don’t do it. If that slot machine every time you put in R10.00, it gave you R5.00 you would not keep playing.

Why is technology becoming more important for healthcare practitioners?

Oliver :: So coming back to how would you think about technology? I think if I just say why is technology becoming more important for healthcare practitioners? It is because it’s the world that we are living in right now. And I think based on that, it’s that we have less time. Practitioners are almost forced by clients to climb onto the technology bandwagon. I mean, if you’re not sending your clients and invoice by email, which they can then submit to their health insurance and medical aids, and it’s handwritten, it’s almost like that is what’s expected. And if you’re not doing that, you are out there behind the curve and behind where the majority of the industry seems to be at the moment.

And that would be the reasons for looking at technology and saying, if you’re a healthcare practitioner in private practice, that technology is available to you. I would argue that it’s been available for many years. Some of the practice management software, that we started looking at, has been available for 20 or 30 years. Unfortunately, based on costs, and based on, who they were targeting the software to, it was only maybe a small part of the market.

The reason that we created smeMetrics is because, we saw a certain gap in the market, and we went into that gap. We tried to service it in the best way possible. But that would be why healthcare practitioners in my opinion, should be considering technology is because it is here to stay. And there’s a lot more technology available to, healthcare practitioners in order to make their lives better and easier.

We spoke about being remarkable, this would be getting a better experience for your clients. By choosing a technology that satisfies, in some of those those areas that you’ve highlighted or want to focus on on being remarkable. With all of these discussions are always going to go back to what have we done has it worked for us? And possibly also, without disclosing too much but with our clients, more or less has it actually worked out for them.

Can we show examples of where technology has worked for us and our client?

Shaz :: So we use quite a bit of technology from a work perspective. But what that has done is it’s meant that irrespective of whether somebody’s sitting. Whether that’s in the office or at the airport, that if something needs to be done, you can pull out a phone, a laptop, open up an app and get whatever it is done. In an environment in a world where people don’t want their personal time invaded. The more you can get things done, the easier it becomes to have that work life balance.

But I think one of the best moves we’ve made recently is, with the whole environmental shift at the moment. Many practitioners and places are trying to become paperless. The concept of being able to have a digital intake form that a patient can fill out on the web and mail back. Instead of having to print or find a printer has definitely made a difference to a few of our practitioners so far.

It was a small technological change. But it took a little bit of convincing to say, you don’t actually need a three page document printed at reception if you can convert it into something that can be filled in online. So as we move more into this technological world, yes, sometimes it’s painful to make the change. But as you say, look at the benefit. And if the benefit definitely outweighs the two hours, you might need to spend learning how your new smartphone works. Take the two hours, because at the end of the day, it’s going to save you countless hours in time, effort and energy.

Be intentional with your technology purchases.

Oliver :: We want to elaborate a little bit about that. And I think choosing any any bit of technology is difficult. I mean, it starts from.

  • What phone do you have?
  • What laptop Do you have?
  • Which programs or software applications do you put on the, device to be able to do this stuff.

That decision has become a lot easier, like over the years, especially with Apple, releasing their first smartphone and kind of pushing the boundaries of what you can do.

But as you said, you know, I’m sitting at the airport, going down to Cape Town for a meeting, I want to be able to be as productive as if I was on the local network in at the office. And when I looked around,that was my requirement. With every single bit of technology that we use as a team, it has to satisfy those requirements for me. So it has to be online based, which means normally that, then it’s accessible wherever. Obviously, with online base, you have to worry about the security parts. But if you have the security part covered with two factor authentication, or something, very similar, then that’s normally fine.

Make sure it can work on multiple devices.

Oliver :: So that means and this is probably the biggest change as well, that I’ve found over the years is I don’t want to just work on my laptop.

We had a client recently where, we brought her on from using another practice management software. That software only worked on her laptop, and you couldn’t get it to work on any other laptop unless you phoned into the support team. And you got it authorized and stuff like that even then the secondary laptop would only access the software if the main laptop was switched on and logged into the software. In my opinion, we are way past that. I’m not saying you have to be relaxed about security, but I am saying you have to be at a stage where when you choosing the technology it has to work on multiple devices.

So all of the technology that we use in it has to work on a laptop, on an iPad, and it definitely has to work on the smartphone. It might be that some of the features are reduced on the smartphone. Which for obvious reasons would would make sense. But it can’t be that doesn’t work on the smartphone, I think that that’s the key part. And yeah, it must be quick, it must be all of those kinds of things.

It kind of goes with how we work with clients as well. Everything that we release in if it hasn’t satisfied that requirement for me on how we would choose technology, it’s not shipping out of the door. If we can’t take phone calls for a client in a remote capacity, with a team in India, in the UK, or sitting in Durban it’s not going to happen. It’s not something that we would even consider offering to our clients.

So if I was to give a recommendation to clients it is this. When you are looking for technology when choosing it just be a lot more intentional about that. And if you’re not getting that, from whatever bit of technology you’re using. Then I would really look at it from the perspective that in the world that we’re living in it, there are multiple solutions to any given problem.

Is there anything that you would recommend that would be critical or the key technologies that every healthcare practitioner needs to consider for their private practice?

Shaz :: So for me, a few of the key technologies is obviously you do need a billing software. Irrespective of which software you choose, you need something to be able to process those invoices, get them out to your clients as soon as possible.

One that’s coming up more and more regularly is the millennial generation. And I know, we don’t like to be classed as that. But the millennial generation is a very technological generation. We want the information available on our smartphone or tablets. So the easier you make it to get that invoice to a patient, the better it is, and the more likely you are to get paid. Other technologies you could use is make it easy for your patient to pay you. Have a credit card machine or a Yoko app or even Snapscan. The easier it is for somebody to pay you, the more likely you are run into a situation where you don’t have much bad debts.

A telephone, it sounds simple, it sounds like everybody should know that you need to be able to answer a phone. But where a lot of practitioners fall into the trap is they give out their personal cell phone number. Then you wind up with patients messaging or phoning you at all hours of the day. But using a technology that can take those messages or send out automated text responses outside of business hours, gives you peace of mind.

You need a computer or at least a smartphone that can access the internet. There are some practitioners that as Oliver said, use handwritten invoices and handwritten receipts. These cause problems when you try and submit them to medical aid because the medical aid can’t read the handwriting. So if you’ve got the technology to generate a computer generated invoice that can be clearly read by the medical aid, you have less medical aid claims being rejected. Which means you have less friction with members because they’re not being reimbursed. Or friction with funds because you’re not being reimbursed.

So the basics, make sure you’ve got a good phone, you’ve got a decent computer or laptop and a billing software. And from there you’ve got the groundwork and then build it up.

If you’re on the go and need to quickly send off a claim or book an appointment. You should to be able to do that wherever you are. Instead of having to first get home switch the computer back on then sit down and work. Because the moment you start doing that, you wind up working all night or until all hours of the day and you don’t actually switch off. Technology helps you to have that downtime, but you’ve got to have the correct information and the correct tools to do it.

Tool and technology basic must haves.

Oliver :: You didn’t mention another one, which would also put into that list, which is email. Choose the email that you that you want to go with. And again, if I go with, what you were saying is, most healthcare practitioners get this wrong, in terms of using maybe a personal email. I would definitely recommend, going with a business type email, for your private practice. Something that’s separate to your personal email, where you are emailing your friends and your family. And with this as well, it’s up to preference, that would just be my recommendation.

If I look at email itself, don’t just go with any email, you know, go with an email that’s from a trusted provider. The ones that kind of spring to mind are G mail, Microsoft with their office 365 or Apple mail. We’ve got an offering, on our infrastructure, which is a secure, dedicated mailbox, tied to your actual domain or your website called IsoWeb.


The other thing, is having a website and having that basic infrastructure around that. So people can find you, if they go and search for, you on Google, hopefully it comes up with your private practice where you are and stuff like that

Document drafting and storage.

Oliver :: Closely coupled with email in a way, is your document drafting and storage. As a company we use Gmail so our documents are done with Google Suite. This is Google’s online document facility, but you could use the Microsoft stack or something similar. You just need to figure out, how you going to do your document management.

Closely tied with email would be, how do you back up your documents. We were speaking to someone, last week, and she was moving from the one laptop to the other. But she didn’t know how to move documents. I would definitely recommend having a backup type solution in place. Google has Google Drive, Microsoft has One Drive and there are multiple other such as Dropbox.

Basically figure out for your critical documents, how do you put that, in some type of online based backup storage facility. You can also use an offline back up like an external hard drive. Just make sure that, that backup works and you can access it. With an offline backup definitely, don’t put the backup drive, with your laptop, in your bag, in the car. Because if it gets stolen, the laptop, and the backup drive are gone. So definitely have the backup drive separate, so that you can recover when you get the next laptop.

So that’s quite a common mistake that most people make, over and above not backing up. But to me, it’s quite simple there’s a drive on my computer that I know is being synced to an online cloud storage. And I always put the documents in that drive or that folder. So it makes it very easy, for me to switch from the one laptop to the other. Because it’s just logging in connecting to each one of the services and then you’re good to go.

Video Conferencing.

Shaz :: The other one would be you have to have some form of video conferencing technology. Again, 2020 has shown us you need to be able to do online consultations or online meetings. You do need to do a bit of research to check which options are safe and secure, especially in a healthcare environment. So take a little bit of time and look into what kind of video conferencing software you can use. Because that does impact you if you are going to be doing online sessions.

I agree wholeheartedly with backing stuff up, use a cloud drive where you can. You don’t really want to be sitting with hard copy backup, because if something goes wrong, you’ve lost it. You know, there’s simple story of your external and your laptop go missing at the same time. So be aware.

Password Management Tool.

I’m yet to find an example of someone that does this extremely well. The reason I say a password management tool is that you want to have all of your passwords in one place. With any given person, you have at least five passwords that you need to remember your email, banking stuff, hosting accounts, all of those kinds of things.

You need some way that you can securely store that and more importantly, that it’s not a document stored on your computer. Because I mean, you can understand the ramifications of that if that laptop is in the wrong hands. But a good password management tool gives the ability to generate a password that’s not something that’s simple to remember. It’s some obscure password.that, you can you can actually store in the password management app and just login. Some of them even automatically log in for you.

So I would definitely recommend that you look at a password management tool. And definitely, not just in your head. Because invariably, what you do is you start reusing passwords, which they do not recommend. Don’t use the same password on your email as you do on your online banking profiles. Because, if someone has access to the one, they do have access to everything.

Conclusion.

I would say, as a recommendation whenever you’re thinking of choosing a technology. Maybe look at what we have, and what we would recommend. And I want to be as transparent as we can, especially with with this type of content, so that you have the best decision. By no means am I saying you need to choose our solution, but at least it should spur on some ideas. Or a philosophy of, how we’ve come up with it or, why we’ve chosen that it should resonate in some way. And if it doesn’t, find someone else or find other content that resonates with you in terms of how you should choose a technology that’s going to make a difference for your private practice and your life.