Book your free demo today! Call us on 0800 0789333 or book online

Calling for help

When you need help it is good to know that there is someone there for you. More importantly, you need the reassurance that the help you require will be provided as swiftly as possible. That is one reason why a number of emergency services have adopted the what3words system; an app which can pinpoint a caller’s location anywhere in the world to within a 3x3m square; identifying it with a unique combination of three words.

Signing up to the system in 2019 the South West Ambulance service commented that “Having this type of technology integrated within our Command and Control system has changed the way we are able to deal with incidents where the location isn’t known” adding “If you download the app, it will mean we can find you more easily in an emergency when every second counts. It really could be the difference between life and death.”

Of course not all emergencies are life threatening. Nevertheless, whatever the level of help required it is still good to know that support is there when you need it most. This is particularly true for those in the healthcare sector who themselves need to ensure continuity of care and support for their patients.

Sometimes it is the simplest problems which can cause the most disruption. For example, when a telephone system goes down or a member of the support team calls in sick, the resulting disruption can impact across the health practice. Clinicians may have to take time away from patient-facing duties, or patients may not be able to arrange or cancel appointments; turning an already heavy workload into a stressful situation.

That’s where Clinic Appointments can help to take the strain. Available as and when required we can step in when your daily routine steps out. Equally importantly, as we specialise in the healthcare sector, we understand the importance of treating each call with professionalism and discretion. So whether you have an emergency and need to direct all of your calls to us or simply require us to soak up an overload you can trust our trained operators to answer your calls.

For health practitioners that means that clinicians can concentrate on patient treatments without having to stop and answer a phone call, thereby helping to ensure continuity of care. And for support staff, the availability of Clinic Appointments as a back stop means that they can undertake their duties without the added stress of worrying about unanswered phone calls.

Of course, Clinic isn’t only there for the stressful times. Health practices also have the option of signing up to an ongoing service with our trained operatives answering calls on a daily basis. With added options including a diary management service including appointment reminders via SMS text, digital patient records and secure payment processing we can help to ensure patient contact is maintained, leaving the health practice to concentrate on what matters most; maximising patient treatment times.

Time to de-stress your workplace

Evidence shows that for most people work can be beneficial for their physical and mental health. But when it is the stress of work that is leading to people being ill it is concerning.”


That comment came from the vice-chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Prof Martin Marshall in response to the release of statistics which reveal a rise in work-related stress disorders. Startling figures released by the health and safety executive (HSE) revealed that in 2017/18 some 595,000 workers in the UK suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Moreover, absence due to work-related stress accounted for 57% of all days “lost” through illness.


What is perhaps more worrying is that this is despite a reported increase in stress awareness. In fact the CBI has recently reported that more companies are focusing on staff wellness, with bosses increasingly recognising the need for taking preventative measures in order to boost the long-term well-being of employees.


With that in mind why are workplace stress levels rising? Well in part the answer will vary across business sectors. For example, those working in the retail sector may well be anxious about falling footfall and potential store closures whilst at the other end of the scale, particularly at Christmas time, those involved in online sales may be overwhelmed by the volume of orders. And it’s also perhaps easy to see why people may become stressed if their workplace is undergoing a major change such as a reorganisation or merger.


However there are other day-to-day stresses which in themselves may not seem to be too significant but which can accumulate until a breaking point is reached. Take something as simple as routine administration tasks, for example. Of themselves they may not prove to be a problem, particularly if businesses are of a sufficient size that they can employ full-time administrators.


But what if the volume of work is such that those administrators are placed under continuous pressure; or if in smaller operations individuals are expected to carry out their own administration work. In those instances routine tasks can prove to be the final stress point. Coping with continual routine phone calls or non-stop demands on time can impose a day to day pressure which erodes at resilience.  Not only that, fee earners may well find that a proportion of their day is taken up in administrative tasks, thereby reducing the earning potential of the business. For example, the best use of a physiotherapist’s time is in treating patients, not in booking appointments or sending out invoices.


Whilst there is no single panacea for reducing workplace stress levels, one solution which businesses could explore is the idea of working smarter not harder. In the physiotherapy example above perhaps the health practice could look at introducing an online or external booking service in order to reduce the number of routine calls. Similarly, taking card payment details at the point of booking can smooth out the invoice/payment workload for health practices; another stress point particularly if invoices have to be sent out and overdue payments chased.


Managing stress in the workplace starts with awareness. As we look towards 2019 are there steps which you could take in order to better manage routine tasks as a first step in de-stressing your workplace?

One Step Too Far

In our last article we commented on the way in which exercise regimes have moved on; with the emphasis now being on providing exercise and mobility training which not only suits individual pursuits but also the individual athlete. With the Rugby World Cup being very much in evidence at the moment, it’s a theme which we thought we would return to.

Aside from the numerous injuries which seem to have befallen the Welsh team, opening skirmishes have led to injury worries for numerous players. Some will be rested before being brought back into the fray later on in the campaign whilst for others their World Cup dream is already at an end.

The neutral observer may question why there are so many injuries when it comes to the big tournaments. Admittedly rugby is a game which begets injuries but it has to be asked whether there is an underlying reason for so many key players to become injured at the same time. Again the neutral observer may wonder whether it is simply that in rugby injuries are rife, but we only hear about them thanks to the increased publicity which world cups bring.

But there has to be more to it than that and whilst some injuries are simply down to the run of the game or bad luck, it has to be wondered whether others may be as a result of a desire to field the best team possible. This can lead to circumstances such as players who are carrying a minor injury being selected in the hope that they will be fit in time for the tournament, players ignoring slight niggles as they don’t want to miss out on the tournament, or even a bit of overtraining in a bid to be as ready as possible for a key match.

Whatever the reason, players who entered the tournament in hope are leaving it in pain; being forced to swap the field of glory for the physiotherapy table. As they depart they bring a lesson for all of us. It’s one thing to push yourself to the limits of your ability but take one step too far, be unrealistic in your expectations, and you will run the risk of harm.  We all like to think we can cope under pressure, we all like to think that we can just do one bit more and one bit more again but even those at the top of their game have their limitations.

In other words, sooner or later we will reach the limits of our abilities and when that happens we have to call on others for help. And that is not an admission of failure; it is simply an acknowledgement that when we are open to calling others on to our team, we can stretch just that bit further and do just that bit more.

For injured players, it will be the help of physiotherapists and other health and fitness professionals. For those same health professionals, it may be the help of administrators or assistants in areas such as booking and keeping track of appointments, maintaining virtual client records or simply in answering the telephone to avoid interruptions to client treatments.

Sportsperson or not, sooner or later we all come up against our limits. Getting the right help at the right time might just prevent us taking one step too far.

Taking Time Off

When you spend all of your time looking after the health of others, it can sometimes be difficult to take time to look after yourself. There always seems to be one more patient to help, one more report to write, one more bit of paperwork to file before you can step out of the office and into home life.

In this, health professionals are not alone. A recent report by Simply Business revealed that 20% of the UK’s small business owners say they can’t afford to take a single day off work this summer whilst a further 30% plan to holiday near home to keep an eye on their business.

In fact, this problem of work-life balance is seen in many countries. A recent report by German researchers revealed that working outside of core hours on tasks such as checking emails can limit the ability to feel detached from work, leading to higher levels of the stress hormone allied to a feeling of increased tiredness.

Whether working as a sole trader or in a small business it can sometimes be hard to see where you can turn to reduce the workload. The last thing you want to do is to reduce your client base as that will reduce income so instead it is tempting to save up all those administrative tasks for the evenings and weekends. Of course, there is the option of taking on a part-time member of staff to help with the workload, but this can be a tricky balancing act.

Obviously, if you have a regular volume of extra administrative tasks to complete then a new member of staff may well be the answer. However, when the workload is irregular then you may not be able to justify adding to your team on a permanent basis and temporary members of staff will always be around to answer the telephone when it is ringing and you are with a patient.

But there is another way. Virtual assistant services can help to reduce the workload by taking on tasks such as telephone answering, appointment booking and records and diary management. Better still, by using a virtual assistant service you gain the flexibility which you require. For example, you can switch telephones over to the virtual service when you are with clients or on holiday, switching them back when you are free to answer calls.

Tasks such as phone answering and appointment booking can easily intrude on daily business life and create a pressure point which can add to stress levels. Not having to answer the telephone when you are treating patients or meeting with clients, being able to access client notes online rather than spending time in preparing for meetings, even having someone to screen out unwanted sales calls can all make a difference to the working day and to peace of mind.

Of course, at the end of the day virtual assistant services can only go so far in helping to improve the work-life balance. The bottom line is that as a business owner you owe it to yourself, to your family and to your clients to take the time off that you need to refresh the mental and physical batteries. If you don’t, your work will suffer and that helps no-one.

Suffering from Compartment Syndrome

Sometimes it is amazing to see just what people will go through simply to look good. We are used to seeing stories in the papers on a virtually daily basis about how this foodstuff or that drink will completely transform our energy, complexion, body shape or mood; but similar stories about what we wear are not as prevalent.

It was interesting therefore this week to see two stories about clothing hit the headlines. The first story was from a journalist in Los Angeles who set out to wear high heels for an entire day. By early evening, he had called off the experiment as he was in so much pain.

The second story related to the wearing of skinny jeans. Researchers in Australia reported that a 35-year-old woman had suffered from bleeding and swelling of her leg muscles, caused by spending an extensive period squatting to clean out cupboards whilst wearing skinny jeans. The condition experienced by the Australian woman has been named as compartment syndrome but tight fitting trousers have also been blamed for a number of conditions including heartburn and twisted testicles.

Whilst these examples may seem isolated, the fact is that physiotherapists and other health practitioners are regularly called on to relieve the symptoms of those who have damaged muscles and ligaments thanks to their choice of clothing. The Los Angeles journalist may have been in so much pain because he had come to high heel wearing without proper preparations but according to the American Osteopathic Association high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with one in three high heel wearers suffering permanent damage. If skinny jeans are now to be added to the list of potentially harmful clothing, particularly if compartment syndrome starts to become a regular problem for fashion-conscious home cleaners, then osteopaths physiotherapists and others are in for a busy time.

And that’s just the start of the clothing-damage story.  In recent times we’ve also heard tales of people setting out to climb steep hillsides whilst wearing flip flops, tripping over long skirts, and even wrenching necks whilst putting on tight tops. It seems as though when it comes to looking good, practicality goes out of the window. Perhaps it’s not surprising therefore that our health professionals, particularly physiotherapists and chiropractors, are increasingly under time pressure.

As a result, whilst health practitioners are relieving the symptoms of clothing related injuries including compartment syndrome, they need to do something to ensure that their time is spent as productively as possible.  So they in turn looking towards virtual assistant services to relieve the time pressure caused by full client books. Even something as simple as a call answering and appointment booking service can make a measurable difference to daily pressures

With calls being answered in a prompt and professional manner in the name of the health practice, clients are reassured that they are dealing with a professional practice. Other benefits include never having to miss a call or interrupt a consultation to take a call. With unwanted sales calls also being screened, health practitioners can concentrate on patient treatments.

Business Spring Cleaning

The second week in March has sadly not lived up to the promise of the first with cold, wet and dull weather taking the place of sunshine. Nevertheless spring is well on the way and with it our thoughts turn to the annual challenge of spring cleaning.

No-one knows where the tradition of spring cleaning started. The practice has been shown to have roots in several ancient cultures but it is almost tempting to speculate that even back in cave dwelling times, ancient people stepped out from the crevices in the rocks which had given them winter shelter, sniffed the fresh air of spring and started to clean.

But there is a darker side to spring cleaning. As we vacuum and scrub, mop dusty floors and persuade over-wintering spiders to leave the home, the emergency services are poised waiting for the call. Every year, casualty departments are called on to treat those of us who thought that balancing on a rickety chair or table would be a good idea when cleaning windows or reaching high ceilings. Others will have to call on the services of physiotherapists or osteopaths to help sort out sprains and strains caused by repetitive movements such as overenthusiastic dusting or polishing.

With health professionals such as physiotherapists being stretched by all of these seasonal injuries, it may be time for them to carry out a little spring cleaning of their own. When we start out in business we tend to adopt coping mechanisms, working through processes which may cost us in time but save cash flow. With more mature businesses it may be time to spring clean some of these practices, bringing processes up to date.

For example, in the early days with few clients it can be a simple matter either to hope that they will turn up for appointments or phone them with a reminder.  Growing businesses which try to continue this practice may well be spending time on client reminders which would be better spent on treating a growing client base.  And in truth, what business nowadays can afford to operate under a model which allows for gaps in appointment times when clients fail to turn up. Simple remedies such as SMS text reminders, the availability of online booking and switching phones in busy times can free up a significant amount of time.

SMS text reminders also help to cut down on no-shows, but it still leaves businesses open to the possibility of a reduction in income, should clients fail to turn up for their appointments. One practice which can help to alleviate this problem is the taking of credit or debit card details at the time the appointment is made. When clients turn up for their appointments the card payment can simply be confirmed, considerably smoothing out the invoice/administration process. However, should clients fail to attend appointments; a no-show fee can still be taken in accordance with the health practice’s publicised tariff.

As we are looking at spring cleaning for efficiency, ask yourself if it is really necessary to have all of those paper records cluttering up the office?  Electronic filing can not only help to clear away paperwork, with patient records available at the touch of a button it can also help to save time when clients come to call.  It doesn’t take much to spring clean business processes, but health professionals may find that taking a little time out to review the way the practice is set up now could make a measurable difference in the future

Exercising Choice for a Fitter Health Practice

It’s January and that means only one thing; a host of fitness and diet related stories have hit the headlines. In a bid to either persuade us to keep those New Year resolutions, or to even make some belated ones, news media are leaping on any health related story they can find and putting it out there for our consideration.

Are we swayed by the headlines? Well perhaps some of us will use the research conclusions to kick start an improved lifestyle, but for others the exhortation to improve diet or fitness levels will merely be of passing interest and will have no effect on ingrained lifestyle patterns.

Actually when you stop to analyse some of these stories, the advice given generally only amounts to common sense. The study which concludes that a brisk daily walk, even if just 20 minutes, can add years to life expectancy is hardly surprising; although it was interesting to see that the research concluded that twice as many deaths a year are attributable to inactivity than to obesity. Similarly, a report which concluded that working as part of a team, either with a partner or with others, can help people to stick to lifestyle changes makes sense when you consider that a self-supporting team is less isolated than an individual.

But if some of the conclusions are simple common sense and may well lead to lifestyle changes, others may have varying measures of success. A report which suggests a correlation between wearing high heels and the chance of developing osteoarthritis may be unlikely to sway the majority of those who enjoy wearing shoes with high heels. On the other hand, a report which suggests that moderate alcohol consumption is linked to reduced heart failure risk may well be seized on by those who enjoy the odd drink but were feeling guilty about its affects on health.

In essence this is the beauty of having free will, and not just on health related issues. We can look at all of the advice and choose that which seems best to us. That’s why some businesses interrupt client conversations to answer the phone whilst others have set up a system which diverts phone calls to a virtual assistant. That’s why some businesses still file records by hand whilst others have embraced digital filing methods. And that’s why some health practices offer online booking and card pre-payment methods whilst others stick to phone bookings and collect the payment later.

Whatever the business, whether you offer one-to-one health consultations or regular pre-booked fitness classes, the key to success is to know your customer and offer a business model which will best meet their needs. Special offers and discounts are all very well in attracting new custom, but people won’t stay unless you offer them a level of service which encourages them to return time and time again and to recommend you to friends. So going back to one of our earlier examples, if your clients tend to have busy lives then online booking is a quick and simple way for them to make an appointment. On the other hand, if your client base is more elderly then they may feel more comfortable making telephone bookings.

No matter how seemingly strong the research, whatever the ‘experts’ tell us, at the end of the day all research and all ‘best practice’ advice is there to act as a guide.  What we do with it, how we turn advice into great customer service and a strong and fit health practice is up to us.

Seasonal Flu

Autumn may have started with a blaze of sunshine but hopes of lingering summer weather have now been well and truly dashed by the arrival of storms and heavy rain. It’s a stark reminder of the longer nights, dwindling temperatures and gradual descent into frost and slush that we will have to endure before summer once again peeps over the horizon.

The arrival of Autumn also heralds the start of this year’s flu jab campaign.  According to Public Health England, only 52% of those with an underlying illness took up the free jab offer last year (2013) and PHE are keen to increase that percentage as much as possible this winter.

So the call has gone out for young children, the elderly and those with underlying conditions to take up the challenge and get protected.  Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer said “I would urge those who are offered the free flu vaccination to visit their GP early in the flu season. I also urge all health care workers to make sure they are vaccinated to protect themselves, their patients and their families.”

When we think of the flu jab we naturally tend to think of it in terms of prevention of the flu itself but there are a number of other consequences of flu which put a strain on our health services. One of the more common of these is the need for some form of osteopath or chiropractic treatment as muscles or ligaments become strained thanks to the effects of coughing. When we cough or sneeze we put a tremendous percussive force on our bodies and this can lead to back and other injuries.

The effect of this is that not only do health practitioners need to stay healthy themselves to continue to treat their normal patients, they also have extra calls on their time to treat these flu-related injuries. And really these couldn’t come at a worse time.  One good bout of overnight frost and icy pavements add to slips and falls whilst icy roads lead to crashes.  These too put a strain on our health services with physiotherapists and other health practitioners having to cope with the aftermath of broken bones and strains.

Of course, if we all took up the flu-jab challenge then our health service would be far better off but as that is an ‘ideal world’ scenario it means that once again our health services may be stretched this winter.  Anything which can help to mitigate that pressure is therefore welcome and that is why numbers of health practices are adopting ways of working which will reduce the strain on their own resources.  Areas such as electronic filing of records, appointment reminders and the use of virtual assistant services to answer calls and book appointments can all help to smooth out administration time and therefore add to the time available for treatment.

As Public Health England says “Each winter hundreds of thousands of people see their GP and tens of thousands are hospitalised because of flu.” That puts a huge strain on resources so it’s no wonder that they are campaigning for as many people as possible to be vaccinated this year.

Everything in moderation

Saturated fats, salt, alcohol, exercise, diet; the list of potential causes and prevention methods for cancer, heart problems and other life-threatening conditions changes on a daily basis. For every report which boldly proclaims that x is bad for you, another is sure to follow with a counter argument.

Even the idea of healthy exercise is under threat as a recent report reveals that working out at the gym may not help us to lose weight. With all of this contradictory advice it’s hardly surprising that some choose to ignore it completely whilst others present themselves at the osteopath or chiropractor with injuries from having jumped from one fad into another.

Calmer minds accept that the solution is to adopt the mantra ‘everything in moderation.’ Ignoring the fads and balancing a healthy diet with moderate exercise is arguably the best advice which anyone can have. Similarly, when it comes to a busy lifestyle, rather than flying from one extreme solution to another, the best advice is to take a good look at the schedule and find ways to reduce the overall workload.

When we encounter overload in our daily lives it is tempting to cut out some elements entirely. For example, a busy physiotherapy practice may take the decision to stop taking on new patients. Of course the danger in this is that we lurch from one crisis to another, cresting more problems with every ‘solution’ until we fall into some kind of stasis: just about managing but unable to grow or enjoy our work.

But one of the benefits of the internet age is that there are other options available which can take the strain without needing to resort to drastic measures.  Services such as diary management, phone answering and even electronic filing of patient records can all be handled by a virtual assistant service. And with today’s telephony systems enabling callers to be pre-announced, a virtual assistant service can answer calls in the name of the health practice even if they are looking after a number of practices at the same time.

Add in an on-line booking service allied to secure card processing and at a stroke the day to day administration workload of a busy health practice can be switched from overload to manageable. Not only that, by taking card details at the time of booking, clients are far more likely to attend appointments; helping to maximise treatment times and ensuring that the physiotherapist or other health practitioner is spending their time productively rather than chasing no-shows.

With administration time cut, the health practitioner is freer to concentrate on what they do best; helping those who are in need of some form of therapeutic intervention. Best of all, the virtual assistant service is flexible and can be switched on and off as required. So if ‘pinch points’ only occur at certain times of the day, week or month, the virtual assistant can step in then, leaving practices free to self-manage at other times.

Everything in moderation? With a virtual receptionist service on standby, health practices can smooth out some of life’s pressure points and that can only be good for the health practitioners and for their patients.

Medal-Winning Physiotherapy

The 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games got off to a flying start with a flurry of medals on day one for the host nation.  But whilst all eyes are on the athletes themselves as they strive for victory, it can be easy to forget those who work hard behind the scenes to make the Games a success.

From cleaners to ticket collectors and from chefs to medical staff, those who volunteer or work at the games are on the front line when it comes to building Glasgow’s reputation.  For these games the medical team is headed by physiotherapist Liz Mendl.  Liz is in charge of some 1,400 volunteers including 400 physiotherapists.

Building on her experience of previous Commonwealth and Olympic events, Liz has introduced two innovations for these games.  The first is to head up each medical room with a ‘lead physiotherapist’ who is responsible for running the room and ensuring that those in need of help swiftly receive the appropriate treatment from the right member of the multidisciplinary team.  The second innovation is to instil ‘first contact’ physios at training venues to provide instant help for those who don’t have access to a team physio.

On their website the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) highlights some of the many physiotherapists who have volunteered to help at the games.  Browsing through the summaries provided by the volunteers it is hard not to get an overwhelming feeling of the dedication and commitment which physiotherapists give on a daily basis.  Volunteer Emma Knott comments that “there is much more to physiotherapy than the magic sponge!” perhaps summing up best the challenge faced by the profession in helping people to truly understand the role which physiotherapists can play in keeping people fit and healthy. Yes, some may be called upon to deliver remedial treatment following one-off injuries; but physiotherapists also work with people in order to mitigate life-limiting conditions or even to help individuals to stay supple, preventing injuries from occurring in the first instance.

Measures, such as those introduced by Liz at the games, can only help to improve the public perception of the role of physiotherapy within the health profession. But this in turn may bring fresh challenges to the profession. Once physiotherapists are seen as front-line first-contact health professionals rather than ‘when everything else has been tried’ last resorts the profession is going to become even busier.  When time is at a premium the last thing that should be affected is patient treatment.  After all, when you have spend years training to bring your skills to benefit others, the last thing you want to do is to see valuable time spent on routine administration. Time saving measures such as online booking, diary management, electronic patient records and appointment reminders can all help to reduce time spent on administration, thereby maximising patient treatment times.

If the remainder of the games match up to the excitement on Day 1, then we are in for a feast of sport.  Let’s hope that the medical team aren’t kept too busy and can enjoy some of the events which they have given up their time to support.

Contact us today to discover how Clinic Appointments can help your clinic. Book your free demo call now to learn more.