In the healthcare industry, increased cost associated with the operations of medical practice is one of the issues that one would possibly hear physicians, especially the solo providers, whining about. Every now and then you would come across healthcare professionals complaining about the very fact that efficient management of both the administrative and financial operations is, but a delayed, result of enormous monetary costs. Hiring additional dedicated resources to control the administrative and financial side of the practice is one of the reasons behind the increasing operational costs. Fortunately, health IT has a remedy to this problem as well. Applications like practice management are available to help physicians streamline the business operations on their own, without having them spend hefty amount of money.
“Why do physicians even have to be spendthrift when they have practice management available to them? Today, established vendors even provide all-in-one, affordable solutions that could help physicians address both their clinical as well as administrative needs by merely paying a minimal monthly subscription fee”, says a San Francisco based health IT consultant.
Certainly, I tend to agree with the aforementioned statement. With practice management software in place physicians can perform all the non-clinical tasks by themselves. Practice management helps them optimize all the business workflows within seconds – thereby saving valuable time and money. From scheduling appointments to noting patient demographics to sending electronic messages, the built-in practice management modules help physicians streamline all these administrative tasks. The software also ensures that there exists seamless workflow transition between the front and back office so that no barriers hamper the billing operations once the clinical actions are completed.
Furthermore, cloud based practice management software has also helped in curbing the costs associated with traditional hosted servers. This means that after spending an affordable amount on implementing practice management, physicians do not have to waste more money on software upgrades and maintenance.
Considering the financial slump and appalling conditions of the economy, physicians cannot afford to spend a good deal of money on first hiring additional resources and then training them to manage the business operations of the practice. Instead they could simply implement practice management software and eliminate the need of an office manager. While adversaries would proclaim that this might end up hampering physicians’ productivity – making them less attentive towards their core responsibilities, the advocates would not back out on supporting practice management software and helping physicians realize the potential benefits this technology can bring to them.
Although the availability of internet and media has played a vital role in creating the awareness about health IT applications like Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Practice Management. However, some physicians even today seem to have limited or no knowledge about such solutions. While one can expect physicians being familiar with EMRs, generalizing the fact about practice management software would not be appropriate.
“Although the technology has been out there for quite some time now, not every physician is fully knowledgeable about practice management software. There are various reasons to it. Nevertheless, the increasing trend of practice management adoption illustrates that physicians are taking the matter seriously”, says a New York based health IT consultant.
Increasing number of patient visits is obviously a sign of augmenting profitability for a practice. However, this is only possible if the productivity and efficiency of the physician is not questioned. Practice management helps physicians address the aforementioned issues by automating the administrative and financial workflows of the practice. Physicians who once spent a lot of time staying engulfed in huge piles of paper, can now do it all with just a few clicks. Some physicians fail to understand that the time they spend in managing paper records and getting into the hassle of billing efficiencies could be easily saved by implementing practice management. The time saved could then be used to ensure better patient engagement and better care quality. Besides various other advantages, fewer patient complaints and increasing profitability would surely be the two most evident benefits.
Since we’re on the subject of billing issues, it reminds me that one of the major problems for physicians is never ending account receivables. Since they are not running charities, being paid for the services provided and that too in a timely manner is obviously going to be a preference. Practice management software helps physicians streamline the billing operations in a jiffy. It also helps physicians recover the outstanding receivables, which may have occurred because of human errors in real time.
One of the plausible reasons why some physicians do not take the matter seriously is the misconception that practice management software requires one to be equipped with extensive IT related knowledge. However, renowned EMR vendors understand that IT is not the area of expertise for physicians. This is why, while offering practice management software, they keep usability their top priority; not to forget, affordability too.
Clinical and administrative workflows are two of the most integral parts within the healthcare continuum. Keeping anyone out of the loop means breaking a link in the chain. Where Electronic Medical Records (EMR) were introduced to simplify clinical documentation and ensure better care delivery on part of physicians, the health IT product vendors also never backed out from helping providers efficiently manage their administrative and financial operations through the use of practice management systems.
The health IT industry is enormous. Even with EMRs physicians have a wide range of choices available to them. From free EMRs to specialty EMRs, established product vendors are trying to make every possible move to keep the competitors from capturing market share. In fact, some renowned EMR vendors have also developed all-in-one solutions which unify EMR and Practice Management system within a single package. This provides physicians an option to streamline patient encounters as well as manage the billing operations from a single platform. This is exactly what physicians always required from a health IT application.
“It gets really interesting when, every time after completing the clinical procedures and documenting them, you don’t have to change the device so that you can get started with the financial operations. One, it saves time, and two, it eliminates the barriers that hamper the productivity by inundating physicians too much into the application”, says a California based physician.
Ever since their inception, practice management systems have come a long way to provide physicians with all the essentials to manage administrative workflows – keeping both the front and back office always connected.
While free EMRs provided physicians with the luxury of saving monetary costs, the lack of integration made opting separate practice management system completely inevitable. Not only this enhanced the burden of financial costs for physicians but also the augmented the hassles of switching screens, or even the devices in some cases. No wonder, despite having free EMRs, some physicians showed resentment towards technology. Basically the problem is, there have been instances in which some of the free EMRs have failed to be free in true sense.
However, after understanding physicians’ requirements and analyzing their own situation in the market, established EMR vendors have not only started working on the integration issues in EMRs but also improve the functionalities of practice management systems.
The advent of EMR and Practice Management software has created a lot of concerns within the healthcare industry. It is not an easy job to shift from the conventional way of doing things. It certainly takes time to grasp the new industry norms. Considering the pace with which the world is changing, embracing change is the only way to compete in the race to success. The first step is generally considered the hardest, but with time people realize its benefits. In view of the foregoing, convincing physicians to go paperless, is never too easy.
However, these concerns seem insignificant when physicians realize the importance of having everything on an electronic database. Moreover, it makes their decision making process easier for them. Physicians can now focus more on their practice rather than spending hours on documenting patient information. This is a classic example of treating the healthcare industry as a widespread database, where medical information of any patient can be stored or retrieved from anywhere, at any time.
“I have burnt midnight oil in order to become what I am today. During my initial practicing days, I stayed confused whether my job was to treat patients by documenting encounters, or spend hours on maintaining patient records. However, EMR technology has made life simpler for physicians by allowing us more time to focus on our primary job”, says a leading physician from Texas.
Apart from maintaining patient history, managing the administrative and financial workflows of a practice is of utmost importance. For this very reason, physicians end up hiring extra resources which adds to their operating costs. In order to mitigate such expenses, Practice Management software is designed in a way that it streamlines operations and synchronizes the front and back office procedures. That being said, physicians are not expected to have technical expertise in health IT. Therefore, established EMR vendors make sure they offer all-in-one healthcare solutions, by combining EMR and Practice Management. This certainly provides clinicians a green signal to multi-task and resolve clinical and administrative queries simultaneously.
Integration of EMR and Practice Management software has reduced the number of fatalities, and made life easier through one click solutions. Increasing popularity of health IT solutions surely speaks volumes, and ensures a promising future for the industry.
Before getting into the nitty gritty of what a Practice Management software is all about, let us define it first. In simple words, a practice management software addresses the day to day operations of any medical practice and allows the clinical user to capture patient demographics, maintain insurance payers list, schedule patient appointments, perform billing related tasks and generate user defined reports. This implies that an ideal practice management software should make front desk operations look like child’s play, but is that the case?
Many medical experts will have their own recommendations on which practice management software should be considered, but blindly implementing a software based on someone else’s recommendation can prove be a physicians Achilles heel. What most medical experts don’t realize is that each practice has its own customs, specialty and workflows, which is why they would pick the practice management software that best suits their existing workflows. Implementing a practice management software and the subsequent transition phase is something that physicians would rather avoid. The only drawback in such circumstances is compliance issues. There are many practice management software’s which might meet the practice needs but fail to comply with HIPAA rules and regulations. The sudden change to a more compliant practice management software creates havoc and the physicians ends up de-optimizing his practice rather than optimizing it. So how does one decide what to look for and stick to it?
here are many software’s in the industry today that offer their solutions for practice management but the key is to choose the right one. First step is classification. Practice management software’s are designed for small (1 -2 physicians), medium (5 -10 physicians) and large (10+ physicians) sized practices. A physician must identify the software’s which satisfies his requirements, decide if the practice needs a client server or cloud model, verify if the practice management software integrates with the EMR/EHR and then perform the tricky bit – schedule a product demo !
Before we get to the demo part, choosing the right model is the key. A client server model for practice management would mean that the practice would either have to acquire or finance server equipment, along with setting up workstations for its users which will have the practice management software installed on them. The primary disadvantage of running a client server model is the cost of running the server. This is where the SaaS or cloud model outshines the client server. The SaaS model decreases cost while increasing security and reliability. The only drawback is that protected patient data will be with the EMR/EHR vendor, which could raise unwarranted security issues.
Integration between practice management software’s and electronic medical records is often a key decision maker. During implementation it is considered to be one of the most challenging aspects faced by any medical practice. Few EMR/EHR vendors in the industry today offer a complete suite, which consists of both EMR and PM, but a fewer number of vendors exist whose practice management software would integrate with any EHR. The wise choice would be to identify the vendor who offers the complete suite and whose practice management and electronic medical records are top notch. Although this might seem like an impossible task, there are a few vendors out there who do provide such services. The question remains on how to identify them, and the answer to that question is simply KLAS. Recent unbiased surveys by the KLAS group have catered to this need. A quick glance at their survey will help physicians and office managers identify the leading EMR and practice management providers in the industry, and would expedite the overall selection process. Categorized by different specialties, practice size and other criteria, I would recommend medical experts to take part and review the survey to get the best value for their money.
The healthcare automation process is in full gear, with the EMR adoption rate close to 60%. With sights on affordable and accountable care, providers have become much receptive to change. Health IT offers improved efficiency at reduced costs through better information management. Electronic data interchange and practice availability online are necessities today as care move towards more accessibility. However, this change has not put an end to resistance. Some physicians still see EMR as a detractor and feel that they are better off with paper. Electronic medical records have been commonly branded immature and inefficient. Some providers feel that using an EMR sacrifices care quality and affects patient-doctor interaction. “I could write a note within a minute, while it takes me more time to complete the documentation on an EMR”, says one practitioner.
The shift to electronic medical records has been substantial and despite the increase in technological awareness, providers struggle to utilize EMRs in an optimal manner. Years and years of practice have made physicians more efficient with paper records, while electronic medical records are still comparatively new and alienating. “Let me clarify, providers are not adverse to technology. We had a wave of physicians adopting practice management systems to improve their scheduling, resource allocation and billing process. It was much simpler as providers knew what they were getting and how it would affect their practice. Whereas, with EMR everything is up in the air”, says one health IT consultant.
Practice management systems are popular with most practices within the US. As it focuses on the administrative tasks alone, providers do not have to worry about its effect on the care delivery process itself. Many physicians would also argue that the efficiency and productivity are administrative targets and care should not be measured in that way. “I don’t have an office manager at the moment, so I do my own scheduling and billing using the practice management software (read more). It is simple to get the hang of it unlike most EMRs that I have encountered”, says a single provider based in New Jersey.