Introducing new software into a busy practice takes commitment and perseverance. A good vendor will be your mentor and ally, helping you fine-tune your selection and understand the tradeoffs between cost, features and complexity. Here are some tips for selecting and working with a vendor
First, identify one who can show its ability to accommodate the future of integration and standards-based computing. If you choose software that doesn’t follow industry standards, it may be difficult or impossible to upgrade or switch.
Investigate what the underlying database technology is. If it’s obscure, knowledgeable programmers will be rare and expensive.
Ask whether the application either integrates with or links to other applications. The latest integration technology encompasses something called Web services, using the XML protocol, which allows programmers to more easily link applications and allow them to exchange data. You may need to find a knowledgeable technical person to assist you in this evaluation if you’re not up to speed on terms like integration, standards, databases, XML, and Web services.
You also should consider hosted applications. In a hosted system, the software runs on the third-party provider’s central computer, which makes the application available for users to access through their Web browsers, using secure passwords. For details, read Installed vs. Hosted Medical Practice Software Systems.
Some more things to think about:
- Build into the contract terms and conditions regarding satisfaction and performance.
- Spread out payments to protect yourself. For example, you might put a certain percentage down, paying another percentage after the hardware is installed, making another payment after the software is installed, and another after the system is running to your satisfaction.
- Be aware that the vendor will probably demonstrate the “Cadillac” version, so make sure you know which features are included in the version you’re actually buying.
- Don’t try to do everything at once. Commit first to something limited, such as medical practice management capability. Only when you’ve got that working to your satisfaction do you deploy other modules, such as document imaging or electronic medical records.
- Consider getting fewer seat licenses initially, and then add more later.
- Ensure that your internal network and your broadband access are sufficient to handle the documents you’ll be transporting. If performance is slow, your staff may think it’s the application’s fault, when in reality, it’s the network.
- Set up a “cutover” strategy; that is, set up a specific procedure for how the practice is going to make the transition from one system to the other. As a contingency, there should be some time when both systems are running simultaneously.