Your Medical PA will have an enormous impact on your private practice. The Medical PA role is considered an admin role but I strongly argue that is much more than that and would encourage you to consider your Medical PA as the owner of customer service where the customer is your patient.
The Medical PA role will work alongside you, caring for your patients and ensuring they feel safe and receive good quality care. Many people in the medical industry now talk about the “patient experience” and the service your Medical PA delivers is a significant and important part of your patients experience that impacts on your reputation as a doctor. Your medical PA acts as an ambassador for your practice.
It is imperative that your Medical PA is fully engaged in your vision of your practice, which is your definition of where you want your practice to be. Your Medical PA should also understand your goals and objectives and understand how they contribute to achieving these.
Coming back to patient experience, we can consider your patients journey and break this down into three parts and consider the Medial PA role in each part of the journey:
- Before treatment
- During treatment
- After treatment
Before Treatment – your Medical PA will play a key role in all three parts of your patients’ journey. In stage 1 your Medical PA will handle your patient’s initial enquiry, responding to questions about your practice and starting to build a relationship with a new patient who is often anxious and needs reassurance. This relationship building is key and can determine whether your patient decides to book or not.
For every interaction you have with a patient, either during a consultation or planned surgery, your medical secretary may have more than 6 interactions by phone and by email. When a patient has decided to book an appointment to see you, they have their first human interaction with your practice, and they will most likely email or call your practice to make their initial enquiry. It is at this point of the first interaction that your Medical PA will start to build their relationship with your patient, and this is incredibly important.
Many Hey Doc users are now offering patients the opportunity to book online and for many this is incredibly positive. If your patient books online, their first human interaction will come at the next stage which is the follow-up and confirmation. So, whilst online booking eliminates the first human interaction the way your Medical PA follows up is still incredibly important.
Once your patient has booked their initial appointment, your Medical PA will follow up with booking details including the provision of pricing information to ensure your practice meets its regulatory obligations.
Communication is key throughout the patient journey, but in this initial stage, there is an opportunity for your Medical PA to provide valuable information such as patient information leaflets.
Over recent months the use of video conferencing has grown exponentially, and whilst face to face consultations will always be preferential you may decide to include video as part of your patient care. For example, a new patient who is travelling a long distance to meet you may be reassured by an initial video consultation that is both convenient for them, and provides a great opportunity for you to ensure your patient feels comfortable with you and commits to a face to face consultation. It may also be possible to “meet” patients more quickly by video than in a face to face scenario and therefore deliver a greater patient experience especially for those who need urgent reassurance. Your Medical PA will arrange video calls on your behalf, ensuring both you and your patient have the correct log-in details to ensure the video call goes smoothly.
Your Medical PA will contact your patient prior to their appointment to confirm the date, time and location.
When your patient does come to see you face to face, the physical environment in which you meet will also impact the patient experience. To enhance this, it is important that your PA reconfirms the appointment the day before and ensures the patient has accurate details regarding your location, how to find you and other considerations such as parking. The aim of this communication is to ensure your patient is fully briefed, has clear expectations of what to expect and importantly from your perspective, is very likely to arrive on time.
During treatment: Following your initial consultation, you will have a list of follow up actions, which we refer to as “outcomes” and follow up communications to deliver. It is your Medical PAs role to ensure all the outcomes and communications are handled on your behalf in an accurate, secure and timely manner. This requires enormous attention to detail and the creation of robust processes and systems to ensure mistakes are eliminated. For example, for every test your patient has done, your Medical PA needs to ensure that results are received and communicated to you so you can dictate a letter. The dictation needs to be transcribed and sent in a secure manner to the patient and/ or GP. One missing result letter can be disastrous.
Your Medical PA will handle the management of the outcomes, ensuring your patient is booked for the various tests that you have requested, follow up appointments or surgery, liaising with other clinics and hospitals as needed. Prescriptions must be completed and referrals to other health care professionals managed.
Whatever your treatment plan involves, each step of the process needs to be managed in a way that ensures your patient feels well informed, in control and well cared for. Good communication is key.
Your patients will also need to be billed for the treatment they receive. I know that many Medical PAs also manage billing and credit control (I used to do it myself), but my experience is that doctors are better served by using a professional billing company to fulfill this role for two reasons. Firstly, billing is a complex process requiring excellent knowledge of insurance company codes. It also requires a different skill set to that of a Medical PA. Managing credit control is a skill and chasing patients and insurance companies for overdue invoices and shortfalls is both challenging and time-consuming. In my opinion, the Medical PA role is to provide your patients with a service such that they feel safe and secure in your care. It is very difficult for your Medical PA to maintain that relationship when they need to have discussions with patients about overdue invoices, insurance company shortfalls etc. These discussions are best handled by your billing company.
Depending on the location of your practice you may also need to order your own medical supplies and your Medical PA will handle this. All your suppliers will need to be paid and again your Medical PA can handle this although you may be wise to engage a professional bookkeeper. Good bookkeeping ensures you have a robust handle on your finances throughout the year. Your bookkeeper will be able to provide you with monthly management accounts so you can assess the performance of your practice. Heydoc integrates with Xero which is a brilliant finance management system and well worth considering. Managing your bookkeeping well throughout the year will also ensure that the production of your accounts at year-end is relatively easy and quick and should also save you money on your annual bill from your accountant.
After treatment: In most cases, patients will attend a follow-up appointment with you which is normally face to face. Your Medical PA will ensure that all follow-up appointments are booked in a timely manner. After the follow-up appointment, your patient may be discharged from your care or you may require a longer-term follow-up, for example, an annual check-up. Your Medical PA will set a “recall” task for your patient which will notify your Medical PA, at the right time, to contact your patient and arrange that check-up. This may also be the time when your Medical PA encourages your patient to leave a review on the platform of your choice, e.g. Google Reviews, Doctify, I want great care etc.
I encourage all doctors to view all patients as long-term patients as they may need further treatment in the future, or they may have friends and family who have a need for your services. For these reasons, I would encourage you to consider your patient experience to be long term and to look for opportunities for continued care.
You may choose to send a regular newsletter to keep your patients informed on the services you provide and potentially new treatments that are available. You might also include articles regarding preventative health. In your patients mind you are already a trusted expert and so your continued communication is likely to be welcomed. Your Medical PA can assist with this but may need help from a marketing specialist too.
In summary, I recommend choosing your Medical PA with care, recognising that your Medical PA will represent your practice and have a significant impact on your reputation as a doctor.
There are of course functional skills that your Medical PA needs to show competency in, for example, audio typing, but the most significant impact your Medical PA will have is on the many on which your patients are looked after and cared for. The skills to deliver this are developed through training but are also dependent on attitude and being aligned with your vision for your practice.