Digital medical practice - from online booking to e-prescription
25.03.2022 14:25

Digital medical practice - from online booking to e-prescription

Doctors spend about 60 days a year on bureaucracy. On average, this corresponds to about 25 percent of working time that cannot be attributed to patient care. A major challenge for practice managers is balancing between providing high-quality medical care on one hand and running an efficient and profitable practice on the other. Digital medical practice is an approach that aims to minimize administrative work by means of processes optimization and automation. 


Here's an overview of the workflows that often have unused potential and tips on how you can unlock this potential with digital solutions. 

What is a digital medical practice?  

Professional management of a medical practice involves a wide range of tasks that are not always directly related to the provision of medical care to patients. In fact, running a surgery can be compared to operating a business, where administrative tasks are just as much a part of everyday life as the core business itself. For doctors and medical staff, this includes such areas as documentation, personnel management, patient data processing and appointment booking, keeping up with maintenance intervals for various medical devices, ordering supplies, creating invoices, and even marketing, as well as ensuring visibility on the Web.

While businesses are constantly optimizing processes to be as cost- and time-efficient as possible, this is still too often neglected by practitioners in the healthcare sector. Ultimately, this costs money and time which could be better spent on patient care. Many of these tasks can be automated, and it has long been possible to run a practice almost paperless. When all these areas are optimized and digitized for the benefit of efficiency and improved patient care, it is called a digital medical practice.


Where is digitalization really reasonable in the healthcare sector?

Of course, there is now a digital solution for just about every task, but not all of them really make sense. A comprehensive concept is the basis of a successful practice organization, so we focus on those areas where you can achieve the highest possible improvement with the least amount of effort.  


Online booking for medical practices

Appointments are often a matter of back and forth, as either the practice or the patient cannot agree to a particular appointment. The simplest solution is online booking that allows patients to see all available appointments at a glance. This way, selecting a specific time slot can be done without taking up time resources of doctors or their assistants. The possibility for patients to cancel appointments also causes no effort and automated reminders reduce the number of no-shows, i. e. the absence at an agreed appointment. It is also essential that an appointment booked online is automatically added to the patient information system of the medical practice and fully synchronized. The administrative effort associated with appointment registration is thus eliminated and duplicate bookings are excluded.


Online presence and website for doctors

The last decades have shaped a generation with high digital expectations. People start their search on the web and want to be able to find as much up-to-date information as possible. Thus, a modern medical practice should have an appealing and informative website. However, many medical providers realize that this alone is not enough to be visible. Education by the website provider should definitely include the aspect of online presence and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is a sub-aspect of online marketing that deals with ensuring a website shows up first for certain search keywords, if possible. After all, you don't want to show up on page three of the search results, behind all the other medical centers in your location. 

Entries in various directories and a Google My Business profile should also be available. The latter includes the well-known Google rating function. According to a study by Splendid Research on the relevance and impact of online reviews, this has a considerable influence on the decision of patients for or against a medical practice. On average, 70 percent of people are positively influenced by reviews, the survey found. On the other hand, almost 80 percent of respondents can be dissuaded from choosing the service in question by negative reviews. The ongoing improvement of online reputation and collection of positive reviews from satisfied patients can also be automated. An example of this would be including a corresponding request in appointment confirmations, which can encourage more reviews without any further effort.


Comprehensive concepts of digitalization

The basis for a successful digital medical practice is a fundamental concept. A common mistake in implementation is to opt for various individual solutions simply because they seem to make sense when considered in isolation. Ideally, the systems work hand in hand together and can be managed centrally. Otherwise, as the individual solutions age, there is a risk of compatibility problems and increased maintenance costs. The EPD (electronic patient dossier) forms a basis for digitalization. The advantages offered by the electronic patient dossier can be clearly seen by experienced healthcare professionals. Until now, medical documents had to be requested from other specialists by mail or fax, but the EPD allows a centralized retrieval. Simple and secure access to a collection of relevant health-related information for every patient reduces the rate of incorrect decisions or duplicate treatments, which ultimately further increases patient safety. Access to the EPD is granted by the patients themselves and determines who can access which data and for how long. Once the EPD is connected to your own system, interprofessional exchange becomes much easier. Since last year, the electronic patient dossier has been used in several cantons: and the trend is on the rise.


Working with ePrescriptions

ePrescriptions (electronic prescriptions) also represent a digital optimization and can be integrated via the EPD, for example. These can be created by physicians via the primary system and are provided with a QR code. Pharmacies can use this code to easily transfer the prescriptions into their system. The ePrescription contains all the information about the prescribed drugs and the medication, just like the normal patient prescription. Less bureaucracy, less paper and faster processes are thus guaranteed. Not only in your own practice, but also more and more pharmacies are adopting the ePrescription. In the canton of Aargau, there is almost no pharmacy left that doesn't use it. Not all that glitters is gold, after all the system is still very new, but nevertheless the advantages are potentially huge, primarily for your own practice, as soon as the need for appointments to pick up a prescription simply disappears.

However, it is not only the administration where processes can be optimized; in some cases, efficiency can also be increased in the treatment or primary consultation itself. 


Online video consultation

Video conversation between doctor and patient

Simplifies a lot: short appointments can also take place entirely digitally without any problems


Patients occasionally have the impression that they have to endure long waiting times, even at the medical practice, in order to spend 90 seconds in the treatment room. It is not always necessary to have patients on site, and this is exactly where video consultation helps. The benefits can be found in the time saved by healthcare professionals as well as in administration and patient reception. The video calls can be carried out via external software, but for reasons of simplification, appointments are scheduled via the administrative system of a medical practice.

There are already some solutions in this area, although compliance with the data protection guidelines and flawless technical functionality must be the top priority. As a doctor, you can then make a decision on whether an online video consultation is suitable for a particular patient. Simple questions or treatment options can be dealt with quickly and cost-effectively this way.


Digital medical practice is a logical consequence of our time

Since the healthcare system has to continually balance between high-quality patient care and economic profitability, one of the main focuses must be on processes optimization. For a long time, digitalization had been limited to the development of medical equipment and for too long it ignored the administrative workload in the healthcare system. With a concept of automating various processes in your practice, a win-win situation can be created for both patient and doctor. More flexibility for both sides as well as time and money savings for doctors are good reasons to focus on digitalization at an early stage, as it will gradually evolve in the long-term anyway. 

Cover image from National Cancer Institute. Additional image from LinkedIn Sales Solutions.