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Best Practice Management Software for Billing: athenahealth Review

medical practice
Credit: Have a nice day Photo/Shutterstock

After conducting our 2018 research and analysis of practice management software, we recommend athenahealth as the best practice management software for billing.

We chose athenahealth from a pool of dozens of practice management software programs. To learn about our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of practice management solutions, see Business News Daily's best picks.

One of practice management software's most important functions is to improve a practice's billing success. Good practice management software supports your staff in billing endeavors, making it easier to capture charges, code claims and catch errors before they are submitted. Many tools are available to support an in-house billing department, but they vary in effectiveness from one software solution to another.

Editor's note: Looking for practice management software for your medical practice? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free.

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Our choice for the best practice management software for billing is athenahealth, primarily because of its massive rules engine designed to catch and flag errors prior to claim submission. This claims scrubber, which alerts staff to potential causes of claim rejection, is based on the insights drawn from more than 100,000 providers within Athenahealth's network. athenahealth claims its practice management approach has collectively resulted in 32 percent faster payments and a 94 percent first-pass claims rate, which is high compared to other vendors in our review.

athenahealth's billing module, known as athenaCollector, aims to capture more claims on the first pass and get payments to your practice faster. athenahealth's billing tools are really where it stands out from the crowd. These are the best billing features it includes:

  • Patient insurance eligibility verification: Staff can verify information about a patient's insurance prior to their appointment, speeding up intake and reducing wait times.
  • Collective rules engine: Athenahealth monitors its network of more than 100,000 providers to determine what works and what doesn't. The company implements those strategies in your practice, using a claims scrubber based on these lessons to catch mistakes and missed opportunities before they become a problem for your bottom line.
  • Custom benchmarking: Athenahealth also leverages its network to set benchmark goals for your practice based on other practices similar in size and specialty so you can gauge how well you're doing comparatively.
  • Central dashboard: This shows an overview of your entire practice management operation. Staff can see patients' complete billing information as well as the daily schedule. They can update patient information directly in the dashboard and customize the dashboard appearance to match their workflow.
  • Claims management: All details from patient encounters are brought up during the claims creation process, so it is easy to code claims and ensure all charges are captured. The rules engine double-checks all work prior to submission and alerts staff of any errors in real time. More than 40 million rules have been established by Athenahealth's denial monitoring team, which continues to review denied claims and add new rules to the system, constantly improving the claims scrubber.

Scheduling tools are also an important aspect of practice management software. A good practice management solution should lighten the burden on your staff around setting appointments and organizing the calendar. Automated tools such as appointment reminders and patient portals streamline operations without placing additional responsibilities on staff members.

  • Central dashboard: This shows an overview of your schedule alongside billing and allows staff to update patient information directly in the dashboard. It also supports custom workflows.
  • Patient check-in: Patients can check themselves in prior to an appointment with athenahealth, reducing intake and wait times. They can also pay any copayments or outstanding balances through the patient portal with a credit or debit card. Payment plans are also available.
  • Appointment setting: Patients can be scheduled and filtered by a number of criteria, including type of appointment, provider, location and time. Automated email, text and phone reminders reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations.

For new practices, athenahealth's implementation should only take about a month. For existing practices with data migration needs, it is generally a longer process. During the implementation process, your practice is paired with a dedicated account manager who acts as your liaison with the company. athenahealth will help configure the system to suit your workflows, establish any custom templates on both the clinical and administrative side, and build any desired integrations.

The company also provides training in the form of one-on-one calls, conference calls, and self-guided materials like videos and literature. Training is fully included in the cost of the system, and the dedicated account manager remains associated with your practice even after implementation is complete. This account manager serves as your direct line to technical support, and you have access to a general customer service number as well.

athenahealth boasts high interoperability. Not only will your practice be interoperable with every other practice that operates on athenahealth's platform, you'll also benefit from hundreds of thousands of integrations with other systems and applications that have been built since athenahealth was founded. Moreover, athenahealth will build out any desired integrations on behalf of its clients, so even if the connection you want does not already exist, it could with a simple request.

Our customer service experience with athenahealth was adequate but not exceptional. The representative we spoke with was fairly knowledgeable but did repeatedly try to connect us with another person. After a while, he began to answer our questions in appropriate detail, and he did send us a follow-up email with his contact information and additional learning resources. He was a little bit pushy at first, but once we reiterated that we wouldn't be committing, he eased up and continued to discuss the software with us.

athenahealth's biggest limitation is its user interface, which looks slightly dated and sometimes feels a bit cluttered and text-heavy. However, as with most practice management software, the learning curve can be overcome with a little bit of time and guidance. While not particularly aesthetically pleasing or intuitive at first glance, it is clearly labeled enough that a user could figure it out after familiarizing themselves with the system.

We also had a mediocre customer service experience with athenahealth compared to our other best picks, though all our questions were ultimately answered. It is worth noting that one customer service interaction is not necessarily indicative of the company's typical level of service.

Ready to choose your practice management software? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for practice management software for your medical practice? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free.

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Adam C. Uzialko

Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and Business.com, Adam freelances for a variety of outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.