Offshore office help
Physiotherapists are using virtual assistants to free up time so they can focus on the care of their patients. Skye Mitchell reports on how APA members Hannah Edwards, Errol Lim and Stephen King are using virtual employees in their clinics.
Hannah Edwards opened her physiotherapy practice, The Sports Clinic of Melbourne, alongside her husband Ryan in 2016. They now have one more physiotherapist working three days a week. Being a small practice with only three physiotherapists, there is no shortage of administration and phone calls. Hannah sought a virtual receptionist to answer the clinic phone out of hours and at times when no one was available. Hannah says ‘because I was working three days a week, which I’m still doing, we didn’t have a receptionist covering the times when I wasn’t there.’ Hannah was taking the clinic calls from home and ﬁnding it challenging while also doing her other job of raising a family.
Hannah decided on a virtual receptionist because the alternative was to hire a receptionist purely just to take payments and answer the phone, and she wanted someone who would be able to work from 7.00 am to 9.30 pm. Hannah says ‘it is a lot cheaper than having a receptionist physically sitting there. I handle all the paperwork and everything, and I think for me to train someone to do two days a week for all that stuff … it just wasn’t worth it for us.’ Being such a small clinic, cost is an important consideration for Hannah and her partner, and the virtually receptionist has been ‘a big money saver’ for them.
Hannah says that her stress levels have also lowered a lot after hiring the virtual receptionist. ‘We’ve had such a good experience … knowing that we’re not missing those phone calls just makes such a difference to my stress levels. I think it does work really well in smaller practices. Especially for us, being a husband and wife team, and having kids,’ Hannah says.
Errol Lim’s situation is a bit different to Hannah’s because he has two rheumatology centres in New South Wales and employs around 35 clinicians, nine of whom are physiotherapists. Errol says he was having trouble ﬁnding skilled staff in Sydney who weren’t going to blow his budget. ‘The main reasons for seeking offshore employees are pretty much skilled staff at a lower price point, and that you can now hire people to focus on a particular job or particular task,’ Errol says.
Having the virtual employees based in the Philippines helps Errol run his busy clinics effectively. With more staff on board to assist with marketing, administration and reception, it allows the in-house team to focus on quality, face-to-face customer service and efﬁciency. ‘Most of our team who work remotely are virtual assistants helping other team members with various daily tasks or projects,’ he says. ‘The more we can have VAs [virtual assistants] specialising in particular areas, the better the productivity of the entire organisation.’
Errol uses his virtual employees not only to assist with his back-end administration work but also to help with marketing. He says that ‘a lot of the smaller businesses need help on the marketing front … just to do simple designs and simple posters, or help with very basic campaigns.’ Hiring marketing contractors can get very expensive and the price alone can deter clinic owners from marketing their businesses well, Errol explains. Errol says he doesn’t have a ‘master plan’ as to how he can utilise virtual assistants more broadly in the future, but he would like to have four to ﬁve employed full time by the end of this year. ‘I’ve got a better idea now, but my primary aim is to automate everything that I can automate with virtual assistants as a stepping stone towards that.’
Stephen King from the Injury Rehab Centre in Victoria has ﬁve clinicians offering a combination of services in physiotherapy, osteopathy and rehabilitation. The three offshore virtual assistants he employs also have a variety of roles. Stephen says their roles range from answering phones when there is no one in the ofﬁce, to administration tasks such as billing and invoicing. ‘They run our whole social media hosting, and social media image and video creation and editing process,’ he says. ‘They also help liaise and monitor checklists and KPIs for all our practitioners, and then develop reports and provide them back to us as the business owners.’
‘Sales and the marketing,your website design, and your social media posting are the things that often don’t get done if you’re seeing patients.They [virtual assistants] can ensure that that continues on…’
STEPHEN KING, APAM
Having the extra staff working remotely has taken away some of the stresses on Stephen and his business partner. ‘Sales and the marketing, your website design, and your social media posting are the things that often don’t get done if you’re seeing patients. They [virtual assistants] can ensure that that continues on, which we found previously was hard to maintain when you have a full book of patients,’ Stephen says.
Although the training process can be onerous when hiring offshore virtual employees, Stephen says he found that the training process was quite easy and it didn’t take him too long to teach them the systems and processes. ‘We’ve found it to be a really positive experience for our business and it allows us to have a wider reception coverage than we could probably justify having, from a business point of view, if someone was sitting there in-house,’ he says.
Stephen no longer needs to be the ﬁrst point of contact for his staff and clients, which allows him to focus on what he does best: helping his patients. Stephen says the virtual assistants ‘ﬁlter all our emails, liaise with our team and then sort and forward queries or concerns … so they’ve almost become an integral communication tool for the business to enhance the efﬁciency and free up some of our time. We are no longer having to respond to every email, phone call or every problem that comes up within the business,’ he says.
To his fellow colleagues, Stephen says ‘deﬁnitely make sure you have good systems, processes and checklists in place and you know exactly what role you want the virtual assistant to ﬁll.’
APA recommended partner Serviced Ofﬁces International (SOI) offers a range of business solutions, including virtual assistants and reception services speciﬁcally for allied health businesses. To ﬁnd out more visit serviced.com.au/ virtual-services/virtual-receptionist.
© Copyright 2018 by Australian Physiotherapy Association. All rights reserved.