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When you purchase a medical practice management (PM) system, there are several steps to ensure you choose the right system for your needs and successfully integrate it into your practice.

Here's a general outline of a best-practice process:

  1. Assess your needs: Assemble key stakeholders together and assess what your practice requires from a PM system. List essential features, as well as your “wish-list” items that would be nice to have if the budget allows. Set measurable goals to which you can hold a vendor accountable and use to assess the success of your project.
  2. Research options: Look into different practice management systems from different health IT vendors. Read reviews, ask around, compare features.
  3. Test demos: Try out or watch pre-recorded demos of systems you're interested in. Take notes on what you do and don’t like.
  4. Check costs: Ask for and consider initial price, ongoing fees, and potential training costs of your top picks.
  5. Pick a fit: Choose a system and a vendor that aligns with your needs and budget. Be sure the system can automate routine tasks, review charges automatically, access data analytics, and obtain accurate cost estimates.
  6. Plan transition: Create a smooth switchover plan with training and data transfer.
  7. Train your team: Make sure everyone knows how to use the new system and implement it gradually to avoid disruptions.
  8. Get support: Set up support with your vendor for updates and assistance.
  9. Keep improving: Collect feedback to refine and optimize your system use.

Remember, finding the right system will help your practice thrive. This is about finding a system that works for your team, so take your time to choose one that fits like a glove.

What can a practice management (PM) system do?

Overall, a practice management system is designed to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and organization of administrative and operational tasks within a healthcare practice, ultimately leading to better patient care and financial management.

  • Cost estimation - Uses valuable financial information to quickly determine the patient’s responsibility and identify an appropriate amount to collect pre- or post-service. Can access eligibility, contracts, and the full range of historical, financial, and reimbursement data to produce reasonable estimations.
  • Financial and operational analytics - These analytics strengthen performance and decision-making. It should include support for monitoring your practice's KPIs.
  • Automation - PMs have the remarkable ability to automate routine processes and ease staff workloads.
  • Group scheduling - Enables your practice to create and manage scheduling and encounters for a group of patients.
  • Integration - Integrates with the EHR and any other health IT, like a patient portal or virtual visits.
  • Compliance - Nationwide compliance with all billing and claim form requirements to reduce AR days and maintain cash flow is important.

The specific features and capabilities can vary from one PMS software to another, so it's essential to choose a system that aligns with the needs and goals of your practice.

Do I need to switch practice management systems (PMs)?

Are you worried your current practice management system isn’t cutting it? It may be time to evaluate your current system and consider switching to a new system. Are you noticing any of these common practice management system pain points?

PM pain points

  • The PM system doesn’t integrate with your electronic health record (EHR); staff have to log in and out of different systems.
  • The system isn’t equipped to handle the nuances of your medical specialty.
  • Lack of automation means your staff must manually perform routine tasks, such as reviewing and sending out claims and statements.
  • Cloud-based hosting options aren't offered, making remote access to information difficult and requiring server costs.
  • The system doesn't provide transparency and workflow efficiency between the front and back offices.
  • The system is challenging to use; onboarding and training is difficult.
  • When you need support, the vendor is often slow in their response, or their responses aren't helpful.
  • Lack of automated reporting means your staff has to spend hours creating reports manually.

Time to take action

If these pain points resonated with you, it may be time to switch. Don’t worry, we outlined the initial research process below:

  • Assemble a team to guide the selection process with representation from major areas of your organization and at various administrative levels. Include no more than seven members to make decision making easier.
  • The selection team should meet to build consensus on which capabilities of a new PM platform are most important to the practice. Next, choose at least four vendors that may meet needs identified by your team.
  • Watch PM demos online to preview each of the identified products. During the demos, each person should note the features they like and rank them, based on how they'd help your practice.
  • Based on your research, finalize your list of key features and functions.

The final list will help produce a more solid RFP. It will also help you gauge the overall market.

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Roy Gill Headshot

Roy Gill, MD, FAMIA

VP, Clinical Affairs and Patient Safety at NextGen Healthcare

I joined NextGen in 2009, working first as a Physician Consultant, Director of Clinical Content under the Chief Medical Officer, and now as Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Patient Safety. A Family Physician by training with nearly 20 year of practice experience, I became interested in Clinical Informatics (CI) in the late 1990's as my institution was adopting an EHR. I became a Physician Champion and began to dive even deeper into Informatics. I eventually earned a Graduate Certificate in CI from Oregon Health and Science University and became Board Certified in CI in 2015 (as well as earning a Six Sigma Black Belt somewhere along the way). It's an exciting time to be working at NextGen, as we vastly improve attention to improving outcomes, patient safety, client needs, quality, and the evolving needs of our clinicians and the industry.