Practice management software offers physicians a way to streamline the office, saving both time and money. Yet, many physicians feel overwhelmed by the vast array of practice management systems and features.
Selecting the right practice management software is a daunting task. To help determine the practice’s needs, Nancy Rowe, President of Practice Provider, recommends analyzing the workflow of the entire practice prior to shopping for the practice management software.
She encourages physicians to “start out with the front desk and work from there”. She also stresses the importance of choosing the best IT infrastructure for the practice. “Most practices don’t want to worry about hosting the software and performing daily backups” Nancy explains.
Once the workflow and IT infrastructure mapping is complete; it is time to evaluate the individual features of the practice management software.
Installation According to Nancy, “The software is a blank slate. It is all in the set up” without proper installation and set up the practice management software will not be successful.
Before signing on for any practice management software make sure it is clear who will be setting up the software. In addition, who is responsible for maintenance and upgrades, backups, and HIPAA compliance.
Training Once installation is complete, the focus becomes training. Is the practice management software user friendly and easy to train?
Both Nancy and Brian O’ Neill, Founder of Office Ally, agree that it is critical for the front desk to be up and running first. As the primary patient contact, the more efficiently the front desk gathers data the more smoothly the whole office runs.
Ongoing support Nancy feels ongoing support and training is critical to the overall success of the software. It is important to have someone available for retraining, technical issues and maintenance.
Flexibility & Customization No two practices are alike, so it is important to look for practice management software that is customizable. Whether the practice is one doctor or twenty the software should accommodate it.
The schedule itself should be flexible. Look for one that accommodates any size practice and allows different appointment lengths based on specialty. The schedule for the entire practice should be viewable on one screen.
Brian believes doctors should to automate as much as they can. A good practice management software allows doctors to streamline their workflow freeing doctors to do what they do best treat patients.
Appointments & Recall A practice management system with an automatic appointment verifier prevents lost revenue from missed appointments and unfilled time. The physician simply sets parameters such as how often and when to contact the patient and the software does the rest.
The software offered by Office Ally is an automated response. The patient can accept the appointment by pressing one or reschedule by pressing two.
All the information is uploaded into the master schedule. Doctors instantly know about cancellations and can fill the time accordingly…no lost time.
A recall function automatically sends patients’ notices about annual exams or reminders about follow up test results. Along with sending out the recalls, the practice management software should allow the physician to run monthly reports on the recalls and some practice management programs give doctors the option of setting up recall reminders to themselves to follow up with patients on specific test results.
Integration/Interoperability Electronic medical records are on every physician’s mind. Both Nancy and Brian recommend against interfacing two different products. For seamless interoperability, Office Ally offers practice management software and an EMR.
Web Based Patient Access Brian is enthusiastic about the web based patient portal offered by Office Ally. Not only does it gives patients online access to scheduling but it saves time for new patients, they can download new patient paperwork and fill it out in the comfort of their own homes eliminating additional data entry for the office staff.
Also, online patient scheduling saves office staff from long scheduling calls freeing them up for other tasks and Brian feels patients are more apt to describe symptoms online then over the phone.
Super charts Using the customized billing sheets known as super charts prevents billing errors and speeds up insurance payments. Nancy notes that doctors can’t “go outside the box with a super chart, it makes sure the procedure codes fit the type of visit. It is especially helpful with Medicare patients“.
Financials The ability to upload payments directly from the insurance companies into the practice management software is a huge time saver for the billing staff.
Couple that with a super bills prepared by the doctor from his mobile device and the billing cycle is cut down significantly. Often the doctor can see patient, check off items on super bill and send the bill immediately to the insurance. By the time, the patient is done with the appointment a final bill is waiting at the front desk.
Good reports are key to keeping the practice running. According to Brian “Doctors need to think in a business way” and a good PM system helps them do it.
His system allows doctors to take electronic checks, credit cards, or even make monthly payment arrangements. With customizable reports the doctors has the ability to run reports by location, physician, patient, or insurance.
Accessibility It is important to have the ability to limit access to the various modules. The practice management software should give doctors the ability to grant user specific access and access to view but not modify-this eliminates accidental file deletion.
With the above features the practice management software will become an invaluable asset to the practice.
Jennifer is a Wisconsin based writer. She has a special interest in technology. Her works have been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and online. Her business background has allowed her to work in various fields including; Construction, Accounting and most recently Audio Visual.