Behind every successful private practice is a set of well thought out processes that make common practice tasks easier, more accurate, and faster. Many practices, however, have one or more broken processes that prevent them from being as efficient as they could.
Here are a couple of examples I’ve heard that highlight the symptoms of a broken (or entirely missing) process:
My billing is a mess. I try to track it in Excel, but I’m sure I’m missing things.
Ugh – I’m always behind on notes. I need a week off just to get caught up.
Inefficient processes can create disorganization and errors, which in turn can lead to unhappy clients and a poor reputation. In addition, there is significant soft-cost added to your practice in the form of the additional time, effort and stress for you as a practice owner when things are disorganized and chaotic.
Unfortunately, taking the time to pause and reflect on your daily routine is something busy practice owners rarely have time to do. And if your MBTI profile happens to be P instead of J, you may just have no natural inclination to think about how to do things differently. Successful practices, however, see this as an investment worth making.
So what are the most important processes, and how do you optimize them?
Seven essential practice workflows
Whether you think of it consciously or not, every practice has seven essential workflows:
- Client Intake & Waitlist
- Appointment Scheduling
- Attendance Tracking
- Billing & Payments
- Client To Do’s
- Accounting & Past-Due Accounts
And if you’re a Group Practice, you’ll have a few more workflows to consider including managing team supervision, contractor payments, and employee payroll.
Do a quick workflow audit
This sounds more ominous that it is. For each workflow above, take a moment to outline your current process (key steps), then answer the following questions:
- What is it I most dislike about Workflow X?
- What elements are essential for this process to really work?
- How could I restructure this process to make it better?
- What time can I set aside on an hourly, daily or weekly basis to insure I get these things done?
This will help you identify the workflow to optimize first, and where the biggest opportunities are for improvement.
Tips for getting your workflow ironed out
Here are some ideas to get you started on improving your practice workflow:
- Fix the biggest pain point first: it’s likely that the process that’s causing you the most difficulty will also be the one that once fixed will have the highest impact in terms of making your practice more sustainable. Focus here first.
- Eliminate the unnecessary: be brutally honest and cut out anything that is redundant or unnecessary.
- Task timing: some tasks in your practice happen daily (note-taking), others in real-time (scheduling appointments), others are ad hoc (following up on unpaid balances). Consider how frequently you need to do specific tasks, and block off time to get these things done.
- Start small: don’t get consumed with fixing everything at once. This is a recipe for getting frustrated and giving up.
- Use a tool: use tools as needed (like Owl Practice) to manage repetitive tasks and to introduce a consistent and end-to-end workflow. Someone’s done the hard work of figuring out how to optimize things, so take advantage of these efficiencies for your practice.
- Hire help: if you’re a group practice, or a solo practice that can afford it, consider how another person’s efforts could leverage your time to see more clients and make your life more manageable. Common examples are bookkeepers or office administrators.
- Invest time to change how you’re doing things: As with any new routine you establish, it’s always a little painful at first, but gets easier with time. Also, while an investment of time and effort is required in the short-term, remember that it will pay dividends well into the future and make you a happier practice owner.
- Start today: As I’m sure you tell your clients, the sooner you take the first step, the sooner things will start to improve. Get started today!
As always, please leave comments or reach out anytime that we can be of assistance.