Ten head-slapping common-sense things about practice management we learned from you in 2023.
We see raised eyebrows when we tell people how many providers, therapists, and mental health professionals we’ve talked to in recent years about their pain points and needs for better practice management software. We say, “1000” when asked. The truth is, it’s way beyond that. Admittedly, we’ve lost count.
We have attended professional conferences from coast to coast, sat down with providers over coffee and lunches, and spent hours on the phone with therapists and counselors. For each conversation, our agenda is simple: to listen and learn.
At the core of our exploration is the search for ways to use technology to improve the healthcare experience for patients and providers. And that includes accounting for practice sustainability and career satisfaction, not to mention a better healthcare ecosystem that’s equitable and transparent.
Here’s what rose to the top of our practice management feedback board in 2023.
- Providers need practice management systems with deeper customization capabilities.
Digital technology today (and likely forevermore) is becoming increasingly personal. In just about every business sector except for healthcare, the ability to customize digital experiences is not just the norm, it’s expected. Healthcare technology is behind the curve.
Practice management software can and should be configurable—not just a high level, but for every tool and function. Deeply tailored experiences are where game-changing workflow and access efficiencies emerge and benefit both providers and patients.
- Providers want partners who won’t change the rules deep into the relationship.
This pain point calls out one big downside to this new era of technology: Constant change. Digital technology evolves faster than our ability to keep up with it. Change slows productivity.
We see this issue more as a mindset problem than a technology problem. To use an extreme example, planned obsolescence (a mindset) was baked into technology business models for decades. Just about anything could and can be made to last longer and work better. (But that approach wouldn’t be as profitable now would it.)
As we develop technology, how about recognizing change. Let’s flip the mindset and build systems that account for change so that there is no loss in productivity or time with patients when it happens.
- Providers want and need to spend less money on practice management platforms.
Understandable. We hear this a lot, especially from providers with small practices. Keeping overhead low and billings high is a dance with some tricky steps.
We’re of the belief that technology can do a better job here, too. Consolidating tools and functions into a single practice management platform can play a huge part in corralling costs. Completely doable.
Tech aside, we also believe that a contract model based on use can also help providers keep costs low. Pay for what you use. No more. It’s not a ground-breaking idea; just common sense that, bafflingly, seems to escape the healthcare sector.
- Providers have had it with spending an hour on admin for a 45-minute visit.
Aside from being an unsustainable business practice, it’s an accelerant for burnout.
We can fix this. Routine and nonclinical admin tasks are easy targets for smartly designed technology. As an industry, we just need to take better aim at it. Artificial intelligence plays a big role here. For small practices especially, workflow efficiencies that come from better use of technology represent a gateway to better patient outcomes and practice growth with less burnout.
- Providers want more robust record- and report-keeping capabilities.
Perhaps one of the most shameful aspects of healthcare is its current record-keeping system. Information silos limit access to critical patient information; histories that could help providers offer better care.
Recent updates to the 21st Century Cures Act will help open channels of communication between information systems in the near and long term. That’s a start. Beyond that, providers should hold systems that allow for the acquisition and storage of patient records—systems that give ownership of said records to patients themselves. Patients with access and ownership of their own records can provide complete and instant histories to the providers who need them to make the best care decisions without delays. More common sense.
- Providers are interested in tools that can lead to quality-of-life improvements.
This issue takes a big bite. It touches on being more satisfied and rewarded for the professional work you do, and on preventing your work from spilling too overwhelmingly into your life away from it. Stress is a hard thing to leave at the office.
Trends in provider careers support this concern. It’s no secret that demand for new provider talent isn’t meeting the supply waiting for it. Yes, it starts with tools that help providers deliver better care outcomes and experience practice growth. But there’s more to that quality-of-life equation. And it gets back to mindset. Healthcare needs to rethink the practice environment. Operations that offer the freedom of exploration for new ideas in care will do more to attract and inspire new talent than cookie-cutter operations stuck in closed systems.
- Providers want a more holistic view of their patients.
This issue connects back to the need for information sharing. Providers know that care is best served with a full understanding of their patient’s mental and physical conditions. Further, patients benefit from this understanding as well; how you feel physically can affect how you feel mentally, and vice versa.
Another way to attack this issue is through more comprehensive information gathering during the patient intake process; a process that puts more power and records ownership in the hands of patients. By spending a few minutes before their first visits providing detailed medical and personal histories, patients can forever become their own best advocates with securely stored records that they can share with whomever they want.
- Providers want to simplify patient access.
There are many complicated layers to patient access—from finding a doctor to onboarding to insurance coverage to health equity. (Find me one other industry sector where the consumer product is more difficult to acquire than healthcare.) Healthcare’s inadequate “product availability” is bad for patient health, and frankly, it’s just a bad business model.
Simplified patient access to care is one of the pillars of healthcare’s much-needed transformation. Appropriate mental healthcare for people of all demographics should be easier to find, book, afford, and maintain. Purpose-built technology can help—starting with platforms that assign high value to patient convenience and empowerment.
But there is more work to do. Ultimately, it’s where our old friend, Mindset, comes into play yet again. Healthcare needs to reimagine technology so that it is integrated and aligned to serve everyone better. Requesting a visit should be as easy as a couple of taps on a smartphone. Booking and confirming that request should be just as quick. Technology, applied the right way, can help us do that.
- Providers need more robust, integrated, and customizable calendars.
Many providers live and breathe by the views of their day, week, and month. But when calendars are not integrated with other practice tools (say, patient scheduling) or not deeply customizable, efficiencies breakdown and days get messy.
(Side note: It’s disappointing to learn how much “MacGyvering” still goes on with practice management tools: one tool for calendars, a separate tool for virtual visits, yet another tool for billing. Antiquated.)
Calendars need a reboot. Let’s give the calendar the lead consideration it’s due so that providers who live by it can thrive by it too.
- Providers want systems that can more easily accommodate minors and dependents.
It’s painful to hear about the challenges that providers face when attempting to set up accounts and schedule visits for minors and dependents. Families and children feel the frustration too. Imagine being turned away from enrollment because your toddler doesn’t have a personal email address. It’s yet another structural barrier to care so infamous in healthcare, this one at the hands of short-sighted technology.
To be fair, this issue is complicated by confidentiality concerns. Minors and dependents have rights too. Still, we can reimagine family access to care; extend the vision and point the technology to the right solution. It’s out there. I know because we’re working on it.
More to learn
Our exploration exposes some hard truths about healthcare. More importantly, it’s shining a brilliant light on our path forward. Still, we can’t wait to see what learning 2024 brings.
Samant Virk, MD is the founder and CEO of MediSprout.