In today’s increasingly “green” conscious world, we are hearing more about the concept of a “paperless office.” The term describes the ideal situation where there is literally no paper used in the business office environment. For most of us, a quick glance around our office will indicate there are many paper processes still in use.
The term “paperless office” is now in its fourth decade of general usage. Ironically, since the advent of personal computers, paper usage has more than doubled in offices – there is a reason most computer manufacturers back then were just as busy making printers (and selling specialized paper) as they were manufacturing computers. However, paper usage is now showing signs of trend reversal, as replacement processes become widely adopted.
Becoming a paperless office, in theory, sounds like an admirable initiative to strive for but the reality is that there are certain processes within an wellness practice that still require a paper hard copy, such as a signed client consent form (although there are emerging technologies to solve this as well). That said, working towards using “less paper” rather than “no paper” is a much more realistic and achievable goal. It is also what was actually meant when the term was first coined in the mid 1970s.
Healthcare practitioners may wonder how technology can increase their own efficiency in practice management, and contribute to creating a “greener” office through less paper usage, while at the same time improving patient services. The road to using “less paper” requires you to examine your office management processes to determine if there are alternative procedures that can be adopted that make fiscal, operative and environmental sense.
Processes where less paper is used
First, a website reduces (maybe even eliminates) the number of brochures, flyers and other paper advertising methods you may be using. Online business directories have all but replaced the use of paper telephone directory Yellow Pages. If you aren’t on the Internet, potential patients aren’t finding you.
Your patient files are another paper process that should be reconsidered. They can be computerized to drastically reduce your paper use while making your records more easily accessible and secure. Having computerized patient records allows you to increase efficiency and improve file-related workflow in your clinic– and you will use less paper.
Other related patient records that can be managed electronically include: appointments scheduling, client charting / SOAP notes, client communications, invoicing, gift certificates, insurance billing and financial reporting.
What are the costs associated with reducing paper?
A clinic website combined with online practice management software is readily available to healthcare practitioners for less than the cost of one treatment. These online systems will significantly reduce your paper usage and increase operating efficiency in your practice. These systems do not require any specialized computer equipment so your existing PC will suffice.
Think of your computer and related software as a replacement for your filing cabinets full of paper records and the related off-site storage of the backup copies. Taking this into account, you could actually reduce your current costs by adopting a modern practice management system.
What if I am not computer savvy?
Fortunately, one does not need special training to use most practice management software programs. Just as online banking systems are specifically designed for ease of use, so are online practice management systems. Both systems seriously reduce paper usage and are efficient
Ten years ago my good friend’s mother said she would never use online banking because she wasn’t computer literate and she also wanted paper records. Although she now denies making that statement she did adapt to modern banking techniques and her banking process is now much more efficient and greener. Likewise, massage therapy, chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture and other healthcare professionals, have modern practice management tools readily available to them; it is up to each of us to choose when and where to adopt them – come on, jump in, the water is warm…
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Until next time, be well.