25 tips for buying the right Doctor's Office Software

By Russ Carpenter

While there may be a few medical practices out there that defiantly cling to their old-school ways and keep a paper appointment book and a schedule pegboard on the wall, the vast majority of doctor's offices now use some sort of practice management software to run their office. Since practice management software has been around for a long time and many offices are still using software that's 10 years or more old, many are unhappy with the features and performance of their systems. For those of you who are on the market to change or upgrade your practice management software, here are 25 tips for making the right choice.

1. Make sure the vendor is reputable. How long have they been in business? How many clients do they have? Stay away from start-ups, no matter how enticing their sales pitch is.

2. Make sure the vendor supplies at no cost updates or fixes to the program that remedies glitches or unreasonable shortcomings in the software.

3. Before buying, ask to visit some of their clients currently using the software. When possible, find one that is in your same specialty.

4. Don't skimp on the installation and implementation phase. Make your vendor pays close attention to setting up your new system. You should ask for and receive a detailed, written implementation plan before they begin.

5. Don't skimp on employee training. That fancy new software is useless if no one knows how to use it.

6. Since most offices see a significant amount of employee turnover, find out what kind of follow-up training the company offers. What is the cost of additional training?

7. Make sure the vendor is committed to updating and improving the product on a regular basis.

8. Find out how often the vendor updates the software. Stay away from companies that do not have updates and patches at least every 6 months, as this may indicate a product that is not adequately supported.

9. Look for software that can be automatically updated via the Internet.

10. Your new practice management software must have robust reporting capabilities. Stay away from systems that offer only a few canned reports and little flexibility in creating custom reports.

11. Good practice management software will be fully HIPAA compliant. The system should offer multiple levels of security and access privileges. For example, you won't want the front reception to have access to financial data.

12. Your new system should be able to track and log everything that every user does on the system. Fully logging all activity in audit trails will protect the practice in the event of an audit or allegations of employee wrongdoing.

13. Make sure the software transmits claims electronically.

14. Make sure the software connects to a good claims clearinghouse. Does the clearinghouse work with all the payers that you do business with?

15. Make sure the vendor has a good track record of partnering and interfacing with the top electronic medical records companies (EMR). An established vendor with good software will have interfaced with at least 30 or 40 of the top EMR companies.

16. Look for software that has built in or integrated automated appointment reminder calling. Stay away from systems that require you to purchase additional hardware and phone lines. The best solutions on the market use the Internet to transfer to-call lists to an offsite automated call center.

17. Make sure your new software has built in claim scrubbing and coding analysis. A good claim scrubber can bring in thousands of extra dollars each month by sending out cleaner claims.

18. Find a vendor whose system supports and electronic super bill or charge sheet. Going paperless with the super bill will greatly streamline the workflow and reduce data entry errors on the billing side.

19. Look for software that is browser-based at the workstation level. Whether self-hosted or ASP, having staff use the product via web browser will simplify the IT requirements of the office.

20. Find a system that incorporates an automated collections module to make the generation of collection letters and the collection process much less labor intensive.

21. Make sure the software has built-in, automatic eligibility verification. According to MGMA statistics, 10.7% of all claims are rejected due to eligibility issues. A good verification system can bring this rejection rate to near zero.

22. If your practice has multiple locations, make sure that the scheduling module is specially designed to easily look at multiple providers at multiple locations.

23. Find a system that allows you to assign and manage office tasks. The best systems will allow you to assign tasks to individual employees and include an automated escalation procedure if the task is not completed.

24. The best systems will offer an insurance card and driver's license scanning add-on that scans, reads and loads the information from the cards into the appropriate fields in the system. This feature is a tremendous time saver and reduces data entry errors that get a claim rejected.

25. Does the vendor offer a secure web portal for patients? The best systems will allow patients to log onto a secure website, check account balances, pay bills, set appointments and communicate with providers.

Russ B. Carpenter is a nationally-published author and expert on medical practice management software and electronic medical records software.

For more information on buying the right software, visit http://www.NetPractice.com/25tips.htm

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