Steps 4 - 6: Review the options
In the first blog in this series we explained why a specialist practice management solution will enable you to run all aspects of your practice from one place and how to get started.
The next step is to look at what’s out there and how it meets your needs and budget. When it comes to researching software vendors the internet is a good place to start but do ask colleagues for recommendations too.
Step 4: Check system functionality
A practice management system should enable you to efficiently carry out the routine administrative tasks within your independent practice, including:
- Patient management
- Register patients and confirm their insurance status and demographic information
- Secure patient database
- Flag patients and produce personal letters
- Patient notes and alerts
- Diary management
- Fix and rearrange appointments
- Manage schedules for clinics, theatre etc
- Set-up recurring sessions
- Billing and payments
- Submit validated electronic bills to insurers and produce paper bills for self-payers
- View outstanding invoices
- Reconcile bulk payments from insurers
- Manage shortfalls and reallocate outstanding amounts
- Document management
- Produce appointment reminders
- Automatically generate shortfall letters
- Batch print letters
- Create comprehensive financial reports such as outstanding invoices by payer, payment summaries and activity summaries
- Export reports to other software e.g. Excel to further analyse and remove any patient identifiable data so they can be shared.
Step 5: How secure is the system?
Failure to take reasonable steps to protect patient data could leave you vulnerable to cyber criminals, cause serious reputational damage and incur a hefty financial penalty from the Information Commissioner’s Office. Password protection and data encryption should be a minimum requirement for any secure practice management solution but Healthcode’s security page will give you further details.
If you rely on any third party supplier to process or store data on your behalf, do make sure they have appropriate information security safeguards in place. Ask about the arrangements for storing data – will it be held in a cloud or a private dedicated infrastructure and if so, where? The ICO has published guidance on data protection considerations when using cloud computing services.
Step 6: What support can you expect?
The provider must be able to offer the right level of support through installation and beyond. Ask yourself:
- Will they offer initial training?
- Do they provide ongoing technical support, including site visits if required?
- If the system crashes, how quickly can they guarantee a response?
- Is data back-up and recovery included and if so, what assurance is there that data will be stored securely?
- How will system updates be managed and will additional support will be provided?
Next blog – Steps 7-9: Choose your provider