In 2020, Catherine Fletcher, podiatrist and owner of two successful clinics in and around Basingstoke, UK, was forced to close her practice doors. Over just a few months, from the day COVID-19 first arrived in England through to the first wave of lockdowns, she faced the challenge of permanently losing access to both of the physical premises where she treated her patients.
Catherine has built strong relationships with her patients as her businesses have grown over the years. Her love for the community she serves stands out on her social media accounts, where she regularly posts about the best ways to stay healthy and make sense of health-related stories in the news. For Catherine, one of the few silver linings of 2020 was that she had already digitised her practice, so it was possible to keep in contact with her patients through the lockdown.
“If I was still paper-based it would have been a nightmare,” she told us.
A global pandemic wasn’t exactly something Catherine had considered when she decided to sign up for a practice management system. Still, she was adamant in crediting Cliniko with her ability to bounce back after lockdown:
“With my clinics shutting down at the start of COVID, I don’t think I would have been able to pick everything back up again as easily as I did if I wasn’t using Cliniko. It offered me the opportunity to let all my patients know exactly what was happening, where I was, and what the timeframes were for reopening. I don’t think there is a way I could have done that without having everything integrated in Cliniko.”
Today, Catherine is back in business, seeing a mix of familiar and new faces at her new town-centre location. She says almost everything about her business has changed since early 2020, but using Cliniko has been a huge help in adjusting to it all.
Here’s a look at why Catherine initially chose Cliniko for CF Foot Clinic, how she got started, and what she’d recommend other podiatrists look for in a practice management system (PMS).
Why did Catherine initially choose Cliniko?
In late 2018, Catherine was a solo practitioner looking for the ideal practice management software for her new business, CF Foot Clinic. At the time, she was paper-based, but she had some pretty firm ideas about what she absolutely didn’t want.
“A few of the podiatry clinics I had worked at previously used practice management software that I found clunky and hard to use. I’m not that great with technology anyway, so I wasn’t keen on anything that requires too much effort to learn.”
Pricing was also a significant factor. Catherine didn’t want expensive software, but she was looking for a flexible system geared towards solo practitioners with ambitions to scale up and eventually add a team to their business.
She was a member of several podiatry groups on Facebook and remembers seeing Cliniko mentioned and recommended there repeatedly. So she decided to take us up on our 30-day free trial.
Her first impression? “It was just so simple. I thought to myself, this is the one for me!”
The most important PMS features for CF Foot Clinic
Catherine remembers looking for a system that was as integrated and automated as possible, so she could focus more of her time on podiatry and less on admin.
“I was looking for something where I could manage appointments quite easily and take online bookings. I knew I would use a virtual receptionist, so I wanted capacity in the system for that. Also, it was important to be able to integrate things like payment systems and tools for contacting patients.”
Day to day, she now relies on SMS and email reminders for patients, as well as the letter function. In addition, she regularly uploads photos and foot charts to her patient notes to track treatment progress on things like verrucas and other conditions.
“I use all the product settings because I sell products. I’m integrated with Xero, so all my banking is automatically updated. And group messaging was invaluable when COVID hit, I could send out mass emails to my patients and let them know what was going on.”
How did Cliniko stack up against other systems?
Though she ultimately chose Cliniko, Catherine has experience with PPS from previous jobs. When she was shopping for her own clinic, she also checked out what is now TM3. She knew that these systems had many of the features she was looking for, but the wildcard factor was company ethos.
“The other systems felt a bit more like, ‘this is a clinical booking system’, whereas Cliniko made me feel like I could have a bit more fun — there was something more human about it. I felt it wasn’t so clinical, even though it’s called Cliniko!”
It was a big part of the appeal for a practitioner who brings her whole self and personality to her work.
“I felt a little bit like I was joining the Cliniko community as well as getting the business support I needed. There are no other practice management companies I’ve seen who are socially aware like Cliniko.”
Was it easy to get started?
Switching over from paper involved a relatively long transition period for Catherine, though she did most of the work in step with seeing her regular patients over the first three to four months.
“I’d scan my paper notes into Cliniko as I went about seeing my patients. That was the only thing that was really a bit time consuming about getting started for me. But it was just the easiest way of going about it at the time.
“Other than that, I was able to just jump in!”
How has using Cliniko improved CF Foot Clinic’s business?
Catherine is happy mainly that Cliniko does what it says on the tin. And while that may sound simple, it’s had a big impact on how she feels day to day: “Cliniko’s made me a lot less stressed, so that’s got to be an improvement. It’s taken so much of that extra admin pressure off.”
Cliniko has also helped her stay on top of the official guidance on treating patients during COVID. For example, she now uses custom form templates to help her with in-person COVID triage: “each of the patients I see in person gets a form and signs off on it using the patient signature feature. Being able to set certain fields in the form as mandatory also helps me make sure the forms are actually complete before I see the patient.”
COVID also spurred Catherine to expand her appointment type offering. At one point during the pandemic, she started carrying out home visits to care for her most vulnerable patients who were shielding — and with Cliniko, she was able to take her notes, complete with all her patient records, with her via her mobile device: “Having Cliniko made it possible for me to update my patient notes from the road, which was really useful.”
And on the other hand, she also began carrying out telehealth consultations in 2020, noting that, “through COVID, Cliniko was one of the first to offer telehealth, so I went straight on that at the start of the pandemic.”
She continues to offer telehealth consults to this day, which she provides as a convenient option for patients who are back at work, reluctant to resume face-to-face consults, or just seeking advice.
CF Foot Clinic’s advice for practitioners looking for practice management software:
“First thing: work out what you want from your practice management software. Consider what features the platform is offered and ask yourself if it matches what you need now and what you might need in the future. Is it intuitive, or will you spend hours trying to figure it out?”
Catherine also recommends double-checking whether the support on offer is compatible with your preferences. “I really like Cliniko’s text-based support — there is an article for everything you could want to do, and figuring things out from there is easy.”