In the past, many health practitioners were understandably wary of introducing technology to the client experience. Concerns ranged from ‘losing the personal touch’ and reliance on unstable tech to the more subconscious fears of having to learn something new.
But with technology integrated into every sphere of daily life from work to play, it’s time to tap into the opportunities that it offers for improving the healthcare experience for you as the practice owner, your staff, and especially, your clients.
Technology isn’t here to replace the client connection; it’s here to facilitate and improve it. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four ways in which technology can help you to grow your private practice.
1) Increase productivity: technology will help you ‘clean house’
You can’t give your clients the best experience if you’re trying to run a practice using post-it notes! If you have a paper diary, sheets of paper everywhere, hard copies of patient records and post-it notes covering your desk, introducing technology is the best way to help you turn chaos into order. Organised systems will reduce the amount of time you spend on admin, and your brain will be less cluttered because your office is in order. Less time spent doing admin and a clearer headspace means that you, and everyone in your practice, will be more productive.
You don’t need an external consultant to come in and tell you what needs changing; you need to get organised and start using technology to get your affairs in order. Technology can make everyday tasks such as invoicing, appointment scheduling and taking treatment notes simpler and easier to manage.
At the top of your list should be choosing the right practice management software. Once you have integrated the software, you will be able to digitise client folders and treatment notes, throw out paper diaries and switch over to an electronic diary. And, while you’re at it, sort through the piles of paper lying everywhere, decide what needs to be scanned, and what can be shredded.
Practice management software takes out unnecessary layers of admin, streamlining a number of internal processes such as:
- Appointment scheduling and management
- Automated appointment reminders
- Invoicing and payments
- Treatment notes
- Telehealth video calls
- Form completion and return
2) Foster loyalty: technology offers continued connections with clients
Technology can help to grow your client relationships on autopilot, building on the experience they have at your practice. While practitioners do their best to connect with clients when they come into the practice, there’s a limit to the level of support they can offer once the client walks out the door. A busy practice and long workdays often make it difficult to consistently follow-up and offer continued support to everyone.
It’s a well-known fact that existing clients are more profitable than new clients, so how do you build loyalty if you are time-constrained? With the help of technology. Technology offers a number of different opportunities to connect with current and potential clients, such as:
- Electronic notes, when you write up your notes, include personal details so you can remember to follow up on them in the next appointment.
- Email marketing, people check their emails more frequently than social media so you can stay in touch with clients with personalised emails delivered directly to their inboxes. Using practice management software that integrates with email software makes this a simple, cost-effective way to grow loyalty.
- Online reviews, as more and more people turn to Google for answers, your online reputation becomes increasingly important. Reviews are the online version of offline word of mouth, so it’s important to encourage loyal clients to leave reviews on your website and your social media platforms.
3) Improve communications: telehealth can open up new growth opportunities
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that private practices need to be flexible in how they offer their services. For many, the long months of lockdown gave rise to creative solutions, the most important of which was telehealth technology which is now being used successfully by private practices across a number of different healthcare disciplines.
There are many situations in which telehealth can offer a better solution for clients than an in-person session. If clients have to travel long distances to your practice, have limited mobility, or a busy schedule, the option of a telehealth appointment can add significant value to their experience. Telehealth may even allow you to see clients who otherwise would not have been able to come for an in-office appointment, therefore having a direct impact on your bottom line.
It’s important to remember that telehealth facilitates the appointment, it’s a tool, not a focal point in itself, and it has the power to improve access and reduce costs for you as the practice owner, and your clients.
A robust, secure telehealth solution forms the basis of a positive client experience and, for many, telehealth outcomes are the same, if not better. In addition to concerns about the level of care you can offer, many practitioners (and clients) are intimidated by the technology requirements. But, if you use a practice management software with an integrated telehealth solution, connecting can be as simple as a few clicks and a shared link. The right solution will allow for easy appointment scheduling, telehealth call connection and client billing, as well as enabling the practitioner to take progress notes and book follow-up appointments.
4) Grow your brand: get more business through online marketing
If you are looking to scale your private practice, then technology (specifically digital marketing) should be an important part of your strategy. While there are many different avenues that you can explore, the three important basics to cover that will help set you on the course for online success are your website, your social platforms and your paid marketing campaigns:
- Build a great website. Your website forms the foundation of your online presence. In many cases, before a client makes a booking, they’ll search online to find practices in their area. Your website allows clients to get a feel for your practice before they book, and gives you an important opportunity to build trust before they even step into your practice. It’s important to remember the delicate balance between an overwhelmingly informative website versus a minimalist design with essential information missing.
- Set up social accounts. Start with Google My Business, a Facebook Business Page and a few local directories. They’re all free and will give your practice online exposure across different platforms. When setting them up, remember to link to your website for SEO and to guide users to your service offering.
- Invest in paid advertising. Google Ads and Facebook Ads offer targeted, hyper-localised advertising, where you can choose who sees your ads and easily measure your ROI. If you haven’t run ads before, it’s best to start with a small budget and scale as you see some success. You may also need to make adjustments to your campaigns as you go along and a limited budget initially will mean that any mistakes you make won’t break the bank.
Get started and get growing
There are many areas where the introduction of technology can help grow your practice through streamlining existing processes and introducing efficiencies that would otherwise not be possible. But it’s completely understandable if the thought of tackling these areas at the same time seems overwhelming.
If that’s you, take a step back (and a deep breath), and start small.
If you don’t have practice management software, this is the best place to start. The costs are low and month-to-month, so you’re not tied into an expense that you may not be able to afford. Implement the software for your practice and slowly implement things to ‘clean your house’, reduce paperwork to a minimum and then reassess. There’s a good chance that this process of organising and decluttering brings new clarity and insight to your thinking, and will give you the space to take the right next technology-based step for your private practice.