Many chiropractors have four or five computers in their clinic – leading them to think they are on the “”cutting edge”” of technology. But do you really know if they are improving efficiency and saving you money?
Technology impacts all aspects of modern society, and subsequent enhancements to existing technologies have an effect on the way we live and work. The chiropractic profession is no exception. From the use of x-rays to the procedures used for billing, technology has long had a place in a field where the doctors hands are the tools utilized most often. However, since it is safe to say that there are no forthcoming advancements in the evolution of the human hand, chiropractors, like all professionals, must rely on advancements and invention in the technological fields in order to increase the effectiveness and efficiency in their practices.
The question then is not whether a doctor should or should not utilize technology, but what system or advancements provides the most benefit. Benefits not only affect the individual practice of chiropractic but consequently the patient. To be sure, if it does not benefit the doctor and patient then it is not a benefit at all.
To begin, one must look at the relationship between the need the doctor has and how it relates to chiropractic care and office efficiency. Some technological solutions may not seem linked to bringing health to the patient, yet, consider if a clinic is made more efficient, the doctor is freed to concentrate on healing patients. For example, many doctors tell me they have four or five computers in their clinic which leads them to think they are on the “”cutting edge”” of technology. Usually no one in the clinic can tell me what the computers do for them and the doctor is still exhausted by the end of the day. Just having computers does not an efficient clinic make.
In the past, technologies have been incorporated into clinics that addressed one or two needs in a practice; like a billing system or scheduler. A few years ago that was the technical extent of software. Today, there is no excuse for suppliers offering technology that does not incorporate multiple applications and other technologies. With recent advancements, “”open architecture”” software solutions should allow for diagnostic equipment, imaging, note taking documentation, and reporting to communicate. “”Closed architecture”” software applications, while functioning fine for their specific purpose, do not allow a clinic to function as a whole. Rather, they force the doctor or staff into running the practice with several methods and then manually bringing them together in order to achieve harmony in operations. But the needs do not stop as complete systems are put into place. Every successful clinic should have a technology partner. This partnership ensures that today’s needs will be met while preparing for tomorrow. As suppliers, we have a responsibility to assure the satisfaction of a product when installed, while developing new technologies and solutions. The doctor has the responsibility of understanding his/her needs and recognizing the responsibility of implementation.
Chiropractic as a science, as a business and an art is repetitive. Repetition is the key to technology solving multiple needs. Any system is only going to solve about 85% to 90% of a doctor’s needs. That is because about 85% to 90% of what a doctor does all day is repetitive and, usually, that repetitiveness is what’s driving him/ her crazy. Not too long ago I sat in an office and listened to individuals with assorted responsibilities report problems of various degrees. As always, when there are problems, the entire organization felt rotten. Each individual had specific needs that were not being met which was costing the office thousands of dollars in inefficiencies and lost productivity, not to mention the over 30% personnel turnover rate they were experiencing and their five computers were not “”talking”” to each other either. Therefore, when the daily routine began, their problems overshadowed the health of the patient waiting five feet away. I was not surprised to hear their patient retention had dropped off. The solution to their needs was in how each problem was related and that led the doctor to the understanding that each problem was effecting him economically. When the cost to continue on the same path was compared to improving the economic relationship within the office, most agreed that streamlining the information flow, by eliminating redundant duties, was at the root of everyone’s needs. Support staff needed status information, administrators required activity reports and accounting information, the doctor needed to be freed from all the stress and the patients needed to feel the doctor’s intensity and get healthy. The office runs smoothly now and a second clinic has been opened. The economic impact of improving the doctor’s life and eliminating the inefficiency in the staff had as much to do with understanding their needs as it did with plugging in a computer. The clinic understood that it all begins with the doctor and the patient and, therein, lied the solution. That could not be accomplished by buying “”features.”” Their technology partner knew how to incorporate solutions that would solve their problems.
Noticeable advancements to existing equipment as well as new technologies was once measured in years. With the advent of computers and computer-aided technology these same types of changes occur at a much more rapid pace. It therefore becomes easy to feel “”left behind”” based on fear or ignorance. Both of these factors need to be addressed by the supplier. The fear is not so much being afraid of the new technology; but a fear of investing in something an owner does not understand or know how to utilize. It is the responsibility of the supplier to provide the answers. Whether it be through representation at a trade show or during the sales presentation a thorough explanation or demonstration of the product is a must. Following that, speak with customers that have similar practices and insure that comprehensive training is included as a part of the package. It is unreasonable to doubt technology if based on a lack of understanding. A doctor must ask the questions that relate to the needs of the practice. The supplier must answer with the capabilities of the system and client references.
Utilizing and incorporating all the facets of a system are the responsibility of the buyer. Buy-ing computers will not make money. The economic value of a product is the practical result of accomplishing a clinics’ needs. If a doctor has the need to see more patients without adding staff or additional hours then the answer is making better use of the time current patients are in the clinic. The only way to find more time is to lessen the burden of repetitive duties. The practical result becomes obvious: if patients are being attended to in a more efficient manner then more time can be devoted to marketing the clinic. Only a complete or open architecture system can address many repetitive needs at one time and simply understanding how the needs are related can a solution be provided.
As long as technology will effect our lives it should be used to receive the greatest benefit. Let technology be a functional tool, not merely a toy or gadget. Finally, once an open system is in place the partnership must stay active to stay on top of advancements that tomorrow brings.” “Jim Carpenter is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Instant Access Imaging, Inc. which offers clinical software solutions to chiropractic. Jim has eleven years of chiropractic experience, serves on multiple technology committees and has formal education in finance, literature and law. He can be reached at 1-800-374-6243.