People Work Not Paperwork: Improving Patient Care
Debra Nash has been in the dental industry for over 40 years. She often jokes about how that much time in the industry is why she gets color touch-ups when she goes into the hair salon. In addition to managing a team in the office, Debra is a founding member and served three terms as President of the National Academy of Dental Management Consultants. She also serves on the board of the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration, the Speaking Consulting Network, as well as American Dental Association’s Dental Practice Management Advisory Board. You could say that, like the State Farm commercials, Debra “knows a thing or two because she’s seen a thing or two.”
One of the things she has seen these last few years is the impact that technology is now having on the office manager role. In a recent webinar, People Work not Paperwork…Click to learn more in a new window…, Debra explains that “technology has just exploded in our industry which is making everything faster, easier, better for us as office managers.”
The Glorious Blockbuster Days
If we travel back to the time when Blockbuster video stores populated every other block, Debra remembers working in her office with landline phones and paper appointment books that – no exaggeration – were 3 feet long. She would call patients and they would actually answer the phone – imagine that! She used pencils with an eraser to make and change patient appointments in the large paper appointment book.
Flash forward to today’s world, and we find that not only have the hairstyles changed, but technology and patients have as well. In regards to patients, their expectations and behavior, in and out of the office, have changed significantly. When your patients aren’t in your office, they are online. They are paying bills, shopping, making dinner reservations online – many times not even at a desktop computer, but on their phone. All of this behavior outside of the office shapes their expectations of how they are going to be able to interact with their local dental office. Fortunately, there are new tools in dentistry to accommodate patients’ expectations for how they’d like to communicate.
How Patients Choose an Office
In an ideal world, prospective patients would be like contestants on the game show The Price is Right who would run to our office clapping and ecstatic that we picked them to ‘come on down’ to our office. Unfortunately, it may sometimes feel the opposite as we expend large amounts of effort into gaining and keeping patients. So what makes a patient choose one practice over another? As important as it is to provide the best clinical results, patients choose an office based on their experience in the office. In fact, a study found that 80% of patients choose an office based not on clinical performance but on how well the office connected with them. Dr. Cynthia Brattesani knew this well when she said, “People don’t always know how great of a clinician you are, but they remember their experience.”
With that understanding, the question every office has to ask itself is “what is getting in the way of focusing more on the patient?” The truth of the matter is that running an office consists of thousands of small, tedious tasks that need to be done each day to keep everything running smoothly. Offices need to focus on keeping their schedule full, plugging holes that naturally occur. They need to message patients, update their staff, call insurance providers, prepare bills, follow up on overdue balances, send out review requests and respond back to them, the list goes on and on.
These daily tasks are important to keeping the practice running smoothly, so maybe the question should be rephrased to “what can we automate, so we can spend more time connecting with patients?” Fortunately, there are automation and time-saving opportunities in many of these areas:
- Appointment Reminders
- Online Scheduling…Click to learn more in a new window…
- Automated Review Requests
- Insurance Verification Automation…Click to learn more in a new window…
Face Time, not Task Time
Weave found that automation of certain processes and tasks can free up 3 hours a day. How can we use this time to create a better patient experience? The first opportunity – and most important – is engaging with the patients while they are in the office. When you are not burdened with an endless list of must-do manual tasks, you and your team are more available to talk to the patients, and engage with them face-to-face, while they are in your office. Getting to know your patients one-on-one is fundamental in creating a great patient experience. While some patients may be less talkative than others, your friendly outreach will not go unnoticed. Patients will feel more valued.
You can spend that time finding out what things your office does that take your customer service level skills to the next level. Or, as Debra likes to phrase it: “How do you behave in an above usual and customary way so your patients understand and appreciate your office is above usual and customary?”
Are you offering a unique experience in your waiting room? Are you creating unique patient experiences when opportunities arise? (Example: throwing a patient a hula party when they missed a cruise due to sickness…Click to read more in a new window…). When the patient walks in the door, what are you doing to make them feel welcome? As you are able to free up time from paperwork you can focus more on what matters, people work.
The patient experience should be our focus – especially when they are present in the office. Systems are the backstory of what we do, and should help free up time so we can focus on the patient experience. Debra recalls an experience she had recently with a healthcare visit where the first interaction she had in the office was someone asking for her insurance card and then handing her a clipboard. “This wasn’t a terrible experience, but it definitely was an experience that felt lacking. It didn’t wow me or connect me immediately with that office.”
Automation not Procrastination
Automation is not meant to replace what we do best, but rather take care of time-consuming tasks. As Debra stated, “We have to let automation assist us.” Patients judge an office based on their experience and how you communicate with them. This is why it is important to utilize technology to automate processes so we can increase our effectiveness in what can’t be automated – improving the human connection in the office.
How do we get our team away from the paperwork processes and into people-work processes? The answer is finding ways to reduce human dependence on specific processes. This is where Software partners, like Weave, come in clutch. Weave has developed automated and digital processes that:
- Allow patients to be able to request appointments online…Click to learn more in a new window…
- Verify patient insurance…Click to learn more in a new window… before visits
- Automatically request reviews post-visit
- Reduce the number of phone calls/broken appointments
- Reduce the amount of time chasing patients to schedule appointments.
- Allow patients to pay via text/mobile
- And more…
People Work, not Paperwork
With the addition of staffing issues that so many offices are facing, adding paperwork tasks on top of what your staff already does limits their time to spend focusing on the patient. It is pivotal to reduce time spent on paperwork tasks so that your team can refocus attention on patient-centric tasks. Every office manager should ask the question:
“If I don’t have the human resources to do all of the tasks required, what can I outsource so that I am not bombarding or burdening 1 or few people to do a lot of things?”
Ultimately, if you can automate tasks that have been traditionally human-driven so that they are automated and system-driven, then results immediately follow. Stress is reduced, patient experience is improved, staff and patient loyalty increases and much more. We want to create raving fans – because raving fans are patients who are talking about us, patients who stay, refer, accept treatment plans, and pay their bills.
The question that Debra now finds herself constantly asking is, “What processes can I outsource so that my team members can stay focused and intentional in talking with patients – making them feel like they are valued? Or, what can we do to continue to improve automation so that we can free up time to focus on the patients?”
Fortunately, this is the same question that patient engagement companies like Weave are asking, and the problem they have proven that they can help solve. See firsthand in a product walkthrough…Click to learn more in a new window… how Weave helps Debra Nash save time, automate key processes and help her team focus on the patient.
Also, watch Debra Nash talk about processes that are better automated or outsourced in her webinar, People Work not Paperwork…Click to learn more in a new window….