It seems that almost weekly, we are bombarded with new and exciting tools to help make our work “more efficient”, though usually at a pretty high cost. Tons of different apps and software promise to organize your clients, help you book appointments, and save you hours of pointless bookkeeping each day.
The reality is not usually as simple. Many of these systems save you time- if you’re willing to spend months learning how to use them. In the meantime, you can pay their monthly fees- often hundreds per month, on a tedious and unknown system. The worst part? This is often the best-case scenario. The company you’re with could always decide to stop supporting the system, leaving you with an incomplete product.
After a bit of research, we decided to answer the question- is going paperless worth it?
The advantages are obvious: it saves paper, ink, and time. Booking appointments, filing methods, and medical records are all crucial pieces to ensuring a clinic runs smoothly. Automating and computerizing parts of this process no doubt saves time and money, but just how much?
In 1989, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre (Harvard Med School) implemented what is likely one of the first computerized patient record systems. By 1996, they predicted that their savings totaled $56,000 annually. Including opportunity costs of the storage space an man-hours, that number jumps up to a whopping $250,000 per year! Admittedly, they have far more staff and expenses than most, but the savings are very sizable nonetheless.
A smaller Walk-In clinic found that using their Client Management system of choice saved each doctor about 12h of work a week- a saving of thousands of dollars annually per employee.
The same clinic also reported tons of unquantifiable benefits. Patients were able to move from one location to another with no difficulties, as all their appointment data and history could be transferred with the click of a button.
So, the benefits are clearly extensive, but how feasible are these changes?
The good news is that they’ve gotten easier- the bad news is that easier isn’t the same as easy. The clinics that made all these changes also reported a fairly lengthy adjustment time. The average time to become fully familiar with the average system seems to be about a year, though most practitioners reported that it becomes as convenient as paper in as little as two.
The most efficient way to transition seems to be the ‘slow and steady’ kind. Many Norwegian hospitals have eliminated paper via the implementation of an electronic medical record system. For the Norwegian healthcare system, scanning patient records were step one to paving the way toward a paperless system. At first, it may result in doing double the work. However, in the long run, it can save time and money.
Consequently, over a three year time period, the electronic medical record system was used by Norwegian nurses and physicians for over 50% of their tasks. The gradual inclusion of the system provided little disruption to the daily function and procedures of the hospital staff. The study pertaining to the Norwegian hospitals did note that future inclusion of the system would likely only become easier with time as the majority of the workforce would continue to be more familiar with computerized technology.
Associated doctor walk-in clinics found electronic patient record systems to be a crucial time-saving tactic. When a patient went to a different location, they saved time by avoiding faxing pages of patient files. The electronic system was able to pull the patient file up right away with minimal time designated to calling another clinic and awaiting a response.
Further, a variety of dental offices and associated dental laboratories have also begun using paperless web content management systems to communicate more efficiently. They found it reduced miscommunication between the two locations and reduced the time spent fixing any miscommunication commonly found in older paper procedures
Going digital does not necessarily only pertain to patient records. Over the last decade, paperless methods have come to include a broad range of clinic management support tools.
In relation to manual therapy and massage therapy clinics, prescribed exercise sheets and continuing education classes are now available via online and paperless means.
Prescribed exercises for clients can even be emailed through the use of online applications. The exercises can be opened anywhere via the client’s email on their cell phone. Going paperless means no lost printed exercise sheets. It also eliminates the time it takes to print out exercises for each patient.
Online procedures are evidently becoming the new go-to for many healthcare clinics. Going paperless can reduce time spent on repetitive or mundane tasks and increase organizational methods in a clinic. Manual therapists and massage therapists alike can collaborate easier via secure online methods which can further aid in adherence to professional standards of care. Time saved enables more one-on-one time with clients, allowing for the possibility of improved services and assistance to those who need it the most. Going paperless will not happen overnight. However, starting sooner rather than later can ensure your clinic does not get left behind in today's fast paced technology age.