Business technology trends and outlook for 2016
In this issue we review some business technology trends that we foresee affecting RMTs in 2016 and beyond.
By Jessica Foster
Smart tablets are in. Smart tablets today are no longer the simple entertainment devices they once were. For both in-clinic and mobile therapy usage, smart tablets are now legitimate business tools with fully featured operating systems that perform like a desktop computer. From the practitioner’s viewpoint, these tablets are more convenient than traditional laptops. They are lightweight, very portable, run business applications, provide access to the Internet and are compatible with advanced RMT practice management services.
As a cautionary note, due to their portability, RMTs need to use best practices with respect to “locking-down” these devices when they are not in use. Should your tablet get lost or stolen you do not want anyone to have access to your clinic and personal records.
Continuing trend in use of online services to manage practice. Massage therapists historically used separate vendor specific solutions to manage various aspects of their practice: one solution for schedule management, another for treatment billing, yet another for charting, and the list goes on. Over the past few years, RMT practices, ranging from individual solo practices to large clinics, have realized there are substantial benefits to a system that combines all these tools into a single solution. Not only does this approach offer cost savings, it also provides therapists a single point of user support and the benefits of an integrated system to manage their practice. We see this trend continuing into 2016 and beyond.
Realizing smart phone technology limitations. Smart phones are clearly mainstream communication tools and are a valuable business asset. However, they do not replace full-featured computing devices and larger screens. RMTs will continue to adopt smart phones to keep in touch with their practice activities, such as client booking requests and viewing upcoming schedule. They see the benefit of using smart phones to respond to client inquiries immediately and from anywhere with a cell/Internet connection.
Savvy RMTs will also continue to recognize that their clients are also mobile-centric and understand the importance of catering to their needs. There is a growing trend to fulfill these client needs with a mobile-friendly, device-responsive website. This allows site visitors to access the information on their site and hopefully create online booking requests, no matter what device they are using.
Online merchant accounts. We are living in a plastic payment world. Most massage therapists accept credit card payment as an option in the form of “in-person” payment systems via traditional card swiping devices. RMTs are now finding their clients are increasingly wishing to pay for services or products (gift certificates, etc.) online through the RMT’s website. This is a client preference worth noting. Many merchant account vendors offer processing services that integrate into your website that your clients can access online. Just like the in-person merchant accounts, these online services charge a fee based on a small percentage of each transaction, and possibly a nominal monthly fee. In addition, most of these merchants offer in-person card swipe terminals so that they address both your in-person and online payment transactions. We foresee more RMTs moving to these services in the coming year.
Online search, research and study. RMTs are adopting the Internet for research to aid in increasing the knowledge they employ in practice and treatments. More and more, RMT colleges, associations and related organizations encourage practitioners to provide clinically useful feedback and to utilize these organizations’ online learning resources to their fullest extent. This trend encompasses research websites, professional social media sites as well as private online user groups. The Internet affords time and cost-effective collaboration amongst geographically dispersed complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) organizations. One could also speculate that a growth in Masters and PhD level research into CAM specializations is increasing the body of evidence-based findings, that in turn uses the Internet to distribute this knowledge.
Use of IT professionals. As RMTs become increasingly reliant on technology in their practice, it is critical that their computing devices are available when they are needed. Therapists are recognizing that from time to time they need assistance setting up and maintaining their computers and Internet appliances. As a result, they are developing business relationships with local IT professionals to assist them on those infrequent occasions when help is needed. They are finding it keeps their practice running smoothly and is well worth their while to leave these matters to their trusted IT advisor.
The very best to you in 2016. Until next time, be well.
Jessica Foster writes on behalf of mindZplay Solutions, provider of massage therapy websites and practice management solutions. To learn more, visit www.massagemanedger.com.