Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

Choosing the best practice management system for your practice

Michael May
August 25, 2021

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Despite the popularity of practice management software (PMS) programs, surprisingly, many practices today still rely on manual and paper-based systems.

And while it might be manageable for some small or low-volume practices, sticking to manual processes is risky business. Such workflows require more time to carry out, there is a higher chance of making mistakes, and some tasks are doomed to be forgotten about altogether.

With the constant stress of balancing client satisfaction, profitability, and managing your team, there are certainly more benefits to implementing a PMS than not doing so.

Guide to practice management software Medesk Practice Management Software

What is a Practice Management Software?

Before we go into the details of what a practice management system does and what selection criteria should be, let’s start by defining what a PMS actually is.

A Practice Management System is a single console software that covers all the needs of a medical practice. It is used to automate and streamline all major workflows, such as administrative tasks, appointment scheduling, billing, communication with patients, reporting and compliance. A PMS also serves as a single patient database, storing all their personal and medical history in a single place, available to the medical staff at any point in time, and also structured for ease of use.

Such systems increase productivity, efficiency, and transparency, helping your private practice manager to save time and stay on top of all operations.

Find out more about how practice management software helps you match your patients' expectations at every turn

The difference between EHR and PMS

Sometimes there is confusion between electronic health records (EHR) and practice management systems.

An EHR is a set of information that belongs to each patient. It is a digital version of one’s medical history that can be shared across multiple medical institutions. A practice management system also stores patients’ data but, unlike an EHR, it is primarily designed for administrative purposes.

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Find out more about why your EHR and practice management system should go hand in hand

Core features of a practice management system

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Every PMS is different, but there is a list of core features that you can see in most solutions on the market.

Appointment scheduling and reminders

A convenient system helps administrative staff spend less time scheduling appointments. Many solutions also include an online booking option where patients can choose the date and time directly on the clinic’s website or social media pages. There is usually real-time insight into doctor’s availability, and the system prevents double-bookings and scheduling conflicts. Automated email and SMS reminders help reduce the no-show percentage, as well as offloading such repetitive tasks from receptionists.

Electronic health records (EHR)

EHR tools allow staff to quickly access, enter, and edit basic patient information (such as contact details) and medical history (previous visits and diagnoses, allergies, and past prescriptions). An EHR is convenient for both doctors and patients. Doctors spend less time browsing through the medical records, as everything is logically arranged and easy to access. Patients, in turn, enjoy more personal visits and benefit from their doctor’s undivided attention. As the system stores comprehensive data, there is less chance of an incorrect diagnosis or inappropriate prescribing. This results in the delivery of excellent healthcare.

Find out How to Choose the Best EHR Software for Your Clinic

Consultation notes and templates

Doctors able to instantly add notes to the patient’s record and use templates for prescriptions will spend less time on paperwork and dedicate more energy to listening to the patient, building rapport, and finding the best treatment plan. PMS solutions typically offer customisable templates and auto-complete functions to maximise efficiency.

Financial operations

With financial and accounting tools built into the system, there is no need to use third-party solutions. This allows practices to manage entire workflows efficiently and internally. Managers can easily track all stages of the process.

Reports and analytics

Reporting and analytics features provide detailed information on the performance and health of the practice as a business. Reports can be used to understand what different target audiences prefer, which services are most and least profitable, and if there is overspending in some areas of business. It is possible to track how well colleagues are carrying out their duties, how much time tasks require, what percentage of appointments end up in a no-show, and much more. This functionality is irreplaceable when it comes to annual overviews and future strategy planning. It helps the practice stay healthy and successful.

Find out How to How to Benefit from a Systematic Approach in Practice Management

Apart from the ‘core’ functionality, private practice software offers a range of other features, with some of them being more relevant in your specific case than the other. When you are creating a list of your must-have features, we recommend that you include telemedicine.

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Ever since the start of the pandemic, telemedicine has seen a spike in use in private practices across the world. New technologies that allow remote appointments with doctors are now widely accepted and even expected by many patients. It helps those in remote locations or with limited mobility get the help that they need. Telemedicine is also perfect for post-op checkups or repeat prescriptions. It is likely that it will be used more and more moving forward.

Find out more about Telemedicine, Telehealth & mHealth

Some of the benefits that Practice Management Software offers

Practice management software can help practices and patients in many different ways:

  • Reduce the time spent on admin tasks, such as manual billing and callbacks. Instead, the extra time can be allocated to alternative tasks, for example, planning for more patient acquisition.

  • Fewer no-shows, better structured calendars for clinicians and a stable revenue flow. By using automated SMS and emails , practices can remind patients about upcoming appointments, reducing the risk of no-shows and last-minute cancellations.

  • Improved communication, both internally and externally. PMS solutions make everything transparent, allowing us to see who is working on which projects, and how much has already been done. With a clear structure in place, there is less chance of workplace conflicts. Also, by using reports and analytics, practices can spot potential issues and nip them in the bud before they become a real problem. Patients, on the other hand, benefit from any automation that optimises their interaction with the practice while maintaining a personalised approach as all their personal and medical data is used to provide them with a bespoke experience.

  • Facilitated growth thanks to streamlined workflow, automation, reporting, and structured data. With a PMS in place, clinics get the extra boost they need to attract more patients, stay competitive and financially successful without compromising on quality.

Find out more about Patient Management Software and its benefits for clinicians

Key Practice Management Software criteria outside of functionality

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When it comes to choosing a system that will form the base of all your business operations, it is important to look beyond just functionality:

  • Firstly, medical software must be easy to work with. It will be used by many people across different departments, and it should fit even those team members who have limited experience with computers.

  • The platform must be secure and reliable. There should be minimal downtime, and your data must be protected against hacking and loss.

  • The professional technical support must be available. Ideally, it should be round the clock to help you whenever you need it. Identify what format of interaction with support is most comfortable for you: by email, phone, or via live chat. Make sure you discuss this in full before signing up with a vendor.

  • How is the data transfer process organised? Unless you are a brand new practice, you have data that will have to be migrated across to the new system. It is not as simple as one might think, so it is vital to understand all the steps involved, how much time it will take, and what the costs associated with the process will be.

  • Find out what training and resources will be available to your team. No matter how intuitive your chosen PMS is, it will take some getting used to. People are generally resistant to change, so the easier the transition will be, the better for the practice. Having a straightforward learning process in place will make a huge difference.

  • What about integrations? Some software programs are more open to third-party integrations than others. When we are choosing a PMS, we are looking for a single platform to cover all our needs. However, there might be a situation where your practice will require something that your PMS cannot provide. If that happens, it is best to pick a system that has a route for incorporating new integrations once you need them.

The quicker you can exchange data with your colleagues and associates, the easier your work becomes and the less time you lose. Medesk integrates simply with any software product.

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  • Last but not least, look at the company itself. You are making a long-term decision that will influence your practice daily. You need to be assured that the software vendor is reliable, financially stable, and has long-term plans to develop and perfect the PMS. Check general company information: when it was established, how many clients it has, which markets does it operate in. Look for online reviews and talk to your peers.

Read Case Study: How Practice Management Software Creates a Healthy, Transparent and Dynamic Culture in Our Clinic

How to choose a PMS and not regret it

It is worth investing considerable time and energy into the evaluation of practice management systems. You are making a long-term decision that will affect your practice’s efficiency, competitiveness, revenues and relationship with patients. Once you install, configure and integrate a PMS in your environment, it is unlikely that you will be moving to a new solution for the next few years at least.

Here are some tips on how you can choose the best PMS for your situation:

  • Review your current business workflow. Talk to your team, outline the main processes. See what can be optimised and improved at that stage already. Ask for insights from your staff. They are all focusing on different tasks at work and can give you valuable advice that you would otherwise miss. By involving the whole team in the decision-making process, you will reduce chances of forgetting about something important and simultaneously increase staff loyalty and job satisfaction.

  • Make lists of features required for each role (i.e. doctor and accountant). You will later be able to share it with vendors and use it in the testing process.

  • Find a private practice manager who has moved to a new PMS recently. Ask them about the challenges they faced, what they wish they had done differently, and what they could recommend to you. Ideally, speak with the same clinic’s doctors and admin staff as well for multiple perspectives.

  • Google main market players, look through their feature sets and make a comparison. Narrow your list down to a couple of vendors whom you will be evaluating thoroughly.

  • Once you’ve made a shortlist of vendors, have a look at their forums and user groups. It is a good sign if these portals are active and curated by the software companies. Usually, it would mean that the company values clients’ input and is interested in keeping them happy.

  • Ask for a bespoke demo and make sure you use a trial license before purchasing. Speaking to a sales representative or watching a pre-recorded demo is not enough. The software will perform differently in each clinic. It might also conflict with your existing solutions. No matter how good the company's reputation is, you should always run a test to see how the product works in real life. It also makes sense to engage your colleagues in testing so that they can spot all the good and bad sides. The evaluation period does not need to be long, but it has to be thorough.

Choosing to implement a PMS in your practice will have a long-term influence on your practice. How well it will fit your healthcare business will largely depend on how you structure and plan the evaluation process. And while it is impossible to foresee everything, with patience and due diligence, you will be able to avoid the typical mistakes and drawbacks that people encounter.

And although a practice management system is a powerful tool to take your practice to the next level, it will require additional action from your side to maximise the benefits. Don’t forget to regularly review your processes and change them whenever necessary. Ask for feedback from both your employees and patients. Focus on providing an excellent service, implementing new equipment and services. Review your marketing strategies to make sure it is effective and attracts exactly the types of clients that you are targeting.

The success of the practice does not depend on the outcome of a single decision, but rather it is a combination of many factors that require daily involvement. The right technology will be able to highlight all your advantages and help you grow and expand.

Read next: Key Healthcare Metrics Your Private Practice Manager Should Target

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