Practice management (PM) software runs the business side of healthcare, from scheduling patients to billing to generating monthly reports, so picking the right system is crucial for any size medical practice. Unlike with electronic health records (EHRs), selecting and overseeing a PM system isn't typically the physician's domain. In a large practice, it typically falls on the office manager's or IT manager's shoulders.
While physicians may have little to say about choosing a PM system, they sure do pay attention to it when problems occur. When they don't get paid, or they receive constant complaints from back-office staff, these programs suddenly become top of mind.
But how do office or IT managers know if they're choosing the right PM software system for their business? Rosemarie Nelson, a principal with the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) tells InformationWeek Healthcare that a major decision point is picking a PM system that works well with the practice's EHR.
"Oftentimes it isn't which EHR to buy or which practice management system to buy; sometimes it's which bundle to buy because the physician wants a tightly integrated solution," Nelson said. She added that the EHR is more the driver than the PM system. "You pick the EHR that fits you because billing is billing, so chances are the PM systems that works for that EHR will be just fine," said Nelson.
However, when choosing a PM software system it's still a good idea to determine if you want to go with a single vendor system that's natively integrated with an EHR, or a best-of-breed system that requires an interface.
Physician practices large and small often turn to the Best In KLAS Awards for software and services as a guide when selecting a PM software vendor. KLAS independently monitors vendor performance, with the assistance of thousands of healthcare organizations. KLAS ranks PM software vendors for applicability to various practice types, from single practice to 150-plus physician groups.
According to Mark Wagner, senior director of ambulatory research at KLAS, PM software is one of the highest scoring segments that KLAS examines. Wagner told InformationWeek Healthcare that most leading PM systems have similar core functionality.
"Functionality is important to providers. However, if you're hung up on functionality and that's all you've got, and you're not taking care of the relationship [with the healthcare provider] and you're not making sure [the providers] feel like their success matters to you as a vendor, they are going to score you poorly when you start measuring their overall experience and satisfaction," said Wagner.
Industry insiders point out that a leading challenge for physician practices is how long it takes to implement the PM system. Getting all the physicians in a large group up to speed on software can be a real headache. That headache will only be made worse if, after the practice buys the license, the vendor isn't helpful in getting doctors over the speed bumps.
Here's a look at 10 of the top PM software vendors, as ranked by KLAS, along with an overview of the features that office and IT managers want.