While physicians rarely need to interact with practice management software directly, it is indispensable for office staff. The system you adopt plays a significant role in the success or failure of your practice. When selecting practice management software, keep the following factors in mind.
The cost of any practice management system varies widely. Factors such as the size of your practice and the features you select influence the cost. Most companies will give you a ballpark estimate when you call; however, there could be a lot of hidden costs and optional features that quickly increase the base price.
When you contact software providers, be prepared to tell them the number of physicians in the practice, the features you absolutely need, which features aren't essential, and how many people will use the software. Obtain a written list of the features you will get with the software and the exact cost of those features before you sign up with any company. Without clear, written confirmation, it's tough to determine what features are included in the system for the standard price and what costs extra, so you might end up paying a lot more for features you could live without.
Ease of Use
Implementing and adapting to a new system is difficult enough as it is. It's imperative that the people who will use the new software are comfortable navigating it, so include your staff in the decision-making process. They should at least be moderately comfortable with the system. Ideally, the software company will provide training and a company representative who can guide staff through the learning curve and answer any questions your staff has about the software.
Practice management programs are organized differently; for example, some systems use a central dashboard to organize the software's features, while others have dropdown menus and multiple pop-up windows. Knowing what layout suits your practice's workflow will aid in a successful transition. Any new system will naturally slow down productivity at first, but it shouldn't throw your entire practice into chaos.
Experience With Specialties
Specialty medical practices have nuances that won't be reflected by a general software program. Make sure that the software you choose is widely used by other providers within your specialty. Ask other physicians in your field which programs they use and if they like them. Talk to the software vendor about any features specific to your specialty. Otherwise, you might end up with a barebones system that is not optimized for the functions you require.
Another important consideration when choosing practice management software is how well it interfaces with the EHR system your practice uses. Interfacing is the capability of the two systems to communicate with one another and share relevant data. Two systems that interface well can reduce the time involved in entering and transferring data. If you're scheduling patients and recording demographic information, that data should automatically update in the EHR system when the patient comes in for a visit. Likewise, after a patient has been treated, the EHR system should automatically transmit the billing info to the practice management program.
Even great practice management software can become a nightmare if it isn't compatible with your EHR. If the two systems can't communicate, your staff will enter and reenter the same data repeatedly, which takes them away from more pressing tasks.
Reporting and Data Analysis
Besides performing billing tasks well, a practice management system should create robust reports and analyze data, showing you exactly where your practice stands financially. Simply managing your revenue cycle is not enough for your practice to remain viable; detailed reports and analyses go a long way in improving your cash flow. For example, many systems can tell you which physicians are the most productive for your practice or what neighborhoods most of your patients come from.
By identifying what works and what doesn't, you can keep your practice on a sure-footed path to profitability. If your practice management software allows you to electronically share those reports with other members of your practice, that's even better.
Even if the software is incredibly easy to use, there is still a learning curve with any new software program. Consider the varying degrees of technical aptitude among your staff members. When people are adapting to new software, no matter how intuitive it is, they'll need some guidance now and again. All of our best picks offer comprehensive training, either onsite, online, or both.
As you talk with software companies, ask whether they offer additional staff training during and after the implementation period, and what that training costs. Finally, make sure you receive, in writing, all of the training opportunities the company offers and the cost of that training.
With any complex software system, it's inevitable that you will eventually encounter a problem. The software provider should be available to answer your questions and help you troubleshoot issues. Further, if an issue arises on the software company's end, you need assurance that it will quickly resolve the problem. It's important to find out whether support is available 24/7 or if you can only contact tech assistance during normal business hours.
Some providers assign a direct liaison, or account representative, to your practice. Other companies have a tech support call center; however, some issues might be more difficult to solve if the support rep is unfamiliar with the setup of your practice management system. This is when a dedicated account representative comes in handy, because they will be familiar with your practice.
A good relationship with a practice management software provider is founded on trust. Adopting a new system is a significant investment of time and money for your practice. Before you sign up, ask the representative to specify the support the software provider offers and any additional services (and costs) that are considered beyond the standard support the provider offers.
Key takeaway: Consider cost, user interface, available features, applicability to your specialty, training options, support packages and implementation processes when choosing a medical software provider.