January 1, 2013 Columns

Make It Work: Automate Your Office

If you are naturally an organizer, you enjoy the process of streamlining. Yet for many people, giving organization to chaos is a very unsettling notion. These people like to "reach out and touch" all their belongings. But an office environment is not meant to be chaotic, even if it is controlled chaos.

Then there are those of us who like organization, but don't want to spend the time establishing and maintaining such organization. A perfect tool for people like us is a product that can be set up and used by multiple people, one that makes relevant office information available to everyone involved with administration. Such a tool needs to be available in multiple locations, remotely and on many devices. And it needs to supply information you request quickly. A good practice-management system can do all these things.

Make It Work: Automate Your Office

When I think about how different office organization is from the way it was just 10 years ago, I marvel at the speed with which technology changes. The computer was originally a way to process words without retyping and a place to save what was processed, even though we printed out everything. Gradually it became a way to generate reports with little novel input, using templates, and cutting and pasting. As word processing reached its limits, spreadsheets provided ways to further organize information for analysis. A practice-management system combines these products to enable efficient office functioning with minimal use of paper.

What does this all mean? I can schedule a patient, do an evaluation, create a report, share the report, design a plan, implement the plan, bill patients, collect payment and keep track of clients' pertinent information without touching a piece of paper. So what? It is faster, cheaper, requires less space and is certainly greener than the old way.

For example, using my practice-management system, I can:

  • Determine how many patients we are seeing with a particular diagnosis. I go to the management menu, click on "diagnosis analysis" and create a report.
  • Ensure that everyone scheduled was seen and the providers paid for their services. I go to the reports menu, click on "daily sheet" and run a report.
  • Calculate what to pay my clinicians. I run an analysis of the patients they've seen and inventory the activities they entered.
  • Find phone numbers or e-mail addresses for active patients. I go to the report menu and click on "patient directory.

I can go on and on...the possibilities are endless.

What used to require complex servers to administer is now available online. Practice management is heading along the Internet path, using the "cloud" for storage of all that precious information. That path eventually will make office networks unnecessary because we will be able to access everything we need via the Internet. Computer technology is making life simpler, even if we sometimes feel overwhelmed by the constant changes. Whereas 2010 required us to store all the information on a server and connect to that server to access the information, 2015 may make it all available to us on the Internet, albeit through encryption.

Many times I've heard professionals say, "What do I need this for!?" It reminds me of the people who brag about their flip phone, saying, "Who needs a smartphone?" I can only smile and think, "You don't know what you are missing." Personally, I would rather consider the possibilities than miss out on ways to grow, improve and increase efficiency.

Janet M. Krebs, MS, CCC-SLP, is director of the Communication Therapy Center in Glen Rock, N.J., and past president of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology. janet@speechspecialties.com

cite as: Krebs, J. M. (2013, January 01). Make It Work: Automate Your Office. The ASHA Leader.


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