Your bank is computerized; so is your supermarket. If you’re still shuffling papers, while your staff has to sort through stacks of manila file folders every time someone makes an appointment, it’s time to consider computerizing your practice.
There are two categories of software designed to make medical practices more efficient and more accurate. Medical practice management (MPM) software lets you handle your operations in a more structured and efficient way. Electronic records management (EMR) software enables you to create and share digital records. Most vendors offer these features:
- Scheduling patients, personnel, equipment
- Charge capture and coding
- Electronic claims submission
- Collections management
- Various kinds of reporting
What’s necessary depends on the kind of practice you have. Physicians want to be able to track how revenue is coming in. If you have a surgical practice rather than a primary-care practice, you may want to track surgeries versus office visits. you may also want to use the system to schedule and track your mid-level employees, such as physicians’ assistants or nurses, especially if this has an effect on your revenue.
You may also want to use the software to schedule your diagnostic equipment, not only to make sure it’s available when the patients who need it are coming in, but also to track how much revenue is charged against it in order to determine how quickly you’re recouping the capital expense.
Reporting Is Critical
Most important is the question of reporting, as these tools give physicians insight into the financial health of their practice.
From a financial standpoint, you also want to be able to see outstanding receivables sliced and diced by variables such as third-party payer and patients. Because revenue comes from so many different sources, MPM software can help you to quickly see where you need to focus or where there are areas of opportunity, based on what’s growing and what’s shrinking.
But don’t think of MPM software as merely an accounting tool. The best products offer you new ways of understanding your business. Look for reports that graphically show trend lines and dashboards. A dashboard is, essentially, a display of up-to-the-minute data that’s easily accessible or even stays on a corner of the screen. You want to be able to do ad hoc reporting easily, such as querying the system to show all the patients who got similar diagnoses during the previous week.
Learning to use MPM software takes time. Read our Tips for Success for ideas on how to work with vendors and choose products. But the benefits for you — and your patients — make it worth it.