Medico-legal risks, POPI & improved efficiencies are just some of the reasons why many medical practices are feeling the push to go paperless. We sat down with Paediatrician Dr Brad Wentzel to see how he made the leap with Healthbridge & why he will never look back.
Tell us about how your practice used to operate
When I started my practice in 2018, I was handwriting notes. I had licensed Practice Management Software (PMS) but was only using it for billing purposes. I had the option to take digital notes, but I didn’t like the interface.
For me, it’s sometimes ‘form’ over ‘function’ & in this case, the system’s note-taking capabilities weren’t user-friendly. So, while I was paying for the whole system, I was wasting money on features that I couldn’t use.
When the practice wasn’t busy – it was ok to take handwritten notes & do things retrospectively. However, as my practice started growing, it became a priority to work efficiently. Note-taking takes time but it’s integral to the quality of care you offer. For me, writing notes & issuing billing instructions for a few hours at the end of the day – because I didn’t have time between patients – was not an efficient way to run a business.
What then made you decide on Healthbridge as a technology partner?
I looked for software for a long time & I found that there are several similar offerings on the market. What differentiated them for me was the quality of the user interface (UI) & the efficiency it enabled in my practice.
I moved to Healthbridge in mid-2020 because I liked the UI – it was uncomplicated & therefore easy-to-use & intuitive. Healthbridge also has a track record of helping private practices optimise efficiency & I can say that the biggest gain for my practice has been efficiency. I’m not just talking about clinical notes – although features like automatically pulling lab results into patient files, is a huge time saver. But the efficiency wins for my practice can be seen in all aspects of the business – management, financial, & operational.
The fact that my receptionist can see a real-time view of my schedule & know when I’m out of the practice has made our communication much clearer & more streamlined. We’re able to plan better & because Healthbridge’s system is cloud-based, I can take patient calls at home or wherever I’m traveling because I can easily access their files.
What did it take to go completely paperless & integrated?
Any doctor might hold back because the change management process can be distracting from the day-to-day running of the practice. But I found the transition to be easy because the UI is good, & we could start using it straight away.
The most labour-intensive piece was converting paper files into digital records. We had over 1 500 patients that needed to be loaded onto the system. I tasked my two receptionists to alternate opening files, scanning historical notes & test results, & attaching them to the patient’s folder. It was great that they could attach any file format to the digital record.
Beyond that, setting up templates was straightforward because my accounts manager (& wife) knows the billing codes I typically use. The support from Healthbridge was very helpful & ultimately, made the transition easy. In all, the changeover to Healthbridge took about 2 months to complete, but the difference in my practice is like day & night.
Talk us through some of the differences in your practices that you’ve noticed.
On one hand, I used to get a lot of negative feedback about my previous system because it didn’t work that well with Apple OS. I am an Apple user, as are many of my colleagues, so I’m glad to be free of this bugbear.
From a patient perspective, Healthbridge’s system leaves the impression that mine is a modern, efficient practice. I’m a Paediatrician so I can work with the children, but I also have the trended graphs & charts & data to show parents & educate them about their child’s care.
How else would you say it’s benefited you as a Paediatrician, specifically?
I was asked by Healthbridge for clinical input as a Paediatrician. One of the tools that I needed was WHO anthropometry charts. In adults you can use the standard static BMI measurement but for a child, you are plotting growth. A single height & weight measurement doesn’t mean much when treating a child, but over time, it becomes very meaningful. I wanted the charts to give parents a visual representation of growth. Healthbridge took this feedback on board & have since implemented the charts.
It really drove home the message that Healthbridge’s systems are designed in collaboration with doctors. That for me is real innovation – not just impressive features, but an open dialogue between end-users & system developers.
Any other features that stand out for you?
The other features that make a difference to me & my practice include the use of templates. Too much typing in a consultation can make some patients feel like they’re competing with your screen for your attention. So, easy-to-use click-through templates makes that a non-issue.
I love the patient dashboard – it’s a quick, easy-to-read recap of the patient you’re about to see. In seconds you can familiarise yourself with the patient & their history before they’re seated in front of you, so you can pick up right where you left off.
I also like that everything captured on a patient is on a timeline & traceable. Previously I would use MS Word to generate sick notes, referral letters, etc. but if there was a mistake, I’d have to retype it. Now, everything is in chronological order, & I can look back & generate what I need to quickly & easily.
Lastly but certainly not least – the Telehealth capabilities. I have patients based in Namibia, Botswana & in SA up to 400kms away. In the past, a mom would call & leave me a message to call them back. Pre-covid, I couldn’t be renumerated for my time but now, when I call back that is a billable consultation.
What are some key financial benefits you have noted since using Healthbridge?
The Rands & cents speak for themselves. When we were invoicing manually, there was always a delay. Since Healthbridge, we generate & submit invoices in real-time & get paid faster. Features like SMS payment reminders have also helped reduce bad debt. We have fewer stale & rejected claims & so, cash flow has improved too.
I’ve also had great feedback from patients. The ability to email sick notes & scripts saves everyone a lot of time & energy & it’s also conscious of our natural environment. Same with tests – because results are automatically pulled in from the labs, I can SMS the patient with their results where appropriate. All these things – modern efficiency, personal attention, easy admin – add up to a better patient experience that retains existing patients & attracts new ones.
Is there any advice you would like to give to other doctors?
My advice to other doctors who are still on the fence about whether to go digital is to just do it. If running a better, more profitable, & auditable practice isn’t enough reason to make the change then consider the other realities of running a medical practice.
Think of litigation. Doctors are being taken to court for all kinds of things, but if your record-keeping is good & up-to-date, you are already in a stronger legal position. Other issues around changes in governance, changes in ICD10 codes & the POPI Act, for instance, with the right technology partner – you have a safety net to help you make the necessary changes & maintain compliance.
From my experience, I can say that your best bet is to choose a technology partner who understands how healthcare works, who listens & responds to feedback, who is a leader in UI & who you can place your trust in when it comes to the safety of your practice & patient data.
Healthbridge is the technology provider of choice for over 5 000 healthcare professionals. If, like Dr Wentzel, you want to experience the extended benefits of an integrated, modern medical practice, click here to request a call back.
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