Automation has become an integral part of our society today, with almost everything being computerized and available online. Under these circumstances, it is obvious that the medical field will not be left behind for long but will also enter the race for automation. While there are several areas where automation can help the medical community, one major area of interference required is the area of scheduling and billing. Irrespective of whether your medical establishment is small or large, financial and administrative duties are time consuming and tedious. Usage of practice management systems in the medical field has considerably reduced the burden on the staff as well as the doctors.

What are Practice Management Systems?

Practice Management systems are defined as a comprehensive system that deals with the daily routine affairs of hospital management, which includes scheduling appointments for patients, compiling their demographic details, processing the billing of various patients, preparing and maintaining lists of those that are insured and the insurance agencies and last but not the least, preparing reports in the different forms that are required. Each and every one of the tasks mentioned above is time consuming and not conducive to cultivating quality and efficient healthcare delivery.

While talking about medical records and information, people tend to equate PMS with EMR and EHR without realizing the differences in each of the medical recording systems. It is essential to note that while practice management system can be integrated and used in cohesion with other software and reporting systems, most small medical establishments still use the stand alone practice management system, which deals exclusively with scheduling and billing. The main point of difference is that such systems deal only with the administrative and financial aspects of medicine and not with the medical aspect of the field. Stand alone practice management systems essentially ensure that payables and receivables are well defined, so that there is no loss to the healthcare facility.

Such practice management systems are of three types:

  • Desktop Variety, which is essentially meant for a single user or at the most, a handful of users within the precincts of the healthcare center.
  • Client Server Variety, which as the name suggests, uses its own server to allow multiple users to access, modify and manipulate data
  • Internet variety, where the data can be shared and accessed by multiple users through the net, without any separate server systems

Reliability and security of data is different with each type of system, as the chances of data being compromised is more when multiple users have access to the system from remote places. However, having said that, it is important to understand that such access can actually help in increasing productivity and support the interoperability of health information.

What are the chief components of Practice Management Systems?

It is essential to reiterate again that stand-alone practice management systems normally deal with only the financial and administrative aspects of healthcare. Hence, the main components of such practice management systems also deal with the relevant aspects. Information required for various financial and administrative activities will be the focus of such systems. It is also important to add that the exact features of your chosen practice management system will largely depend on your requirements and the size of your healthcare facility. The following are some of the main components found in all practice management systems or software:

  • Information regarding the patient
    This is perhaps the most important part of any automated system, as it records all details regarding the patient. Chief among the details required by this system under this category include details like name, address, age, birth date, contact information, employer details and ultimately, insurance details. This is the area where people tend to confuse PMS with EMR or EHR and it is important to add here that the difference lies in the kind of data contained in the three records. The practice management system contains basic data regarding the patient and has no information whatsoever about his or her medical history or details of current treatment.
  • Scheduling of Appointments
    This is an excellent way to ensure that all patients get the best treatment and do not have to wait for long hours at the healthcare provider’s facility. This allows you to easily schedule appointments while preventing someone from booking double. Moreover, it also allows your staff to know the exact nature of the appointments scheduled for the day, thereby making it easy for them to retrieve necessary case files.
  • Insurance claims and statements
    With increasing number of people being insured under various schemes, it often becomes very difficult for hospitals and other medical facilities to keep track of each patient. The practice management system eases this burden of the hospital staff by enabling them to enter the requisite data for claims, process it and also file it. Further, with the help of such systems, it is possible to separate claims that are not paid or partially paid, thereby making it easier to follow up, with both the patient as well as the insurance company.
  • Reporting
    In order to ensure smooth running of any healthcare facility, it is important to create regular reports, which allow you to monitor and modify all areas of practice. Financial reporting is essential to understand your profits as well as mark your future receivables. As the growth of any organization is dependent on its reporting, most practice management systems offer detailed reporting and analysis, including that of service, fee schedule, expense and other similar categories.

Advantages of using Practice Management Systems
There are several advantages of using stand-alone practice management systems and these include

  • The first and most important benefit of using such systems is the enhanced productivity that can be witnessed in any establishment. The system is so user-friendly and simple that it allows the user to finish his or her work in no time, leaving enough time to look into other matters, which would have been impossible otherwise.
  • Secondly, scheduling being one of the major aspects of such systems, it allows for flexibility in booking appointments as well as immediate retrieval of information. Both these aspects help keep patients happy.
  • The insurance facility of this system allows you to process claims faster than you would manually do. Hence, it allows for faster payments, which in turn means increased profitability every month.
  • Lastly, the program can allow for fewer mistakes to be made while billing. It allows you to immediately correct your mistakes and resend your claim in a matter of few hours, making life simple for both you and the insurance company.

Essential features of a good stand-alone practice management system

Having understood the importance and advantages of stand-alone practice management systems, it is important that you choose a good one for your establishment, especially if you really want to profit from using it. The following features are essential in any good practice management systems:

  • The first and most essential aspect of any system is that it should be easy to use, without requiring any great computer expertise. Look for systems that have a user-friendly, preferably graphic-based interface, which makes it easy to understand and use.
  • Always ensure that your chosen system is compatible with any other software you might be using, especially if you want to transfer the data into this software and do not want to retype the entire thing.
  • Never compromise on data security; choose a system that will enable you to store data safely.
  • Retrieval of information is very essential for any establishment; so, always opt for a system that allows easy retrieval of information, based on your needs and requirements.
  • Last but not the least, opt for systems that cater to your needs and requirements and do not charge you for any unnecessary feature, which you do not need. Hence, it is absolutely essential to make a list of your requirements and then opt for a system that caters to it. This will help keep costs in control while providing you with a useful system.