More and more chiropractic offices are beginning to follow the latest trend of using practice management software to run their offices. Many practice management systems have proven to be time-saving, efficient, and accurate. Finding a good fit between a program’s attributes and your office’s needs can be tricky. There is one element that is often overlooked, even though it is one of the most important: software support. Rating a Support Staff Software support can often make or break a software company — or at least its reputation. When communicating with offices planning to switch software companies, the most common cited reason for changing software vendors is poor support.
Common complaints include: “I always get a recording, never a person”; “They take forever to call us back”; and “They are never able to answer our questions.” This is a major problem, because when you’re depending on a software system, you’re also depending on the company’s technical support staff to work out any possible glitches. Technical support staff should have knowledge of the way a chiropractic office functions. That way, they can understand how your office is affected when you can’t access the appointment scheduler for a day, or when your insurance billing is coming back rejected. They will also be better equipped to understand and answer your questions. Imagine trying to learn how to enter a capitation payment from someone who has no idea what capitation is or how it works. One-on-One Training Another important issue to consider is training.
Once you purchase the program, how will you learn to use it? Good software companies should offer you one-on-one training, either on-site or over the phone. During this session, all the basic set-up procedures should be covered, as well as teaching you and your staff the basic elements of the program. Once the basics are covered, they should allow you to guide the training, depending on your specific office wants or needs. For example, if you do not plan to use the appointment scheduler, it would make sense to move on to something more appropriate, like patient entry. Of course, this primary training will not be the end of your learning process, so what options do you have when additional questions arise? The software will probably come with manuals, help screens, and perhaps even computer-guided tutorials. These are all great learning tools.
You should also be able to call the support staff to have someone directly address your questions, or communicate by fax or e-mail if you choose to do so. You will want to consider a few questions. Is tech support available during your office business hours? Are answers given in a timely fashion? Are you only put on hold for short, appropriate periods of time? If the answer to any of these questions is no, there may be a problem. If you have someone new come to the office and would like him or her to be trained by the software company, will that be an available option? Evaluating the Cost In order to supply you with good software support, the company will have to charge an annual support fee. When assessing this fee, consider what you are getting in exchange for your money. Obviously the fee will cover support charges, but what about upgrades? Insurance billing changes are endless, and new technology seems to be released every day. Your annual support payments should cover these upgrades.
When comparing support charges, it is more important to compare what you are getting for your dollars, rather than comparing outright cost. Before committing to a software company, or when evaluating your current software, determine what the tech support policy is:
- Is there an annual charge?
- Is there a period of toll-free support after purchasing?
- How do you get trained to use the software? Does the company come to your office, is supply training material provided, or are you on your own?
- Is there a limit to how many times your office can call in a day? Is support available during your business hours?
- Will you get a live person or a machine when you call?
- Is the support staff well-educated in the software, quick in giving answers to your questions, and patient enough to spend time with you on the training you feel is important? – Does the support staff understand chiropractic?
- How long does it take to get an answer to a question?
- Do you receive updates and upgrades prior to announced changes in billing?
Perhaps the best way to judge a software company’s support is by talking with some of its current chiropractic customers. Ask for a list of referrals consisting of other offices that would be willing to speak with you. See if they are pleased with the support they receive, and ask what changes they would make if they could. This strategy will give you an excellent idea of the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Helping the Company Help You Once you find the perfect tech support staff, there are a few things you can do to make their job a bit easier. It is important to understand that at most support offices, each person is working on a number of questions simultaneously, in addition to answering any incoming calls.
Problems are dealt with by priority, so if the software at another office has “crashed” at the same time you are calling about an insurance rejection, they staff may have to get back to you after dealing with the other problem. However, imagine how much you will appreciate this priority treatment if your system is the one that “crashes.” When calling with questions, there are some simple suggestions you can follow that will help the support staff answer your questions more efficiently:
- If you are calling with questions that are not urgent, make a list and call with a few at a time. This system will help you save on long-distance charges, and over time will free up support staff to answer other questions.
- Getting errors? Program locking up? Before calling, do a little research. If the program provides it, what is the error number? Is there an error message that accompanies it? What exactly are you doing when the error occurs? These are all questions the software company is going to ask you, and being prepared for them will speed the process of getting the problem fixed.
- Are there errors or problems that occur frequently? Make a step-by-step list of actions to take to fix the problem, or ask your software company to make one for you. That way you won’t have to waste your time or money each time the problem occurs.
- Try not to wait until shortly before the software company’s closing time when calling with a question.
Realize that it may take more than a few minutes to answer your seemingly simple question. Remember the feeling you have when a patient tries to squeeze in right at closing time. Look at your software purchase as the beginning of an ongoing relationship. If you choose the company you’ll be working with wisely and follow this simple advice, it should be the start of something beautiful.