Evaluating Practice Management Software
The practice management software you choose to process patient claims and handle patient administrative records should be an integral part of your practice's operations.
Posted in Patient Experience on Tuesday, January 5, 2016
As you assess your needs for this software, determine if an integrated electronic health record is preferred.
Practice Management Software and/or EHR System
Some vendors may offer a combined package to address both EHR and billing needs.
A billing system typically provides a full-service billing program and accounts receivable management. For example, it might include:
- How much was billed, when and the disposition
- Payment and account payment processing analysis
- Accounts receivable balance and aging analysis
- Collection analysis per visit
An EHR system automates the entire documentation cycle, from admission and initial visit, to outcome assessments and reporting.
The EHR contains clinical information captured and documented about the patient and their care from the practice this record resides as well clinical results, referrals and consultations from other providers of care for a comprehensive view of a patient health care and maintenance.
Whether you choose an integrated approach or separate systems depends on your practice needs.
How to Shop for Software
Since practice management software is such a specialized product, where do you begin to shop for the package that is right for your practice? What features do you really need? And who are the reputable software vendors?
The best way to start is to ask for references from other D.C.s and their staff who use the software every day.
This will give you an idea of what to look for and who the best vendors are (those that have both a quality product and accessibility to provide customer service).
If you want to conduct some online research, here are two places to start:
- www.chiroceco.com – publishes an annual review of chiropractic software
- www.cocsa.org – The Congress of Chiropractic State Associations’ web site provides links to state chiropractic associations that may have recommended vendors.
You can also contact your state chiropractic association for a list of vendors. (The Congress of Chiropractic State Associations' web site provides links to all the state chiropractic associations -- www.cocsa.org.)
TIP: If you're considering a medically based program, you may discover that it requires considerable time and energy converting the system for use in a chiropractic office.
Choosing a Billing Software Product
These are just a few questions you may want to ask when evaluating a particular product:
- What data options will the system provide in addition to billing?
- Can you build your database in the system?
- Will it allow you to capture, combine and export this data?
- Can you send notices and appointment reminders to patients?
- Does it include a record keeping component?
- Does it include an appointment schedule?
- Does the billing component allow for billing secondary carriers without re-entering all patient and billing data?
- Is the report function complete for your needs?
- Can you download a demo before you purchase and enter your own information to see if the system is easy to use?
What to Consider Before Purchasing
Here are some other points to consider before making a billing software purchase:
- Make sure support is readily available, especially during the initial data entry phase. Stories abound about offices that found out too late that they had entered hundreds of pages of data incorrectly.
- Make sure the software is easy to learn. Sales people and tech support know the program. They have been intimately involved with it and sometimes find it difficult to work with a real beginner. Take it for a test drive yourself!
- Buy tried and true software. Never be a test site. Beware when a salesperson tells you they are "working out the bugs" or will trade extra support time for your being a guinea pig for the system.
- Be sure the company sends a person to install the hardware/software and do a complete run through. Be sure the company will not charge you to come back and fix things that did not work when they initially installed the hardware/software.
- Discuss in advance the length of time the company will either replace/repair the system at no charge to you. If there is an electrical failure that takes down your hardware, are you covered? Don't skimp on surge protection! A strike of lightning can take down your internet connection and phone lines. Be protected.
- Establish a relationship with one tech support person. Find the right person within the company for you and work solely with him/her. Beware of companies who brag that "all their tech support staff are equally trained."
- If you are purchasing a practice, hire a tech specialist to make an assessment of the existing computer system. Be sure the system has the most recent upgrades installed. If the hardware/software is almost "to max" you will be facing a costly replacement. It may be a consideration in the negotiations.
- Perform due diligence before considering the final purchase. This simply means weighing the pros and cons and getting advice from members of your practice support team. For example, your accountant can help you address what features you really need and your attorney can advise you about any support contracts you might need to sign.