Going digital: Allied healthcare edition

There's more to digitising your clinic than meets the eye. In this guest blog, digitisation expert Diana Xhumari explains the ways 'going paperless' can transform your clinic for the better.

Guest author

Diana Xhumari, Dataplayer·

An illustration of a man carrying a stack of paper and folders and a woman with a tablet

In a world where social distancing is rewiring social norms and the ways business is done, ‘going digital’ seems to be a necessity these days. And with companies around the world already becoming more digitised, making the switch for your clinic may be more imperative than ever.

If you’re not already using a practice management system (PMS) like Cliniko, you probably have embraced technology as part of your everyday life and enjoy the benefits and convenience it can bring. And maybe you’ve wondered how straightforward it might be to implement some of this technology into your business and reduce your clinic’s reliance on paper.

Well, it’s not always easy, and there are plenty of new tools and skills you’ll need to learn, but running a paperless clinic can be a powerful asset to your business.

You can have all your clinic’s information at your fingertips and make decisions without having to go through papers or even be at the office. Your clients can also book and confirm their appointments online, even when your staff is not in the clinic.

But how? Let's go through all the concerns and benefits together.

Terminology for ‘going digital’.

There are three main stages when it comes to implementing technology: digitisation, digitalisation, and digital transformation.

Digitisation means converting analogue information into a digital format, like moving from papers to scanned documents that can be accessed and shared digitally.

Digitalisation builds on top of that with structured processes to make the workforce more efficient and less prone to waste. This is where automation can have a big impact and the cost savings start to roll in.

Lastly, digital transformation is the ultimate stage of a business earning more with technology—either through new revenue streams or repurposing resources to better serve your clients. So the focus here is on people—not technology.

Even though the term "paperless clinic" might imply the first stage, digitisation, we will focus on ideas involved with the other two steps.

Healthcare is about more than just healing.

Healthcare is a critical and essential industry based on necessity and well-being. Its essence and purpose are about delivering good health without distractions or complications. So why should your clinic make the extra investment to introduce new technology?

Because a practice is also a business.

That means you also stay focused on profits and financial well-being, and you need to have the ability to quickly and easily measure, analyse, and improve your clinic’s performance in three main categories:

  1. 1.Costs and overheads. In a digital clinic, your data is easier to aggregate than it would be with traditional papers and files. And this can make a big difference when figuring out how much it costs to run your practice. 

    That’s because part of understanding the true cost of operating your business means knowing much more than just your monthly rent or utility bill. You need to know how much you’re spending to gain new clients and how much potential revenue those clients might bring in throughout the course of their relationship with your practice. In marketing terms, these are known as the ‘cost of acquiring new customers’ (CAC) and the ‘customer lifetime value’ (CLV).

    Knowing and improving these numbers can have a substantial impact on your margins and the long-term profitability of your practice. And having your data digitised in a paperless system can help make that information easy to access, organise, and understand.
  2. 2.Better treatments and healthcare service. Allied healthcare is also about improving how the patient feels apart from the empiric, scientific results. And, over time, your clinic will collect a large amount of data from your patients that represents a rich source of knowledge about their experiences with your practice. 

    ‘Going digital’ with your clinic will help you put that data to good use. You’ll be able to run different analytics and predictive techniques to help you go beyond the traditional industry standards and find ways to improve your clients’ treatments with more detailed and actionable insights. Doing this with paper-based records is not always feasible or efficient since the data is not structured or aggregatable.
  3. 3.Better overall experience. Your clients go through a whole customer journey before they ever receive treatment. And because they’re already enjoying convenient and customised experiences from other companies (think Netflix), they will unconsciously judge you by the same standards as any other business.

    A digital practice allows you to precisely measure your clinic’s internal performance to help find ways to improve your clients’ experience in all stages of their customer journey: before, during, and after their relationship with your practice—yes, even after.

    Through customer feedback, you can gather insights during their post-treatment phase that can be easily combined with the rest of your data, and help inform your practice revisions and overall service in general.

All three of those steps will be easier if you have digital processes, because:

  • You can't improve what you don't measure.
  • You can't accurately measure what you don't have in a structured process to collect data without errors.
  • You can't structure automated processes if you’re still running a paper-based clinic.

Keep your team in the digital loop.

You’ve likely noticed by now that we’re not really talking about technology at all. That’s because what’s most important for ‘going digital’ with your clinic is the strategy, the approach, and people management and interaction. Technology is more of an enabler and not the end product. And people are crucial for its success.

It’s important to make sure your goals are clearly defined and transparently communicated to your team. People need to know what they’re working towards so they can make independent decisions that align with the clinic’s goals.

Your team and practitioners might all have wonderful intentions and give their best effort, but they still need to know what their work means, have easy access to reviews on how they are performing, and have regular coaching and insightful talks based on those reviews

You can use internal targets, like financial quotas or service KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), as a way to have constructive conversations that guide your team towards those goals. And having your data stored digitally, makes all that information much easier to access.

One example of a non-financial KPI would be the number of "No show" appointments at your clinic. These are inconvenient, and if left unaddressed, they can hurt your business in the long run.

Keeping track of this number is easier to do when the information all sits in a digital place that allows for aggregation, classification, and analysis. You can't get all that info from glancing at a pile of papers. A large stack of documents might make you feel busy and give you the impression that the clinic is doing well. But, the real insights lie between the pages.

Allied health is ready for the change.

Healthcare, being a highly regulated industry, has a long way to go before catching up with the rest of the business world in regard to digital transformation. But when it comes to allied healthcare specifically—a human-centred industry focused on well-being—that journey can be shorter and easier to manage. That’s because compared to traditional facilities, allied health clinics are generally smaller, softer on bureaucracies, and more accepting of change.

Technology is continually evolving, and that might make you uncertain of your investment or the effort required to ‘go digital’. But, if you think of it in terms of the impact it will bring to your business, your team, and your clients, technology can be an amazing facilitator of growth and efficiency.

Author information

Diana is the CEO & founder of Tegeria, a leading digital transformation company and maker of Dataplayer. She's passionate about tech, giving back through mentorship, and skiing - especially a good black diamond slope!

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