Make a List and Check it Twice
When Selecting a Practice Management System
When selecting a practice management system (PMS) your office should make an informed choice, and consider how well the software will meet your current and future needs.  An Internet search using “medical billing software” produced 5.2 million results with hundreds of companies marketing what they call the “perfect system for your practice!”   Choosing your new PMS can be time consuming, but doing your homework in the selection process can save costly mistakes or the purchase of software that doesn’t meet the needs of your practice.
  • Step one:    Appoint an individual, probably the practice administrator, to manage the selection process.  This person will coordinate the internal staff and be the key contact with software vendors during the process.  Select a group of users representing each area of the practice.  Often, the front desk and billing staff are included, but remember that medical staff should be represented as more systems provide electronic medical records (EMR) options.  Just as important is considering if additional staff will be needed in the future.  Will your new system be in-house requiring technical staff to maintain the software?  Remember to include these factors in the process. 
  • Step two:    Outline office functions directly impacted by your PMS.  Start with the registration process and outline your requirements.  User friendly demographic entry and integrated insurance verification are common, but you may need authorization or outbound referrals reporting.  Does your specialty require a sophisticated scheduling platform for managing chemotherapy or dialysis services?  Explain your requirements to vendors and ask that they highlight the features during a demonstration.
  • Step three:    Remember your accounts receivable management team has their own list of “must haves”.  Electronic claims submission is crucial to your practice’s cash flow.  Consider how the claims are transmitted to the carriers and who is responsible for monitoring these claims.  Does the system electronically post payments?  What type of reporting is available for follow-up?  If the system can provide these features, you may be saving money initially, but your labor costs will increase.

A PMS is a large financial investment and will be in place for several years.  Consider your future plans.  Will you be implementing an EMR?  Can your PMS integrate successfully with other types of software?  If you have or are planning a website, will your software support a patient interface or portal?

Finally, strongly consider the use of a “Vendor Checklist” (develop your own or use the one provided on page 42.)  By outlining the current and future needs of our practice, the PMS selection process can be manageable.  Knowing how a vendor meets your current needs and supports future growth, you will make the best choice for your practice.

    Colette Golec, Director, Client Services, PBMI
Previously published in the Michigan Osteopathic Association
TRIAD, Spring 2008

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