Keeping records and notes on patients and clients is a seemingly endless task, and it generates a lot of paper.
We all try to reduce our paper use, but that can have more than environmental benefits in the office. It can reduce the amount of paperwork done by you and your staff—and it could reduce your costs.
Physical therapist Heather King, co-owner of Active Life Physiotherapy in Vancouver, British Columbia, says that she and her business partner [physical therapist Sophia Sauter] deliberately designed their office to be as paperless as possible, but it has taken some time to get the system working the way they want it to function.
“Each of our therapists is responsible for tracking their own appointments, doing their own billing, and handling their own administration,” says King. “We don’t have administrative support staff.”
Patients book their appointments online, and all files are kept online. There is some paperwork as patients are given a paper receipt when they pay for their appointments, but invoices for insurance purposes are issued online. King says that local hospitals are keeping records on CDs so they can be uploaded to their patients’ charts, and if a patient brings in a paper chart or x-ray, that can be scanned and uploaded to their file as well.
” The patient is given an identity code based on their e-mail address to access appointments, invoices, and the treatment plan outline based on first visit, and any notes the practitioner adds notes for the patient to access,” King says. “Each patient has one file that all of the practitioners can access using a unique password so that notes can be added and shared.”
Prior to the first visit information regarding the patient’s current health status, their health history, and other relevant details can be filled in online, which is automatically put into their patient portal. The treatment plan is available online and the practitioners have put more than 300 exercise clips on a DVD for patients to follow at home, which eliminates the need for paper copies of the exercises. It also allows patients to follow someone doing the exercise so that the maximum benefit is derived. More exercises are available on the clinic’s website.
Another consideration to having a paperless office is the cost. There are a number of systems geared to various types of medial offices, and they take time to implement. There is also a cost associated with training the clinicians. King figures that while the start-up costs were significant, money has been saved by not having the extra support staff costs.
Active Life Physiotherapy is making good use of modern technology both before and after the patient’s first visit, and any subsequent visits, thereby reducing paperwork, and promoting the paperless office.
The modern technology approach may not work if your clients and patients don’t have computers, computer literacy, and high-speed Internet access, says physiotherapist John Barratt, owner of the Napanee Sports and Spinal Centre in Napanee, Ontario. Having to meet extensive regulations set out by insurance companies, regulatory bodies, and government agencies that require faxed copies of forms and charts doesn’t make it any easier to reduce the paperwork in the office either.
In spite of this, using a paper shredder, putting appointments and at least some patient information in the computers does make for less paper work in the office, As the technology moves forward, and becomes more accessible, someday all offices may be paperless.
Active Life Physiotherapy in North Vancouver
Napanee Sports and Spinal Centre
Another version of this article first appeared in The Health Professional.
Christine Peets is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about health, personal finance, architecture, and family. For details about her work, visit her website, www.CaptionsCommunications.ca or contact her at Christine(at)CaptionsCommunications.ca.
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