Meet Ginger Desk, virtual assistants for health practitioners who offer support to clinics across North America 🇨🇦 🇺🇸
Story by Jack Murphy
Julie Durnan is a Naturopathic Doctor, clinic owner, and founder of Ginger Desk, a virtual assistant company supporting clinics across North America.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I am a naturopathic physician and I’ve been practising for 16 years. My background is in naturopathic medicine, where I specialize in pediatric and women’s health. I opened my clinic, Restoration Health Clinic, in Lynn Valley, British Columbia, in 2015. I started my clinic to help foster incredible support through naturopathic medicines because I truly believe our individual parts cannot be healthy without treating the whole person. Our team of naturopathic physicians, acupuncturists, and nutritional consultants offers personalized naturopathic care designed to meet our clients’ individual needs.
Why did you create Ginger Desk?
Ginger Desk began in 2020 because I was watching as my colleagues retreated from their brick-and-mortar clinics due to the COVID-19 health crisis. They were moving home to work from their basement suites, their home offices, or their spare bedrooms, and were just starting to provide treatment through telehealth. A lot of these practitioners thought that this would be super easy, but the reality was far from it.
A lot of clinicians were having to continue to do work after they put their kids to bed at night or they were having to cut down their actual billable patient hours so that they could get their documents filed appropriately.
I was so lucky that I had the most amazing staff at my clinic, and we were completely set up with all our processes for running our clinic before the pandemic. When we had to move to remote work, we were able to transition very quickly. This was only because of the previous work we had done to document all our clinic’s processes.
So I thought, what if I could build a team that could support health practitioners remotely to the same degree that I was being supported by my staff. So that’s what I did; I used the same systems that we employed at my clinic, and I got to work building out a remote program for other clinics to use.
Can you describe what a virtual assistant is for those that might be wondering and how that role fits into a clinic?
The name virtual assistant is tricky because commonly people perceive a virtual assistant as someone who’s there as tech support for a business owner, web programming, or social media. But now there’s this new category that we’re introducing which is patient care coordinators (which we call virtual assistants) **that are working remotely. At Ginger Desk, we’re hiring, training, and managing industry-trained medical office assistants and teaching them how to serve health practitioners remotely to support them in the day-to-day workflow at busy clinics.
When did Ginger Desk start working with clinics?
We went live with our very first client in the fall of 2020 with our first three virtual assistants. We started it as a little pilot project here in British Columbia, Canada. It was so popular that by January 2021, we had launched in Toronto. By May of that same year, we had opened up our wait lists across the US. So in those first twelve months, we were across Canada and the US.
🌟 We’ve been in operation for 18 months now, and the team is currently comprised of 30 women working across Canada.
We work with all types of practitioners across many different disciplines. I always like to share that we have a professional advisory committee made up of an MD, a physiotherapist, a psychologist, a chiropractor, and a dietitian all there to ensure that we’re supporting the needs of these distinct disciplines to the best of our ability.
What do you think Ginger Desk’s biggest success has been in your first 18 months of operating?
I think the biggest success has been the team that we’ve built here at Ginger Desk. Growing the team has been incredibly humbling.
🌟 It’s been the honour of my life to support women across Canada that can now raise their children, nurture their families, and manage a household all while they still advance their careers. It’s hard for me to describe how amazing it’s been to be able to facilitate people being at home with their families.
Let’s not forget the pets too; the dogs and cats. They’ve gotten so used to us working from home. We get to make sure they receive as much love as they deserve with their family at home, too. 🥰
I think that there’s this idea that a virtual assistant means you are disconnected from the actual clinic, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at Ginger Desk.
We’re very much a part of the team! We’ve developed very specific touch points to nurture those relationships between practitioner and virtual assistant. We’re very mindful about building those connections because, unlike when you’re in the office, we don’t just happen to walk by the front desk or your office and have a quick chat. We have to make it purposeful, so we have created systems to enable that.
What do you think the advantages are for clinics that hire a virtual assistant?
There are so many advantages! The number one benefit is cost. There’s so much cost associated with having someone being in a space and possibly sitting idle. Our virtual assistants can cost 1/4 of what it costs to hire, train and manage conventional medical office staff.
For smaller, or solo clinics, virtual assistants provide that administrative freedom by relieving the burden of juggling admin tasks between patient sessions and after clinical hours. It means more time working, earning, and maximizing profits. On top of that, their patients are enjoying better and more consistent clinic interactions between their visits.
The second reason is that with virtual assistants, there’s no cost of turnover. We’ve always got another virtual assistant to step in if someone is going on vacation or parental leave. You’ll always have the peace of mind that you’re going to be reliably covered.
When it comes to productivity, we have the ability to work in an uninterrupted environment too. We can do patient or client recalls one after another without worrying about any typical in-office distractions.
🌟 We also really complement in-office staff. We can take on dedicated tasks that are burdening the front desk staff so that they can really focus on working with the patients who are there in person or on the phone without interruption.
We can also handle all of a clinic’s filing. All the direct billings, sending off the invoices, handling all the clinic’s e-mails, scheduling, and rescheduling of appointments. We have great onboarding systems in place to make sure that we’re up to speed on all of the processes and needs before we ever go live with their patients.
How do you think virtual assistants fit into larger, established clinics?
That’s such a great question because we usually work with what we call the “micro practice” which is a clinic that is run by only one or two people. For the owners of large-scale clinics, we typically work with them in two main capacities.
The first is working on specific dedicated tasks; clinic-wide billing for example. 90% of what the front desk does in relation to billing can be done remotely by a virtual assistant. We just can’t welcome and help patients in the clinic, but we can certainly do everything else. We love to work with large clinics where their systems are clearly defined. We can join them and take that load off the front desk so that they can be more efficient at their dedicated roles without having to worry about pulling double duty, which can often result in losing dedicated staff due to burnout.
The other times that we’ve been hired by large clinics are in times of transition. Over the last few years, a lot of people have been calling this the great resignation. Clinic owners are losing a lot of staff, and it’s hard to hire. We’ve been there to help and step in with our virtual assistants that are already trained on Jane to cover that gap until they can hire another full-time staff member.
We’re very intentional about how we match clinicians and practices with one of our virtual assistants. We also match our virtual assistants with one of our office managers who are there to do progress reviews, oversee tasks, and manage our virtual assistants’ time. There’s no management required on the clinic side of things. That’s been a huge relief for the clinics we work with. The clinic owners specifically understand that value because it allows them to then spend more time helping patients.
What is your advice for anyone looking to hire a virtual assistant?
I think the first thing I would ask (and we don’t get asked this enough) is, “what is your clinic’s onboarding process?”
I’ve seen a lot of other virtual assistant companies say yes, we can get started tomorrow in your clinic. But you don’t necessarily want that or need that. As a clinic owner myself, I know that I don’t want someone coming in cold to my practice tomorrow and talking to my patients. There needs to be a comprehensive onboarding program to ensure that people are up to speed on your specific practice nuances and that your virtual assistant is representing your clinic just as well as your staff would be in person.
Tell us how you first heard about Jane?
When I opened my clinic in 2015, Jane was still somewhat new and I got the chance to meet Jane’s co-founder Alison. At that time she was offering demos right from her clinic, which was only a few minutes away from my own clinic. After that demo, we very quickly signed on to Jane.
We love love love Jane! It’s made our processes so much more efficient in my practice. I also say that it makes our virtual assistant services much more efficient. Everyone at Ginger Desk is well versed in using Jane, too, because we’ve seen the value its tools offer us, and clinics to help more people.
What feature in Jane is your favourite to use?
Jane Payments is one of our favourites! It allows our virtual assistants to support our practitioners billing needs remotely. Also, the direct insurance billing integration has been a lifesaver for our Canadian-based practitioners, too.
What’s a favourite Jane tip you think everyone should know?
Enable automatic wait list notifications! It really helps to relieve the burden on clinics for those callbacks where you can very easily miss an opening, especially if it happens after the clinic has closed for the day. It’s been such a lifesaver for clinics and practitioners that we work with to keep their schedules full.
🌟 We nerded out here at Ginger Desk about Wait List Notifications when it was first released, our team chat was lighting up we were so excited.
🗣 Feature callout: Last-minute cancellation? No problem. You can use Jane’s automatic wait list notifications to send an SMS and/or email notification to your wait-listed clients to give them exclusive access to book the new openings in your schedule. Check out the guide on Setting up your Wait List Notifications here to set them up in your account.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received that would be beneficial to someone starting their journey as a practitioner or clinic owner?
The best advice I ever received was to document everything you do. Systematize your practice. When it’s all in your head, it’s not possible for an assistant or for a new staff member to recreate it. Document, document, document everything! I’m a big fan of office manuals. They’re worth their weight in gold. They’re how practitioners are building their empires, they’re required.
🌟 You don’t want to build on rocky foundations. If you can document your processes, you can then scale, and that’s the key in business that health practitioners sometimes don’t realize, but it really will serve them many, many times over.
What is Ginger Desk’s superpower?
Ginger Desk’s superpower is anticipating the needs of a practice and optimizing the use of Jane for them. We’ve really seen the way that Jane has helped my own clinic, and through our trained virtual assistants, we’re using Jane to help so many more clinics. We’re all about creating repeatable office systems on the admin side of clinics, whether that’s using our Jane expertise or our extensive clinic experience.
Oftentimes, clinics don’t know what they need when they reach out to us, but they know they need help. We’re able to step in and show them exactly what needs fixing every time.
Resources from Ginger Desk
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