TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Optimizing Practice Management
II. Should You be Using Practice Management Software?
III. Benefits of Practice Management Software
Managing any physical therapy practice is a challenge. If you’re the one running the show, you probably wear many hats in the course of a day. By turns, you’re a healthcare provider, a business owner, a human resources manager, and the head of marketing. It’s a lot to handle – and each one of your responsibilities must be multiplied by the number of practices you manage.
We know what that’s like because we experienced the difficulty of juggling spreadsheets and multiple software solutions to run our practices. In this guide, we’ll explain what you can do to make your job easier than it is now, including:
- Practice financial management mistakes to avoid
- Things to do to improve your practice management now
- The differences between spreadsheet management and practice management software
- What to look for when you buy practice management software
- How to ease into electronic practice management
- How using practice management software helped us save money
By the time you’ve finished reading, our hope is that you’ll have a good understanding of what you can do, both now and in the future, to help your PT practices thrive.
I. OPTIMIZING PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
You already know that managing a PT practice is a lot of work. In this first section, we want to share some of the insights and tips that have helped us over the years, including some financial mistakes to avoid and some quick-start steps you can take now to improve your practice management in the next 30 days.
Financial Practice Management Mistakes to Avoid
Many PTs struggle with practice financial management. That’s part of the reason we developed HENO in the first place – to make it easier for PTs to manage every aspect of their practices. We’ve also seen the most common financial mistakes PTs make. Here are 5 avoidable practice financial management mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: Not Prioritizing the Patient Experience
A good physical therapist puts their patients first. Not only is it the right thing to do from a treatment perspective, it also greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll get positive reviews and referrals from your patients. Every aspect of the patient experience, from appointment scheduling through follow-up, must be prioritized. That means:
- Making sure your staff knows and shares your priorities
- Training staff members to be professional and compassionate when dealing with patients
- Having a follow-up system to check in with patients
Without patients, you don’t have a PT practice. That means that providing excellent care and a positive experience are an integral part of practice financial management.
#2: Not Tracking Payments
One of the most difficult things about managing a PT practice is keeping track of payments from patients and reimbursements from insurance companies. If you lose sight of copays, payments, and claims, you may find yourself in financial trouble.
For that reason, one of the cornerstones of practice financial management is payment management. To track payments properly, you’ll need comprehensive practice management software like HENO. You can use it to track billing, follow up on outstanding invoices and claims, and keep your practice’s finances in good shape.
#3: Not Having a Marketing Strategy
What does marketing have to do with practice financial management? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Without marketing, you will likely struggle to attract new patients and grow your practice, both of which can have a huge impact on your finances.
It might be tempting to pay for an ad in the Yellow Pages and call it a day – but that’s a mistake. A good PT practice marketing strategy ensures that your website is up to date and full of valuable information, and that your online presence is strong. Ultimately, you want current patients to feel good about your practice and potential patients to be able to learn about you easily.
You might be surprised to learn that a good marketing strategy can be less expensive than a haphazard one. You could pay for expensive ads – or, you could blog about topics that are relevant to your patients, manage your online reviews, and create a social media presence that attracts new patients without breaking the bank.
#4: Lack of Organization
It’s virtually impossible to manage your practice’s finances if you aren’t organized. Even a small practice has money coming in from multiple places. It’s very easy to lose track if you don’t have an easy-to-understand system for tracking your finances.
Of course, you could use accounting software to track everything, but the drawback to that is that it may not integrate with your practice management software. Ideally, you want a solution that ties patient billing and insurance claims back to your patient records.
The best option is to find an all-in-one software solution that will allow you to track your finances and manage other aspects of your practice at the same time.
#5: Trying to do Everything Yourself
Some PTs have enough of an accounting background to handle their finances without assistance. However, most don’t – and the truth is that even if you do, it may simply be too much for you to handle without assistance.
As a PT, your first obligation is to your patients. If you allow yourself to burn out because you’re trying to do everything by yourself, you may find that your patients are the ones who suffer. The best option? Hire an experienced accountant or bookkeeper to handle your finances for you.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to pay a full-time accountant. There are plenty of CPAs and bookkeepers who handle multiple clients. For less than it would cost to have an in-house accounting department, you can hire someone who’ll help you manage your finances and keep things in good order.
It’s easy to make financial mistakes if you don’t know that they’re mistakes in the first place. Avoid the issues we’ve outlined here, and you’ll have the best possible chance of making your practice a profitable one.
How to Improve Your Physical Therapy Practice Management
When you feel like you’re barely meeting the demands of managing a PT practice, it can be difficult to find ways to streamline your practice management. However, there are some very simple things you can do to improve your practice management in just 30 days.
Streamline Your Workflow
One of the biggest time wasters at PT practices is inefficient workflow. When you build a practice, you create systems as you go. For example, it’s common for new practices to use spreadsheets to manage everything from scheduling to patient billing.
The problem is that using multiple spreadsheets and software solutions isn’t efficient. You must enter information more than once and switch between systems to handle various aspects of your practice. One of the best decisions you can make is to do what’s necessary to streamline your workflow to save time and money.
Follow Up on Outstanding Payments
One of the biggest issues for every PT practice is cash flow. For that reason, everything about physical therapy practice management can be made easier by following up on outstanding payments from patients and insurance companies.
Following up is essential because it means you’ll have cash flowing in to help you:
- Meet your overhead expenses
- Pay bills
- Pay for practice management software and other improvements to your practice
In other words, bill collection is the one improvement that makes every other improvement possible. As you follow up, you should create reminders to follow up again. Once you get into a groove with collections, you’ll be able to stay on top of everything more easily.
Manage Your Online Reviews
It’s common for PTs to neglect online reviews as a way of getting more business, and yet it’s one of the easiest things you can do to manage your online reputation and attract new patients.
Here’s a quick to-do list to help you get your reviews under control:
- If you haven’t already done so, claim your practice listing on sites like Yelp and Google My Business.
- Correct any mistakes in your listings, add descriptions, and add photographs of your practice to each listing.
- Read your reviews and respond to them. Every good review deserves a thank you, and every negative review is an opportunity to preserve a patient relationship by showing that you care.
- Set up a system for following up on new reviews. Somebody should be checking review sites regularly.
- Ask for patient feedback and include a link to your review pages in your literature.
When someone’s unhappy, you can ask them to contact you offline. Once the situation is resolved, they may update their review to reflect your help.
Set Up a Patient Referral Program
A patient referral program can help ]you get more referrals from doctors and turn your PT patients into ambassadors for your brand and practice. Referral programs are easy to set up and maintain and they can pay off in a big way.
Here are some pointers for setting up a referral program:
- Make a list of physicians you know who might be willing to refer their patients to you. Don't put all of your eggs in one basket; try to obtain a wide variety of referral sources.
- Contact potential referring physicians and find out how you can help them. Maybe it's sending them patients looking for a second opinion. Turn the tables to show them you want to help them and most often they will return the favor.
- Decide how to incentivize referrals from existing patients.
- Train your staff on how to handle referrals.
- Set up referral tracking, so you know where each referral is from.
Increasing the number of referrals you get is one of the best ways to grow your practice.
Invest in Practice Management Software
Perhaps the single best way to improve your physical therapy practice management in the next 30 days is to invest in practice management software. The right software will allow you to handle everything from one place, including:
- Patient scheduling
- Patient billing and insurance claims
- Electronic medical records
- Sales and inventory
In other words, it can free up a huge amount of your time by simplifying everything you do to make your practice a success. In fact, using practice management software can help you do many of the other things we’ve listed here, including catching up with collections and streamlining your internal processes.
It might seem impossible to improve your physical therapy practice management in just 30 days, but it can be done.
Coming up in the next section, we’ll talk about some of the things you need to know about PT practice management software, including which features you should prioritize. Keep reading to learn more.
II. SHOULD YOU BE USING PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE?
Practice management software is something we believe in at HENO – and for obvious reasons. But, we understand that for some PTs, making the leap from what they’re doing now to using PT management software is not something that comes easily.
In this section, we’re going to break down the differences between spreadsheet management and practice management software, walk you through the most important software features, and provide you with some tips to help you transition into electronic practice management.
Spreadsheet Management vs. Practice Management Software
There are lots of tools and methods you can use to manage your PT practice. You probably have personal preferences, and you may be attached to what you currently use – even if it’s not perfect.
One of the things we know at HENO is that it can take a lot of time and energy to manage a practice if you don’t have everything in one location. That’s why we decided to create practice management software for ourselves, and ultimately, to make it available to other PT practices.
If you’re currently managing your PT practice with spreadsheets, you might wonder what the key differences are between what you’re doing and managing a practice with practice management software. Here’s what you need to know.
The Benefits and Risks of Spreadsheet Management
When you’re just starting out in your practice, it’s understandable to want to look for ways to save money. It’s very common for PTs to get by using spreadsheets to manage everything from patient scheduling to billing.
Of course, there are benefits to using spreadsheets. Here are some of the positives that I associate with spreadsheet management:
- It’s inexpensive when compared to practice management software
- Spreadsheets are easy to set up and require little training
- It’s easy to find employees who know how to set up and maintain spreadsheets
- Spreadsheets can be used to sort information and look at it in several ways
Those are all good things – and when you’re running a small practice, they might add up to enough to keep you using spreadsheets for everything.
Of course, there are some risks associated with spreadsheet management, too. Here they are:
- Running a practice requires tracking many things, including patient appointments, patient compliance and utilization, productivity, copayments, and insurance company billing – all of which may require separate spreadsheets.
- Some of the things you must track require regular follow-up, which can be difficult to do with a spreadsheet.
- If your practice is HIPAA-compliant, a spreadsheet does not offer the best solution for keeping PHI secure and meeting regulatory requirements.
- A spreadsheet can easily be copied or emailed, which can put your practice and its patients at a security risk.
- It can take a lot of time and energy to keep track of everything in a spreadsheet, and information must be entered manually every time.
You may be able to get by using spreadsheets, but it’s worth asking whether you’re really saving money when you factor in the time and energy required to maintain them.
The Pros and Cons of Practice Management Software
Practice management software like HENO is an alternative to spreadsheet management. As is the case with spreadsheets, there are pros and cons associated with using software. Let’s look at the pros first:
- Practice management software offers an all-in-one solution to managing your practice by making it easy to schedule and track your patients, track your finances, and follow up with insurance companies.
- The right practice management software can save you time every day by integrating your patient records with payment information – you’ll only need to enter information once.
- Using practice management software makes it easy to comply with HIPAA regulations and protect your patients’ PHI.
- With HENO, you can also manage your marketing strategy along with handling the scheduling and financial aspects of your PT practice.
- With practice management software, it’s easy to aggregate patient information, run reports, and track your finances without needing to look at multiple spreadsheets.
There are a few potential downsides to consider too, especially for small practices. For example:
- Practice management software is an investment. With HENO, for example, you’ll pay either a flat monthly rate per provider or a percentage of your billing, depending on your needs.
- If you’re currently using spreadsheets to manage your practice, there’ll be a learning curve as you adjust to practice management software.
- You may not be able to find employees who are already familiar with the practice management software you choose.
You’ll need to weight the pros and cons of investing in practice management software before you decide which option is best for your PT practice.
Is Practice Management Software Better Than Spreadsheet Management?
The big question is this: are you better off using practice management software than you are managing your practice with spreadsheets?
Obviously, we’re biased – because we created HENO and rely on it every day. But if we take a step back and remember what it was like not to use practice management software, we can honestly say that things are much better now. We have more time for other aspects of our lives because of HENO, and our practice is thriving.
Best Software Features for Multi-Office Practices
Managing multiple PT offices represents a challenge. You’ll need to schedule patient appointments, track payments from insurance companies, manage payroll, and much more.
It’s not surprising that some PTs get frustrated trying to do everything on their own. While you can certainly use spreadsheets and multiple software solutions to keep track of everything, it requires a lot of work and organization to do it.
Of course, you need to know which software will work best for your practice. Here are the features you should look for when you evaluate medical practice management software.
Patient scheduling is a priority for every PT practice. When you look at practice management software, you should look for the following capabilities.
- Cloud-based scheduling is ideal for managing multiple practices because it allows you to look at schedules across practices from anywhere.
- Scheduling should tie into patient records and documents, so you can provide the best care possible.
- Tracking cancellations and no-shows is a must.
- Streamlining patient check-ins can help you save time and improve the patient experience.
- Alert system for patients that have fallen off the radar. You don't want any of your patients to fall through the cracks because they forgot to schedule at their last appointment or they went on vacation.
You may also want to look for additional features like appointment reminders and an appointment slot finder to save your staff time when scheduling appointments and following up.
Electronic Medical Records Management
Managing EMR is essential to every successful practice. You’ll need to find medical practice management software that allows you to:
- Comply with HIPAA and insurance regulations and requirements
- Access patient charts and records from anywhere, on any device
- Work with staff to integrate the patient experience and provide top-notch care
- Get an immediate overview of a patient’s status and follow up on scheduling and missing documents
- Track case, claim, and policy information
The right EMR management solution will simplify compliance while also helping you treat your patients with compassion and efficiency.
Billing & Reports
Cash flow can be a crippling problem for any PT practice. The practice management software you choose should:
- Have tools designed specifically for your type of medical practice
- Allow you to aggregate financial information easily
- Help you manage patient payments and refunds
- Centralize your billing and make it easy to follow up on bills and claims
- Track your practice revenue
In other words, you want software that will make it easy to bill patients, track insurance claims, and monitor the financial health of your practice all in one place.
Sales & Inventory Management
Do you have an online shop on your PT practice website? If you do, you’ll want to make sure the medical practice management software you choose will allow you to:
- Access sales and inventory information from anywhere
- Manage each practice’s inventory so you have only the items and codes you need
- Create sales reports to help you track your sales activity
- Analyze your best sellers
- Create promo codes for patients to use
- Adapt for packages and punch card items sold
Ideally, you’d also choose a solution that will help you create a custom online store for your site, so you can make sure your patients get what they need from you.
Marketing is essential if you want to retain your existing patients and attract new ones. That means you’ll need a practice management solution that:
- Allows you to track and analyze marketing campaigns from any web-enabled device
- Lets you schedule and send promotional faxes and emails
- Identifies your most successful marketing campaigns
- Tracks patient referrals
- Sets automatic reminders and follow-ups
- Keeps track of leads and referral sources
There aren’t many medical practice management software solutions that include a marketing element, but having one can simplify your job.
Credit Card Processing
Finally, you should look for practice management software that makes it easy for you to collect and process credit card payments. You need software that will:
- Allow patients to pay online or in person
- Let you accept credit, debit, and loyalty cards
- Provide full protection from data breaches
Accepting credit card payments should be easy, not difficult – and the right software will streamline the process for you, your staff, and your patients.
How Does HENO Measure Up?
You might be wondering how HENO measures up to the requirements we’ve outlined here. You should know that HENO handles:
- Patient scheduling
- EMR management
- Patient billing
- Sales & inventory management
- Marketing management
- Credit card payments
We’ve worked hard to create comprehensive practice management software that will simplify your job and make it easy to grow your practice.
Tips for Easing into Electronic Practice Management
If you’ve been operating your practice on a paper-only basis, then you might worry that switching over to electronic practice management will be a hassle. It’s understandable – we all like to be comfortable, and making a big change is not comfortable.
That said, there are also some big advantages to electronic practice management. It saves time and money and makes it simple for you to build your practice and increase your profits.
So, with that in mind, here are some recommendations to help you ease into electronic practice management (and skip the learning curve.)
Research Your Options
The first thing you can do to ease into electronic practice management is to research your options. There are a lot of software solutions out there for medical practices and you should keep an open mind about which one to use.
A good place to start is to focus on the things you need to manage your practice. These might include:
- Patient scheduling
- Managing referrals
- Billing & insurance
- Sales & inventory
- Managing EMR
- HIPAA compliance
- Credit card payments
Think about the things that are most important to your practice and then evaluate each potential solution with your core requirements in mind.
Your research should include reading product specifications, of course. But you should also consider reading online reviews of the products you’re considering and asking other practitioners you know about the software they use.
The more you know about your options, the easier it will be to choose a solution that’s going to meet your needs and be easy to use.
How Will You Use the Software You Choose?
Another thing to consider is whether you will be content using the software you choose from your practice, or if you would prefer something that you can access from anywhere.
If you manage multiple PT practices or plan to do some of your management tasks from home, then you will probably want to look for a cloud-based solution that will allow you to access your practice management tools wherever you are.
Keep in mind, too, that most cloud-based practice management software is sold as a service, so you are likely to have a lower up-front cost than you would if you were purchasing software outright.
Ask for a Free Demo
Once you’ve narrowed your choices with research, the next step is to request a free demo of each option you’re considering. A demonstration is essential because it can tell you a lot about how easy the software is to use – and how steep your learning curve will be.
It’s a good idea to involve your staff in the demos if possible. Pay special attention to:
- The dashboard or interface for the software and how easy it is to navigate
- The functionalities of the software and how they align with your needs
- The speed and efficiency of the software
- How responsive the person running the demo is to questions and concerns
Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions during your demo. If you choose a company that grows impatient with questions or doesn’t have good answers, then you’re not likely to get good customer service and support from them, either.
Ask About Educational Materials and Support
After your demo, you should ask about what support is available for software users. A company with strong support will likely provide some or all of the following:
- Written user manuals
- Online user manuals
- FAQs on their website
- In-software assistance with searchable menus
- Online support
- Phone support
- Email support
Evaluating the support options before you choose software will ensure you pick an option that offers the maximum amount of help as you transition to electronic practice management.
Invest in Employee Training
Many software companies offer training as part of their onboarding process. Because switching to electronic practice management requires a commitment from everybody on your staff, it’s important to invest in and prioritize employee training as part of the change.
The benefit of training everybody up front is that it eliminates confusion and inefficiency from the start. You can provide employees with written materials from the software manufacturer. On top of that, you may want to invest in additional training.
The final thing you can do is refrain from putting pressure on yourself and your staff to do everything at once. You probably won’t get everything switched over to electronic practice management overnight. Come up with a strategy to transfer patient information and other relevant data to your new software.
If you go slowly, you’re more likely to learn as you go – and get comfortable with what you’re doing along the way. People get overwhelmed when they feel they need to be perfect, so instead of putting that kind of pressure on your staff, let them know you’ve chosen a system that’s going to make their lives easier – and then give them the tools and support they need to embrace it.
In the next and final section, we’ll share some of the ways that using practice management software has helped us. Hint: it’s about more than just making money!
III. BENEFITS OF PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
Practice management software can make your practice more profitable and your life less stressful. It’s as simple as that. In this last section, we’ll talk about some of the most important benefits that we have seen from using practice management software.
HENO was born because we were frustrated using multiple software solutions to manage our practice. We realized, when we evaluated the available practice management solutions, that there wasn’t one tool that could do everything. We put our heads together and created HENO.
Here are some of the specific ways that practice management solutions helped us.
It Simplified Billing
In the early days of our practice, we were handling billing in a piecemeal fashion. We had a separate accounting system that we used to bill patients and insurance companies, but it wasn’t integrated with the other aspects of our practice.
Creating and using HENO allowed us to:
- Bill patients immediately, without waiting
- Track insurance payments
- Automate follow-ups
The bottom line is that without a comprehensive practice management solution, bills and collections were falling through the cracks. We improved our bottom line simply by putting a system in place to ensure our billing was managed efficiently.
It Improved Patient Care
Patient care is directly tied to your bottom line, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. When your patients know they can trust you to give them the best care possible, they’re more likely to return to your practice again and again.
Another benefit of streamlining patient care with practice management solutions? It increases the chances that your existing patients will refer their friends and family to you when they need physical therapy.
Improving patient care also provides some intangible benefits. For example, better patient care is likely to translate to better online reviews and a better reputation for your practice. You might not be able to put an immediate price tag on those things, but you can bet that they’ll help you attract new patients to your practice.
It Allows More Time for Patients
Let’s face it, using four to five different software solutions to manage a single business isn’t just expensive – it’s time consuming, too. We know because that’s what we did before we created HENO.
When you can manage everything from one simple dashboard, it frees up your time to do the most important thing of all – treat patients. In fact, we found that we could schedule more appointments because we saved time using the right software to help us manage the various aspects of our practices.
It’s not difficult to understand that being able to take on more patients also translates to more income. That’s simple mathematics – and something we could see in our bottom line when we finally had the practice management solution we needed.
It Simplified Our Marketing
Marketing is a must for every physical therapy practice. If you’re like a lot of the practice owners we meet, though, you struggle to find time to do things like manage your social media accounts or create promotions for your existing patients.
One of the biggest things we wanted to do with HENO was to integrate marketing into the practice management solution we created. Why? Because research shows that conversion rates are higher for practices that use content marketing.
That’s why HENO allows you to integrate your marketing. It’s easy to manage your referral sources, create promotional codes, and send out promotional information to your existing referral sources and prospects. And it’s no surprise that better marketing translates to higher profits.
It Allowed Us to Track Sales and Inventory
Stocking medical supplies and necessary items for your patients makes sense. Why wouldn’t you want to encourage them to buy from you when possible. Sales of these items can add to your profits without requiring a lot of extra work – if you have the right practice management solution in place.
One of our goals with HENO was to give ourselves a way to track our inventory, identify best-selling items, and make sure that the items we had in stock were useful to our patients as well as being profitable for us. We also wanted to make it easy for our clients to set up punch cards for packaged services and accept credit card payments – things that encourage patients to buy from their practitioners.
An All-in-One Solution
Of course, the bottom line isn’t the only thing that matters when you compare practice management solutions. Your practice is important, but so is your life. The best solution is one that streamlines your management responsibilities by letting you do everything from one convenient dashboard that you can access from anywhere. Ultimately, that will leave you with more time for your patients and your life.
Choosing the right practice management solution can help you increase your profits while saving time and eliminating stress.
Thank you for reading the Ultimate PT Practice Management Guide to Growing a Successful Multi-Office Practice. We recognize that your time is valuable, and we hope that you have found the information here to be useful.
We developed HENO for our own practice because we knew from first-hand experience that the software we wanted didn’t exist. It’s a big step to move from any comfortable system – even if it’s not perfect – to something new.
That said, we truly believe that HENO can make multi-office practices easier to run and more profitable at the same time. We’re happy to show you what we mean.
If you’d like to see HENO in action, please click here now to schedule a free demo. We look forward to hearing from you!
Katie co-founded HENO based on her career as a physical therapist and practice owner of over 10 years. Her understanding of the pain points many practice owners face has equipped her to create practice management solutions that optimize the efficiency and profitability of physical, speech and occupational therapy clinics.