What should you consider when looking for a new practice management system?
Whether you’ve resisted the pull to implement a practice management system or your first system (or second) just isn’t living up to your expectations, you may be looking to select a new PM system for your medical practice. But how do you find the right one? It takes dedication, planning, and some careful thought, but it’s not impossible. To ensure that your new system checks all of the right boxes, consider the important features the software should include. Here are a few things to consider while determining your next move towards PM software…
How much will a new PM system cost?
Obviously you have a budget and the system you choose needs to fit into it. We encourage you to look at cost as more than just a price tag. Think of cost in terms of value. The price tag will change depending on what you need, the features you choose, and how many physicians are in your practice. When contemplating price, the most important thing to understand is exactly what you are getting for exactly how much money. From there, you can determine the value.
When shopping for software, go into each vendor conversation with a complete understanding of what you need. From there, obtain a complete written list of which features are included for what cost before you agree to a partnership. Don’t sign on the dotted line until you understand exactly what it is you’re buying. If at any point you feel the value isn’t there, move on.
Look for PM technology that fits the needs of your office.
A practice management system can only make your life easier if it’s easy to use. Talk to your staff to find out what they’d like to see. Take them along for the ride of shopping and ask them which systems they feel they’d be comfortable working on. Analyze your practice’s workflow and see which PM matches that process best. Finally, ask your vendor if they’ll offer you a company representative to guide you through the transition period. Ideally, they will and this will help you and your staff to get your bearings straight.
Is Cloud-based or local hosting best for you practice?
There are two options for how your practice management software will be hosted. These options include local servers owned and maintained by your practice, or the PM company’s servers accessed through the cloud. Hosting your system locally may sound like the simpler, less expensive solution, but that’s not always true. If you host your system locally you’ll need to make sure you have adequate servers as well as an IT staff. Servers require dedicated staff to maintain and update the system and provide security.
On the other hand, if you choose the cloud-based option, all security, maintenance, and updating concerns are the vendor’s responsibility. This also typically carries a lower up-front cost, as access to the cloud comes with a monthly subscription fee. However, if you decide to use the cloud, it’s important to understand who actually owns the data you store there. Check with your vendor to ensure you won’t incur fees or have difficulty transferring your data if you ever switch systems.
Does the PM system interface with your existing EHR?
By now, you likely have an electronic health records (EHR) system in place at your practice. Another important factor to consider with practice management systems is how well it will interface with your existing EHR. Interfacing capabilities will prevent your team from completing double entry work. If your systems interface well together, you can save a lot of time and extra steps. With that being said, if your systems don’t interface well you could face a data entry nightmare. Often it’s best to purchase both systems from the same vendor so you can be sure the two will work together. However, that’s not always necessary as long as your new PM solution will interface well with the EHR you’ve grown to love.
Does your budget allow for customization?
Your PM system should be responsive to your practice’s needs and this may require some customization. This is another area where it’s important to know what you need so that you can describe it when talking to your vendor. Confirm with your vendor whether you’ll incur additional fees for customization. This will help to ensure your budget allows for the most efficient pm system possible.
What kind of reporting and data analysis does the PM offer?
Robust reports and the ability to analyze financial data can make or break a practice. The ability to keep your finger on the pulse of your practice allows you to make adjustments as necessary. Be sure to choose a PM system that will allow you to pull reports that will keep you in the know and keep your revenues flowing.
Does the PM vendor offer training?
As with any new technology, a new PM system will come with its own learning curve. Find out from the vendor in advance what you can expect in the way of training and how much it will cost you. Get this in writing and as you go through implementation, be sure you’re getting what you were promised. Thorough training up front can save you tons of time and headaches later. Proper training will give your staff the confidence they need to harness the true power of your new system.
Vendor support is a must.
There’s no such thing as a problem-free software system. What matters, however, is how the vendor responds when a problem arises. Be sure that you understand what type of support your vendor offers, how much it costs, and when you can get it. A good vendor will always stand behind their product and help you through when there’s an issue.
It can feel intimidating to choose a practice management system, but it doesn’t have to. It simply takes a little investigation and thought to find the right system for your practice. Cost is important, but so is value. As you shop around, consider the points above, and be sure the system offers all the features you need.