March 21, 2022

How To Automate Your Medical Practice

Anyone who has been in medical for even a short while knows that the programs we use often don't talk to one other. This results in processes that take longer and cost more.

How To Automate Your Medical Practice

Every company I speak with is feeling the labor crunch. Many businesses are struggling to hire and retain employees. For most of my career, I’ve been creating ways  to streamline and reduce dependencies on people for processes and tasks. Thus, I wanted to share some tools and ideas, accumulated through years in the trenches, to automate business processes as they might be helpful to medical practices struggling to hire people.

Let's look at some of the things you should do first and then we'll look at how to begin automating your practice.

Document Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

To truly know what is happening in your practice, you have to have your procedures documented. It’s how you prioritize core values, set expectations, and measure the quality of work done.

Having every single thing documented is perhaps unrealistic and doesn’t allow for team members freedom to get work done in their own unique strengths. A great goal for any business is documenting 80% of what everyone does. A must-read on this topic is The E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.

“A business that looks orderly says to your customer that your people know what they’re doing.” ― Michael E. Gerber

Once you have your SOPs documented, it is dramatically easier to train someone new, see areas for improvement on paper, and determine the possibility to automate it.

Create Training Materials

Once you’ve documented SOPs, take it to the next level and create step-by-step training materials. This can be in the form of a written document, videos, or e-learning platform. If you are teaching a new person or employee how to do a task or process, it is a great time to record videos for future reference. These recordings can be incredibly useful when training someone new, evaluating their performance, or even automating processes.

Divide Tasks Into Individual Components

The more you can break tasks into discrete components, the easier it is to assign work, determine areas for optimization and improvement, and ultimately automate a process.

For example, if a job is to take scans from an OCT machine and put them into your EMR when they don’t talk to each other. You might break that into three parts:

  1. Entering your patient into the OCT Machine.
  2. Scanning the patient’s retinas.
  3. Uploading scans into the EMR.

Now that you’ve listed these tasks, you can then determine who to assign each task. In some practices, it might make sense for one person to do all three tasks. In other practices, it might be more efficient to have two or three people perform the tasks. 

Or maybe you can automate one or all of those processes to save time. 

By breaking them up you understand each part and how they work together. By evaluating how these tasks work together, you get the biggest bang for your buck, reduce the risk of failure, and catch potential errors.

Identify High Value Areas

I generally recommend an evaluation of what areas you want to tackle in your practice by analyzing the processes, time expense of the process, how critical the process is, and the resource constraints. 

An overall assessment might look like this:

When you automate your medical practice, it's a good idea to identify high value areas.

Perform Small, Cheap Experiments

If you are able to break processes up, you can experiment with different tools, people, and technologies to help you accomplish your goal of automation. Remember, rarely is there a silver bullet, so if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Thus, if you can avoid committing to long-term contracts or ensure those contracts are performance-based it might be a good idea.

Empower A Change Maker

In my experience, it’s rare that  the people doing the actual process are the same people you want to be helping you automate the process.  Normally, those folks are incredibly great employees who enjoy structure, following processes, and accomplishing tasks. 

To automate a task, you need a problem solver to recognize the importance of the task, understand the required end result, and perceive the steps needed to implement it successfully.

Do The Entire Job Step-by-Step

The key to firmly getting a grip on the process and what is being done is to perform the whole task, beginning to end, yourself. 

Early on in my career, I would do the entire process myself and it helped me become the expert I am today. I still do that on occasion for new tasks to help truly understand and identify areas for improvement and potential opportunities.

Leverage Proven Technology

There are tons of tools and software that allow you to streamline and automate processes.  Google, Zapier, Amazon, Salesforce, and numerous others have tools and technologies that can be effectively used to automate processes. I encourage people to stick with a limited toolset, measure the ROI, take baby steps into solutions, and be brutally honest as to what is and what is not. Numerous times I have purchased a product expecting it to solve a problem, but I either didn't have the resources/time or didn’t get the right product to do what I needed.  Sometimes we think buying a product will solve the actual problem, yet if we don’t have the team or people to help, it will fail. That said, with the right team and technology you can save yourself quite a bit of time and expense. In some cases it is estimated that up to 30% of Medical processes will be automated over the next 20 years.

Learn and Repeat

Once you get something that works, do it again and again. If you find an employee who is able to tackle these automations, or maybe a vendor who helps or a combination of both, spend the money, dedicate the time and build out the systems that allow for the business to run while you sleep.

Keep an attitude of constant improvement, with the knowledge that you will be perfect. But  realize that over time you can make great strides, knowing that there will be a few setbacks along the way, but don’t lose heart, keep going.

Find Good Partners

Look for vendors, who will tell you the truth, not just what you want to hear. If someone promises the moon be skeptical.  Any of us who have been in medical for a long time, know that technology often doesn’t talk to one other and this results in processes that take longer and cost more. That said, there are lots of quality people who want to help your practice by providing solutions to help you serve your patients. Once you find a good one, gain all the knowledge you can, and recommend them to others.

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