Do You Need a Consultant for Your Practice Management System?

According to MGMA’s 2008 digest, 54.8% of physicians had utilized the services of a healthcare consultant or firm at least once in the last three years.

Since that time, the amount of practice management systems permeating the market has increased. This begs the question: should physicians use a consultant to help choose a PMS for their practice?

To help answer this question I spoke with Rosemarie Nelson, MS, a top healthcare consultant for MGMA who specializes in helping physicians streamline practice operations and technology.

The Envelope, Please…
Somewhat surprisingly, Nelson believes using a consultant largely depends on the situation. Although consulting is her livelihood, she doesn’t think that every practice needs a consultant’s assistance when choosing a PMS.

“If they have done their homework and have been diligent in determining their needs, they probably don’t need a consultant,” said Nelson.

Nelson also doesn’t believe the size of your practice should determine whether you use a consultant, as she’s worked with practices of all sizes on the issue. It depends more on your knowledge of PMSs and how to integrate one into operations.

With that said, if you’re not health IT hero just yet, there’s no shame in wanting some help.  “If they feel uncertain, then why not use a consultant?” asked Nelson, “You’d refer your patient to a specialist, so why not refer your business to a consultant?”

Nelson notes that consultants have usually seen more than their fair share of PMSs. Not only do consultants typically work with 20 to 30 practices a year, with each possibly using a different system, they also attend trade shows where they are exposed to additional PMSs.

This gives consultants a better-informed perspective of all the options out there than would be typical of you or any other physician. But Nelson warns that objectivity isn’t always a given.

“There are consultants and vendors that have some sort of relationship,” she said, “It’s a real conflict of interest and more prevalent then we’d like to admit.”

This means that whether or not you use a consultant to help choose your PMS doesn’t solely depend on your unique situation, but the quality of the particular consultant as well.

Bonus Tips
In addition to answering whether physicians should use a consultant when selecting a PMS, Nelson also provided some general tips for physicians that are still on the fence about purchasing a new system.

First is acknowledging the reason you’re looking for a new system. “Look at what you’re doing now,” said Nelson, “There’s a reason you’re looking for a system; acknowledge that reason.”

The PMS you choose should address the problem, of course, but it should still retain the positive attributes of the system you already have in place if you’re not starting from scratch.

Lastly, she suggests keeping your patients’ wants and needs in mind when looking for a system. Your PMS should provide you with services that will be useful for the patient, such as appointment reminders and a customizable scheduling application.

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