Choosing a Practice Management System? Why Web-Based is the Way to Go

Choosing your practice management system is one of the most important decisions you will make for your office. A practice management system can be very expensive, so you’ll want to make sure your decision will serve you well for many years.

Practice management systems have changed considerably over the past ten years with the development of web-based software. Web-based practice management systems offer so many advantages over static server-based software that they shouldn’t be overlooked when investigating options.

Server-based software is the ‘traditional’ type that must be installed on every computer and lives in the hardware housed in your office. When things change in the healthcare industry, such as diagnosis or procedure codes, a new version of the software is written and offered for sale. You must then purchase the new version of the software to handle the changes. You can count on purchasing a new version of a server-based system at least every two years.

Web-based software, on the other hand, is updated as changes occur. With web-based software, updates usually occur automatically and overnight, so there’s little disruption to your workflow. You can also access a web-based system from a browser on either a desktop or laptop, making it a more portable solution.

At my medical billing company, I’ve found that web-based practice management systems offer unbelievable features with shortcuts that save time, money, keystrokes, and denials while improving cash flow.

Additionally, web-based systems help prevent one of the biggest problems medical billers confront, which costs medical practices tons of money: they catch many denials up front, when you first submit them.

Another thing to consider when you choose your practice management system is that it is very difficult to change software down the road. Don’t go into your new business thinking you will get better software in a few years. What happens then is that you now have all your patients and all the insurance companies loaded in your program and you now have to move them all into a new program or start over and reenter all the information.  Transfers are an option, but they rarely go smoothly and can be expensive.

So what do you look for when you shop for practice management software?

First, it has to be cost-effective. Look into the price carefully. Each company prices its software differently, so you need to consider all costs.

For example, there may be an upfront cost plus monthly charges. Some charge per provider or by the number of computers running the program. Usually, you are charged for each insurance claim you send.  If you want to verify coverage, you may find that some vendors charge for that. Some have charges for what they consider ‘a la carte’ features, which may be ones you may want. Take all costs into account.

Ease of Use
You want to make sure the program is user-friendly. There is a lot to learn in the field of medical billing, and you want to make sure the software is not difficult to learn. Turnover in an office can be a big problem, and each new person will need to learn the program.

Capable of Multiple Providers
Most web-based practice management systems will be capable of billing for more than one doctor, but they may charge you for each doctor you set up.

This area is critical. Make sure the software you purchase is capable of running a wide variety of reports.

Aging reports are important and you’ll want them to be easy to read and contain a lot of information. You need to be able to run a 30-day report of outstanding claims, a 60-day report, and a 90-day report. The software should let you choose a specific insurance company and, for example, be able to run a report of all the claims out to Medicare only over 60 days.

Some web-based systems also enable the daily aging of receivables – a valuable tool if you find that your payers operate on less traditional payment schedules.

You’ll also want your aging report to print enough information so that you can work directly from the report and not need to go into each individual account for additional information.

The system also needs to be capable of running a transaction journal covering any sort of parameters you need. For example, you may need a list of all insurance payments received between 5/1/12 and 6/1/12 from Medicare for Dr. Smith, who is one provider in your group. You also need to run a report at the end of each month of all entries that were made during that month.

You may run into instances where you have to resubmit certain claims and run a report to show which claims you are looking for. Some providers may want to know how much of their business comes from each individual insurance carrier. A good practice management system will have these reporting capabilities.

You will want to check to see if you have a choice of clearinghouses or if you are committed to one particular clearinghouse. If you have to use a vendor-specific clearinghouse, make sure you check on the cost of sending claims through that company.

Patient Statements
If you are going to be billing patients, your practice management system will need to be able to print out patient statements. All practice management systems will allow for this, but they offer them in different formats. You may want to look over the capabilities of the patient statement formats. They offer different layouts and some are easier for the patients to understand than others. The easier the statement is to understand, the fewer phone calls you will receive from patients questioning their bills.

A practice management system is an important tool in running your office. It is important to choose one that meets all of your needs. If you carefully consider all of the above points, you should be able to choose a practice management system that will work well for you.

Is your office’s practice management system server- or web-based? Why did you choose it?

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