Purchasing practice management software for your business is a big decision—almost every part of your practice will be affected in some way or another. Here are seven important factors to consider as you evaluate systems:
1. Make sure any new system is compatible with your current hardware and operating system.
Generally it’s not a good idea to update operating systems and practice management systems at the same time. If you don’t feel comfortable with your operating system or hardware, adding on something big and new could result in chaos and confusion.
2. What does your implementation timeline look like?
Implementing a new system all at once may be a bad idea. Instead, best practice is to create a timeline and implement the new system a little at a time, giving your staff time to get comfortable with each piece. This way, bugs and kinks can be worked out one at a time. You need to have an idea of when your target full implementation date is so the software company can work with you to design a timeline that makes sense for your situation.
3. How much do you want the system to manage?
Some systems are for just billing, while electronic health records (EHR) systems are designed to track information about patient visits. There are also systems that are combined and help manage everything from patient check-in, to health records, to billing. Most of the time, it is better to have one integrated system rather than two or three components that may or may not work well together.
4. Decide if you prefer an on-premise or Cloud-based system.
Software systems installed directly on the machines in you office are on-premise systems. Cloud-based systems, or “software as a system” (SaaS), depend on a good Internet connection, as information is stored in the Cloud. Both types of systems have advantages and drawbacks.
5. What kind of technical support is available for the systems you are considering?
Do not overlook the importance of having access to people who can help, both during the transition to the new system, and later, when problems may arise. Software vendors approach support in different ways—some provide free, all-encompassing support and training, while others charge for specific types of support or offer online-only support or help manuals.
6. How are upgrades handled?
Things change, technology advances, and systems need to be upgraded. How much will upgrades cost? How much down time will they take? Will training be provided following upgrades? It’s easy to get caught up in what is happening now, but it is important to consider the future, as well.
7. What kinds of credentials does the vendor have?
You may want to take a look at the Certified Health IT Product List (CHPL) because the products listed there have been thoroughly tested to meet the extensive requirements of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) EHR stimulus program. Even if you are not participating in the program, having software that has been tested and certified can be beneficial.