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, the features you select, etc., influence the cost. Most companies, when you call, will give you a ballpark estimate; however, there can be a lot of hidden costs and optional features that could quickly increase the base price.
When contacting providers, be prepared to relate the number of physicians in the practice, the features you absolutely need, which features aren't essential and how many will use. 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 know what features are included in the system, what costs extra, and you might end up paying a lot more for features you could live without.
Ease of Use
Implementing a new system and adapting to it is difficult enough as it is. It's imperative that the people who will use the new software are comfortable navigating it. Consult with your staff and include them in the decision-making process. They should at least be moderately comfortable with the system, and, 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 different features, while others have dropdown menus and multiple popup windows. Knowing what layout suits your practice's workflow will aid in a successful transition. Any new system will naturally slow productivity at first, but it shouldn't throw your entire practice into chaos.
Experience with Specialties
You want to ensure that the software you choose is widely used by other providers within your specialty. Ask other physicians you know in your field which programs they use and if they like them.
There are nuances with a specialty medical practice that won't be reflected by a general software program. Talk to the software vendor, ask them about the features that are specific to your specialty that are reflected in the system. 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 should be how well it interfaces with the EHR system your practice uses. Interfacing refers to the capability of both 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 info, that data should automatically be updated with 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 re-enter 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 toward helping you improve 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 success and 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. However, 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 the costs are for that training. Finally, make sure you receive, in writing, all of the training opportunities the company offers and the cost(s) of that training.
It's inevitable, as with all complex systems, that you will eventually encounter a problem. The provider should be available to answer your questions and help you troubleshoot issues. Further, if an issue arises on their end, you need assurance that they will quickly resolve the problem.
Some providers assign a direct liaison, or account representative, to your practice. Other companies have a tech support call center; however, depending on the issue, it might be more difficult to solve a problem if the support rep is unfamiliar with the setup of your practice management system.
Moreover, it's important to find out whether support is available 24/7 or if you can only contact tech assistance during normal business hours.
A good relationship with a practice management provider is founded on trust. Adopting a new system is a significant investment of time and money for your practice. Before you sign up with a provider, 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.