Should aesthetic practitioners go paperless?
In our latest guest blog, Jo Hayward, founder of Aesthetic Nurse Software discusses why becoming a ‘paperless practitioner’ can help you to be not only more organised but compliant too.
“I’m struggling with the amount of paperwork I’m storing, but I’m worried about going paperless.” This is something that you hear aesthetic practitioners say all the time, yet there is an eagerness for a better way of working that reflects our mobile lifestyles.
From questionnaires and consent forms to treatment notes and photos, the volume of paperwork quickly piles up. Managing all the admin involves increasing amounts of time and effort in order to remain compliant, and can be a challenging process.
But Section 10 of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) code states that all qualified practitioners must keep clear, accurate and secure records. Plus, many insurance providers, including Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance, require you to maintain detailed documentation. As your practice grows, it can therefore become increasingly challenging to maintain the right level of compliance with paper-based record keeping. This is where software comes into play.
So, should you go paperless? Here are some points to consider when making the choice between paperless software and paper-based record keeping.
Compliance: Is your record-keeping as robust as it should be?
We all know the importance of maintaining records and confidentiality. But you may have unintentional gaps if you store batch numbers, before and after photos, consent forms and medical questionnaires in separate places and on different devices.
Record keeping is an essential part of your responsibilities as a medical professional and this is no different when it comes to aesthetic treatments. Ensuring you have a complete and accurate audit trail for each stage of the treatment journey will protect both you and your patients in the event of any complications.
Using a paperless system that is specifically designed for aesthetics can give you a clear clinical pathway to follow for each treatment, giving you peace of mind that you have completed all of the documentation required once the patient leaves your clinic.
Evidence: How to be prepared in the event of a claim?
Receiving a claim from a patient is one of the biggest worries for aesthetic practitioners. Questions arise such as: what evidence do I need to supply? Is my medical PIN at risk?
Minimise the stress and worry of this situation by being prepared and ensuring you have taken all of the necessary steps to provide a safe treatment with the appropriate level of care.
When using a paperless system, features such as time and date stamped notes, as well as digital signatures for medical questionnaires and consent forms will remove any room for doubt if you ever have to provide evidence to your insurance company.
One click of a button and you will have access to all the documentation that is required when dealing with a claim/complaint to help efficiently speed up the claims process and offer you reassurance that you have a complete treatment record to submit to your insurance.
Data Security: Are your records safe and secure?
Paper records need to be stored in locked cabinets in safe premises, and are only as secure as the physical security measures that you have put in place. What happens if there’s a break-in? Even documents and photos saved on a laptop or phone (rather than through cloud-based software) are vulnerable. What happens if you lose your device or your computer dies?
Many practitioners work out of multiple salons or clinics, as well as from home. If you use a paper-based system, you quickly find yourself carrying patient records, consent forms and other stacks of paperwork from appointment to appointment. Not only is this awkward, but it increases the risk of you forgetting or losing something which could be a risk to patient confidentiality and protection.
Quality cloud-based software, on the other hand, is highly secure (Aesthetic Nurse Software, for example, uses the same data security standards as the Ministry of Defence). There are robust back-up systems in place, so your information is never at risk of being lost. And it’s automatically maintained to comply with NMC and insurance audit trail guidelines, so you never have to worry about that consent form in your bag or the client photo on your phone.
From a security perspective, make sure your software uses cloud-based storage rather than local storage. Local storage is when the data is saved in your device’s memory and is then your responsibility to back up manually. True cloud-based software keeps your data in high-security data centres. You generally pay a monthly fee based on how many clients you have (e.g. how much data you need).
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Efficiency: How can you reduce admin to find more time for patients?
Keeping up-to-date records isn’t just about compliance – it’s also about running an efficient business that allows you to focus on providing an excellent service for your patients.
So what areas of your aesthetics business can you streamline?
Diary management is a key example. What if a patient calls when you’re at the supermarket? Or during the school run? When you rely on paper systems, you may not have your diary in your pocket for appointment booking – and you certainly won’t have their treatment history to hand to answer any questions.
When you use software that includes mobile access, you essentially have your entire practice at your fingertips at all times – you can access your calendar and records instantly from anywhere, meaning you can accurately answer your patient’s queries.
Some programmes, including Aesthetic Nurse Software, also offer online booking to make it even easier for your patients to book an appointment, without the need for back-and-forth messaging to arrange.
Software makes it easy to manage and run your clinics, ensuring you have everything you need in one place. Consent forms are pre-loaded, so you always have the one you need to hand, and you never have to worry about running out.
You can even send medical questionnaires to patients prior to their appointment, saving you time on the day of treatment and giving you the chance to check their history for any contraindications before they come to clinic.
Everything is stored centrally and automatically organised into a compliant audit trail. And crucially, because everything is paperless – it’s automatically stored and accessible – you no longer have to waste evenings and days off slaving over admin. You suddenly find yourself with the work/life balance you wanted when you started building your private clinic.
How can you offer an excellent patient experience?
Imagine, your patient arrives for their appointment and instead of filtering through mountains of paper to find their record, you simply search for their name on your iPad and their whole history appears in front of you. All their previous appointments, notes and photos. Giving everything you need to know about the patient in seconds. Did they have any concerns following their last treatment?
This makes it easy for you to build a genuine, long-term relationship with your patients.
Your business cannot always be open, and you may not always be available to reply to patients. However, that doesn’t mean your business cannot still be accessible. Using an online booking system gives your customers access to your diary 24/7, it allows them to book their appointments at a convenient time for them, which is often outside of the normal 9-5 working day. It might be after the kids are in bed or whilst they are looking in the mirror brushing their teeth and think ‘I need to book my Botox appointment.’
Since the pandemic, everyone is much more accustomed to booking online and it is a service that is almost expected to be offered for a business. If you do not offer this service, it could be the deciding factor for a customer to go elsewhere. Your patients want speed and convenience, they want to view treatments you have to offer and check your availability to book an appointment that suits them. This quick and easy service right from the start can improve your patient’s experience, creating a professional image and reducing any friction
Keeping in touch:
Your patients have busy lives, they have jobs, family commitments and a social life, meaning they can sometimes lose track of their scheduled appointments, especially if they have been booked months in advance. Think about how you currently communicate with your patients?
With a paperless software, you can automate your appointment reminders which will drastically reduce the number of no-shows you have. Plus, your patients will be grateful to have received a timely reminder about their appointment as they don’t want to miss it.
Sending a follow-up message is also important for providing an excellent service. These messages can be used to simply check in with the patient following their treatment, giving them the chance to raise any concerns they may have. This will show the level of care you have about them and their treatment outcome, increasing the likelihood that they’ll want to return.
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Paperless is generally the most compliant, efficient and valuable approach
When you take into account compliance, data security and admin management, going paperless offers an easier, safer and better way of managing an aesthetics business. Not only does it simplify all aspects of running your clinic, but it puts you in a stronger position to grow and succeed, as well as having the added benefit of improving the sustainability of your clinic by eliminating the need to print more forms. Going paperless is a smart choice to help you run a sustainable clinic.
And best of all: you achieve all this while offering patients a more proactive, efficient and effective service. And, after all, helping patients is a key reason we love this job.