5 Ways to Automate Your Practice

Automation can be a loaded word, and many psychologists understandably shy away from the idea that technology might be used to replace the human element in interactions with clients. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Automations offered by practice management software (PMS) solutions, for example, will actually improve your ability to interact with your clients by reducing the amount of time spent on administrative tasks and improving the client experience.

At each step of the client appointment process, from scheduling to receiving payment and reviewing your reporting, automation can reduce the administrative burden on your staff, as well as improving outcomes for your clients and your practice.

1) Appointment Scheduling and Reminder Automations

Appointment Scheduling

With practice management software, scheduling appointments is quick and easy, whether they’re handled by your admin staff or booked through an online portal on your website.

Phone Bookings

Bookings handled over the phone are more efficient with a proper system in place as your staff have access to one-click appointment management that is fully customisable with automated appointment confirmations and the ability to manage multiple calendars centrally.

Online Bookings

Most systems give you the option to allow your clients to book online at any time, while you maintain full control over clinicians, services, and availability. Online bookings reduce your administrative costs and can be adapted to the needs of your practice.

Appointment Reminders

Once your client has booked an appointment, the next step is to make sure the client remembers that they’ve booked it! That sounds obvious, but an American study found that the cost of no-shows on the health system was over $150 billion per year.

Around 52% of practices use reminders to reduce the rate of patient no-shows with many of these still relying on phone calls. But if you’re serious about improving efficiency, automated reminders are far more reliable and efficient. SMS reminders alone can reduce no shows by 50% or more. That means that they offer the double benefit of being more effective, and they happen on auto-pilot. There’s no need for a staff member to spend hours of their day on the phone trying to get in touch with clients with the risk that they can’t get through or are distracted by other urgent tasks.

A PMS also helps with transparency; you can visually see which appointments have confirmed and which are at risk of not showing up. You can also see which clients have a history of cancelling, because if they’ve cancelled in the past, there’s a good chance that they’ll miss appointments in the future.

2) Treatment Notes

Mental health progress notes are an essential part of every psychology practice, and if you’re still relying on handwritten notes, you might want to think about switching to electronic notes.

For psychologists, in particular, electronic notes offer a number of benefits, including:

  • Efficiency
  • Security
  • Consistency
  • Legibility

Practice management software with clinical treatment notes allows you to access pre-prepared templates specifically designed for use by psychologists. These templates can then be customised according to your specific requirements (and you can create as many templates as you need).

The treatment notes are then automatically stored in the PMS, which is compliant with Australian regulations, so you have full peace of mind that they are safe and secure.

3) Invoicing and Payments

This is another area where there is huge potential for time-saving. If your practice offers Medicare (either bulk billing or patient claims), then a practice management software with a Medicare integration will reduce the administrative load on your admin staff. This applies whether you offer in-person or Telehealth appointments.

A good practice management system will normally allow you to:

  • Assign the appropriate payers, whether it’s the client or a third-party payer (such as a parent, employer or insurance provider).
  • List single or multiple services, you can bill for multiple services at the same time.
  • Include insurance details, invoices can be set to auto-populate with insurance details, referral information, payment options, and clinician information.
  • Record full, partial, and bulk payments, so your paperwork is always up-to-date.
  • Integrate with a payment processor and your accounting system for accuracy and further efficiencies.

4) Reporting and Analytics

You need to have a clear idea of the financial health of your practice. That can be daunting for many health professionals where your skillset has been built around your clinical expertise, not your financial know-how. A PMS can help make this process simpler as you don’t have to gather the figures manually, and you have access to reports that have been set-up to give you the information you need to make decisions and take informed action. The data is also flexible, it can be filtered and grouped to give you clear insights for your practice, and it can be exported to CSV or PDF for further analysis.

5) Telehealth Capabilities

The newest and most exciting change for many psychologists in Australia is the introduction of Telehealth services, especially since they are now provided for under Medicare benefits. With the impacts of COVID-19, more practices and clients have begun to explore this option - and it looks like Telehealth is here to stay! As well as giving you more flexibility, Telehealth can open up new areas for your practice to expand as clients who were not able to physically visit your practice due to geographic constraints now have a way to access your services.

As with other automations, Telehealth technology should improve your ability to connect with clients, without becoming a focal point in and of itself. With many different Telehealth software options available, it is important to do your homework to identify an intuitive, secure option that will facilitate your therapy sessions.

In terms of automating admin, practice management software that includes a baked-in Telehealth feature completely is the ideal solution because it will make it easier to:

  • Connect to the client for the session, the software should allow you to navigate to the client, and click on a link to connect.
  • Bill clients and receive payments, whether Medicare or another third-party payer is responsible for the bill, you can immediately issue the invoice and take payment either before or after the session bypassing the need for hardware.
  • Take progress notes, your PMS is already set up to take electronic notes, so updating them after a Telehealth appointment is no different.
  • Schedule appointments, you already have the client’s contact details updated in the software.
  • Book a follow-up appointment, this can be done at the end of the session, and an appointment confirmation can be sent automatically to the client.

If you’re looking for ways to introduce efficiency into your psychology practice, the right practice management system is essential. With features designed to meet your administrative requirements and improve the client experience, it will streamline your internal processes, freeing you up to focus on the most important aspect of your practice: helping your clients.

Damien Adler is a registered psychologist and a founder and director at Power Diary - one of the leading practice management systems. Damien often provides training locally and interstate, and is known publicly through his 13 years as a fortnightly guest on ABC Radio, as well as contributing to articles appearing in The Age, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Madison Magazine, Sunday Life and Cosmopolitan Magazine. Damien has a background in health administration, previously holding senior positions in public health services.