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How to choose the best clinical practice management system (PMS) for your practice?

When selecting a clinical practice management software system for your practice there are a number of factors you should consider before deciding which system is best for you. There are many different systems on the market and at times it can be a bewildering choice.

A clinical practice management software system (PMS) will manage the day-to-day running of your private clinical practice, whilst providing you with additional functionality and tools to help grow the practice. The software should assist both the clinicians and the practice manager in their daily tasks even though their respective needs can be very different. The normal tasks typically fall into four key areas:

- Appointments

- Patient data and information management

- Invoicing and debt management

- Reporting

The aim of a practice management system is to not only manage these functions but streamline, simplify, and improve whilst offering a scalable solution as your practice grows.

The following are six key points that we would recommend you consider from the outset:

Is the clinical software server based or cloud based?

Cloud based systems are the most efficient way of managing your practice as they are accessible anywhere with an internet connection, allowing multi-clinic and hospital use as well as home use. Server based systems however are typically accessible on one device only and are not accessible from different hospitals and devices.

What is the cost?

Some PMS systems charge an annual or monthly fee per clinician which includes support staff (eg secretaries, billing companies etc), whilst others charge per user which can significantly increase the cost. In addition, some charge an initial fee to purchase the software, whilst others have no upfront cost. It’s important to clarify this at the outset.

Does it have the functionality you need?

Does the software have the features you will use in your practice and ones that will save you time and money? Some of the more modern features include: - an app to enable access to data on the move - integrated video consultation function

- patient portal to allow patients to access nominated correspondence, book appointments and pay their bills - facility for transcription to be automatically transcribed directly into your

patient/GP letters to save on typing costs - SMS/text messaging to decrease DNAs and for ease of patient communication Many of these features will not only streamline your practice but considerably reduce your costs and improve your patient experience.

Is the clinical practice management software easy to use?

How easy is the software to use? Ask for a free trial of the software for all your practice users so that you can test out how it works and its ease of use. For example, is it easy to navigate around a patient’s records, book an appointment, raise an invoice? How many clicks does this take? You should be able to move quickly from one patient to another and navigate the different areas within one patient’s records with no problems. On a daily basis you and your staff are going to be using the system, so it is important that it is intuitive, quick and reliable. Everybody needs to be comfortable using the software.

Is the finance section up to scratch?

Many PMS systems don't have good financial functionality and their reasoning is that they are "not finance software". I'd steer clear of systems that do not have accurate financial reports and accessible, accurate data. It is essential that the financial functions in the system are 100% correct - you will use the finance section for invoicing, chasing unpaid invoices, for end of year tax and for obtaining your activity for your medical indemnity provider. If these are wrong it can have a major impact on your income and the tax that you pay.

One other feature to look for is an in-built card payment function for patients. This improves cashflow as it helps patients to pay on time, and reduces admin time as the payments are allocated against the patient record automatically.

Training and Ongoing Support

The training and ongoing support is key, and not just initially! New users of any system will require training and support not only during the setup stage but also ongoing as you become familiar with the functionality of the system and want to explore more features. It is essential that you can access support easily via telephone, email, or an online helpdesk from the PMS company.

Summary of best advice

Use a demo or trial to compare the system to your current work practices, and give some thought to the features that the system is offering. Is it efficient, will it improve the workflow and is it user friendly?

  • Ask questions about the practice management software. Any good company will be pleased to answer them for you. They should be more than happy to assist and guide you through the processes and discuss your needs.

  • Don’t be afraid to add or ask more detailed questions once you start using the system on a trial basis. Get in the habit of noting these down.

  • Be prepared to invest some of your time into the system and understand how it works.

  • When comparing a system to your current work habits, be open-minded as it may do things slightly differently to the way you are working. You should find that the processes are more streamlined and save you time and money.

  • Evaluate the clinical software thoroughly and be guided by the key users and consider their different needs. Remembering a clinician’s needs can be very different to a medical secretary’s needs of a system.

Clinical practice management software systems are complex because they are managing a complex business. It’s important to ensure that all the features you need are balanced with the cost, ease of use, support, and training.


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