Go Paperless to Maximize Efficiency!
- By Kirsten DeLay
- Jan 01, 2010
The key to successfully navigating a business through any
economic climate is efficiency. This is especially true in the DME
industry, where a streamlined business model not only enhances
your profitability, but makes it easier to meet a patient’s needs completely
Going paperless is a very effective streamlining method that ensures
your business is operating at maximum efficiency, while actually improving
upon the service you can offer your customers.
Despite doing business in a truly digital age, most of us are still
surrounded by a sea of paperwork on a daily basis. This certainly makes the
transition to a paperless operation seem like a daunting task. Like any
worthwhile investment, the key is making a commitment to the process and
taking the steps to see it through.
It is unrealistic to expect to make the change in one across-the-board
measure. It is a process that has to be planned and implemented in phases
with realistic goals and timelines.
The Benefits of Going Paperless
The goal of going paperless is to improve efficiency and strengthen
customer service. Moving to a Web-based system will provide access to
standardized company policies, procedures, protocol, forms and documents.
It also allows for the introduction of a universal customer database. This
heightened access increases accountability and adherence to company
requirements. Online access to forms increases productivity, legibility and
accuracy. E-mail alerts can be employed to inform management when a
task is not completed within a pre-set timeframe. When your whole
company is connected, your clients benefit greatly from your instant access
to a wealth of information.
The first step is to identify the areas where your company can go paperless
and evaluate the steps and investment it will take to get there over time.
Start with the areas of your operation that can be most easily
converted while providing the maximum benefit to your customers.
Determine the equipment and training needed to complete each phase,
starting with the basics.
A simple investment in a computer and software can make an immediate
impact. For example, by giving your technical service staff access to
one or two computer stations, you can streamline your entire service operation.
Your staff can access online support resources from manufacturers,
including troubleshooting guides, illustrated parts manuals and even live
factory support. They can interface with a manufacturer’s online ordering
system to better manage parts ordering and receiving, reducing the need to
maintain a large inventory of parts. Most importantly, streamlining this area
can go a long way in building a strong customer service reputation. Initially,
simple steps like this will prove very valuable in your overall effort, and you
will quickly realize a return on your
Develop a Standardized
Going paperless can help you maintain a
uniform workflow as you move to a
Web-based system. An added benefit of
the process being done in phases, with
all steps being evaluated, is that it can
allow you to identify areas where you
can build in added efficiency.
Outline the steps required from
intake through collections, and examine
the activities required to complete each
step. Determine which activities can occur simultaneously and those that
must occur in a sequence. Set a clear definition for the completion of each
activity and whether that completion initiates a new activity.
Identify the individual or department responsible for completion of each
step in the process. Identify the average time it takes to complete each
activity to set productivity goals and expectations.
Proper Training & the Right Equipment
Once a standardized process is outlined, you can determine the ideal equipment
and software needed to complement your company’s needs and
workflow along with the training requirements necessary to ensure a
smooth transition with minimal business interruption.
Supply your field personnel with a means of connecting from the
road. This can be as simple as providing your RTS with a Blackberry
device or iPhone. Give key personnel access to a scanner to upload
documents. Cross-train personnel to allow management to assign and
reassign tasks based on real-time visibility of the order process. Identify
the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to get the job done, and make
your investments accordingly.
Keep the big picture in mind, but work in small steps and modally.
Don’t jump into a deluxe, all-inclusive program. Research your software purchases thoroughly to be sure they are a good investment match. A
modular system allows you to learn as you go and prevents you from
becoming overwhelmed by change. It can teach you valuable lessons on
functionality, training requirements and, most importantly, help you make
wiser investments in equipment and software.
Don’t Do It Alone
Look to your business partners to provide you with comprehensive online
resources. Leverage the tools they can deliver into better business efficiency.
Align with manufacturers who can deliver comprehensive support.
Web development services, printable product brochures and merchandising
materials, as well as educational and reimbursement tools, can all be
accessed online. Take advantage of what is available to you at no cost.
Of course, online ordering is essential to maximize your paperless efficiencies.
Work with your primary partners to develop complete Electronic
Data Interface (EDI). This will allow you to have seamless integration of
your system with theirs. This allows for completely electronic order placement,
tracking and invoicing.
Assess other areas of your operation that can be streamlined by using
sources outside of your own company. For example, you may benefit from
utilizing a service like Gmail from Google to handle your company’s e-mail
needs. This eliminates the need to host and maintain your e-mail data and
could deliver better efficiency and savings.
There’s Much to Be Gained
After you make the initial investment in going paperless, your company will
be saving on common office expenses beyond paper. You will be reducing
the usage of your general office supplies. That includes a large range of
products from staples to printer ink. Postage and shipping charges can also
The “going green” aspect of going paperless is another benefit.
According to The Nature Conservancy, 36 million trees are cut down each
year, and deforestation accounts for 20-25 percent of the greenhouse gases
emitted into the atmosphere each year. By going paperless, you are doing
your part to help conserve natural resources.
Numerous studies show that consumers prefer doing business with
companies that have implemented green initiatives, and a recent Harvard
Business Review article by Andrew Winston explores how going green at
the workplace motivates employees. The article finds that when companies
go green, morale is actually boosted, as employees like the idea of working
for a company that’s environmentally sound.
As outlined here, going paperless has many benefits and may be the
easiest way to best meet your clients’ needs while maintaining the
maximum efficiency your business needs to thrive in a challenging
economy. If done properly and in well-thought-out phases, you can
realize a very strong return on your investment with two to three months
This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Mobility Management.
Kirsten DeLay is the chair of Medtrade’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and the executive VP of sales management & operational planning for Pride Mobility Products Corp., Exeter, Pa. Kirsten can be reached via e-mail at kdelay@pridemobility. com or by calling (800) 800-8586.