Technological advancements have fundamentally revolutionized how we live our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s enhancing efficiency, improving visibility, or boosting team communications, the healthcare industry is one sector that stands to benefit in particular.
And when it comes down to daily practice management, there are many ways technology can help professionals in every size and subsector.
Given the huge range of innovative tools available today, providers face an overwhelming choice when shopping for the right practice management software. This guide offers some insight into the most popular practice management systems on the market – from scheduling functions to note-taking – so that you can make an informed purchasing decision.
What is Practice Management Software?
Practice management systems are digital virtual care tools that help an organization run its day-to-day operations, manage the business side of providing care, and encourage patient interaction.
Healthcare organizations can deploy a practice management app or practice management tool that provides a single, standalone function.
Standalone practice management tools, for example, simply perform billing functions or claims submissions.
More comprehensive practice management tools, on the other hand, may provide entire service suites that integrate with an organization’s current Electronic Medical Records (EMR) or Electronic Health Records (EHR) system. These latter, more robust programs, are practice management systems or software programs.
A practice management system or tool can help organizations streamline and automate workflows, increase efficiency, and boost reimbursement.
How Does It Help?
A practice management solution, whether it is a single standalone tool or an entire management system, can help providers by:
- Recording patient demographics
- Scheduling appointments
- Providing note templates and pre-populated forms
- Generating reports
- Perform billing and claims submission functions, and
- Carrying out many other functions.
In a nutshell, there are many practice management software trends that providers need to understand. Essentially, a practice management system or tool is designed to offer the features and functionality to help organizations:
- Streamline and automate their workflows
- Increase efficiency, and
- Boost reimbursement from insurance companies or other payors.
If you’re shopping for software for the first time, a little knowledge about the different roles, capabilities, and functions of a system can go a long way in helping you choose the right e-health or mental health software.
How Practice Management Software Helps
The first practice management system that was ever deployed in large numbers was Microsoft Outlook. Since then, many technological advancements have occurred, and practitioners now have a plethora of different capabilities to choose from.
Today, practice management purists would argue that Microsoft Outlook isn’t a practice management solution at all.
What Can It Do?
As such, and given the range of practice management applications and tools on the market today, it’s often hard to narrow down a solution that’s going to meet the organization’s staff member’s and patient’s needs.
Specialty-specific tools also offer even greater flexibility to practitioners in certain fields – as well as broader telemedicine and telehealth systems, it’s now possible to find customizable templates and document codes for many other medical sectors. For example:
Beyond this, practice management software can also be perfect for coaching companies, with add-ons for
- Life coaching
- Business coaching
- Mental health coaching,
- And more.
Here’s a concise overview of the most common functions that can be found in practice management software. Having a good grip on what these functions aim to do can you as a provider narrow down your search to find the type of application you need.
Automated Billing Capabilities
|With an automated billing function, systems offer an efficient way to streamline billing workflows.|
These types of tools automate:
|Claim tracking capabilities show providers where a claim is within the current revenue cycle.|
This makes it easier for providers can track a specific claim, which in turn helps manage the overall business administration side of the practice while protecting the organization’s cash flow.
EHR or EMR Integration
|When choosing a practice management system, it’s best to find a solution that interfaces with the organization’s current EHR program.|
EHR or EMR integration allows for quicker and more accurate record management that is compliant with privacy and data protection requirements.
Client Relationship Management (CRM)
|Many suites come equipped with client management software features to look after and manage customer data.|
Providers can track or automate interactions and often, these programs may integrate with email marketing clients or existing databases of leads.
|These features allow providers to use a searchable database for ICD and other healthcare code sets.|
Patient Scheduling Capabilities
|Scheduling issues can harm a client-provider relationship, prevent practices from retaining patients, and also hurt the organization’s cash flow.|
Scheduling software can alleviate these issues. Many scheduling functions allow providers to use color codes for better organization that can indicate the time, provider, and length of the appointment.
Some systems even allow for patient portals, which let patients schedule their appointments. Other applications will also provide organizations with text or phone call automated appointment reminders to reduce the incidences of no-shows or cancellations.
|It’s difficult for providers to grow their practices and exploit market opportunities when they don’t have access to business analytics.|
Robust practice management systems can generate reports on patient demographics and other data. For example, a system could create a report showing what neighborhoods most of the patients are coming from.
Card Scanner Interfaces
|With these features, providers can scan insurance cards into the system, which can reduce incidences of fraudulent insurance claims.|
Tailored Security Access
|Protecting patient data, privacy, and security are critical for healthcare providers. With these features, providers can assign authorized access to staff at different levels.|
5 Benefits of Practice Management Software
Practice management solutions allow therapists, mental healthcare practitioners, and online coaches to streamline their processes, track vital patient information, manage EHRs, and handle billing and insurance claims.
But those aren’t the only benefits. In today’s fast-paced world, the expectations surrounding healthcare and the provision of it are rapidly changing.
Technology also offers new ways for providers to reach and engage patients. For example, some practice management programs offer teletherapy capabilities. Providers can now contact and serve patients who would typically have a difficult time accessing care in brick-and-mortar settings.
Other benefits of practice management software fall into at least five categories.
1. Faster Payments and Reimbursement
Practice management systems help medical billers and coders find reports for insurance information, claim advice, and remittance. These digital solutions reduce the need for paper and hard copies. It’s also quicker to search for a digital version of something than a paper-version that’s been filed away.
With these features, organizations can reduce mountains of paper in the office and protect staff time when it comes to hunting down articles and files. Billers can process payments and reimbursements faster.
2. Efficiency and Costs
Depending on the type of system a provider chooses in the end, the upfront cost of a practice management solution can be sizable. However, these systems streamline crucial processes and administrative tasks. Soon after deployment, these systems pay for themselves.
The best practice management software and mental healthcare apps eliminate the time staff would generally have to spend finding, processing, and verifying different documents and files.
Providers can also find free practice management software or low-cost solutions that can increase efficiency for practices of varying sizes and specialties.
3. Streamlined Operations and Practice Management
The best practice management apps and healthcare tools maintain the practice’s paperwork in a cloud-based or online system. This makes it easier and faster for providers to search for EHR and EMR records. Authorized system users can also create progress reports and process accounts receivable and insurance claims.
Healthcare providers of all specialties can use practice management solutions to save time, money, and treat more patients than before they implement a high-quality software solution.
4. Reducing Common Errors
With an integrated practice management system, it’s much easier for staff members to accurately and quickly update patient information.
Another benefit of using these systems is that staff don’t have to spend time trying to discern another person’s handwriting. Legibility issues can reduce the chances of errors occurring in inpatient or insurance records.
Practice management tools are often sophisticated enough to correct mistakes or automatically update critical details, which saves human operators time, hassle, and reduces errors.
Solo providers, mid-sized organizations, and large outpatient or hospital organizations can all benefit from practice management software. These solutions only require an internet connection and a computer or computer network, no matter how simple.
- At one end of the spectrum, state-of-the-art software solutions for practice management are capable of integrating with the workflows of small, mid-sized, and larger practices.
- At the other, larger practices can take advantage of solutions that efficiently manage sizable databases and can store, review, and transmit an unlimited amount of documents and records. With practice management software, large organizations can cut down on paperwork and reduce their need for storage units to store patient data.
Practice Management System Trends for Healthcare Providers
Technology is continually evolving, and practice management software systems have come a long way since the days when Microsoft Outlook was the most robust offering on the market.
When choosing an ideal system, providers should consider and understand the following terms and market trends for practice management software.
SaaS or Software-as-a-Service
SaaS refers to cloud-based or web-based practice management software solutions. With these systems, providers manage their organizations online, or “in the cloud.” The benefits of using SaaS are that the system is managed and entirely run by a third party and on remote servers.
Organizations are not responsible for updating or maintaining the system since the vendor will do that.
Smaller organizations can benefit from using a SaaS system when they don’t have the capabilities of managing the network-house. For larger organizations, it is possible to use both SaaS or deploy a system that is managed and run on the organization’s servers.
What can SaaS systems do?
These networks can access patient data in the cloud, and maintain and access billing or scheduling information from any mobile device or computer hooked up to the internet. SaaS systems are typically paid in monthly installments and help providers avoid substantial upfront costs when deploying the system.
On-site systems usually cost more upfront to implement, while SaaS systems are cheaper to start. But as time goes on, the total costs of these systems, both upfront and ongoing, tend to even out.
Practice management tools are often sophisticated enough to correct mistakes or automatically update critical details, saving time, hassle, and reducing errors.
Support for Mobile Devices
Mobile-compatible solutions are trending in practice management software. With such capabilities, providers can access their organization’s system from iPhone and Android devices and tablets, enhancing convenience and flexibility.
This trend has started because more and more providers want to be able to access patient information while on-the-go, and the demand for mobile practice management software systems can only be expected to increase with time.
Soon enough, there will be a mobile app for practically any task related to practice management for healthcare providers. Today, the most popular mobile apps on the market are apps that give practice managers easy access to ICD-9 billing codes.
Healthcare delivery is fundamentally different in today’s technological age. The client-provider relationship requires more engagement and communication from both patients and healthcare providers. Increasingly, patient communication methods are going digital.
Many EHR practice management tools integrate with or offer HIPAA-compliant websites. Patients can access their notes, records, and sign and send digital documents to their provider’s office. These patient portals often come with mobile app access, too, so patients can communicate and engage with practices on-the-go.
Patient portal software is essential for a range of other reasons, as well. Patient portals help coordinate care through patient health engagement and can reduce scheduling issues.
With some applications, patients can:
- Schedule standalone appointments
- Set up recurring visits
- Reschedule, and
- Minimize communication errors and no-shows with patient portals.
Many vendors also offer a dedicated line to a company representative who can provide either on-site or off-site training sessions for staff. While there will be a learning curve with any new software program, adequate training can ensure that the system will pay off quicker.
Increased adoption rates of practice management software in the realm of healthcare is critical for client engagement, treatment success, and the success and viability of modern organizations. When considering deploying practice management software, providers must dedicate sufficient time and money to adequately training staff on how to use the new software.
Organizations that have invested in practice management software will reap a multitude of benefits. They will save time and money, reduce the risk of insurance, billing, scheduling, and recording errors, and obtain vital data on their organization’s revenue cycles and cash flow.
While practice management software systems have not reached iPhone-level rates of adoption and user-friendliness, the most popular and beneficial programs and apps on the market today can be quickly mastered with patience and training.
Is your organization using a practice management system? What did you look for when shopping for a vendor? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments.
As a last note, we delve deeper into the practical applications of practice management software with discussions about practice management software for therapists and practice management software for coaches in these two articles.
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- ^ Chauhan, R., & Kumar, A. (2013). Cloud computing for improved healthcare: Techniques, potential and challenges. In EHB. 2013 E-Health and Bioengineering Conference (pp. 1-4). Iasi, Romania: IEEE.
- ^ Ventola, C. L. (2014). Mobile devices and apps for health care professionals: uses and benefits. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39(5), 356.
- ^ WHO. (2016). Patient Engagement. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/252269/1/9789241511629-eng.pdf