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Choosing the Right Office Management System

Smith, Kenneth E. PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000515650.12117.f1
Editorial

Dr. Smith is the vice president and the director of operations for the Hearing Center of Castro Valley in California, and is a past president of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology.

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Whether you own your practice, plan to own one, or are positioning your practice for sale, your choice of an office management system can make your life easier—or more difficult. Having been in practice for more than 40 years, I've used several types of systems, from medical systems to cloud-based innovations that feature time-saving processing and storage capabilities.

While many of us tend to be comfortable with the status quo and find change difficult, practitioners would be wise to monitor the development of new products on the market. Having a reliable office management system not only helps reduce office expenses, but it also improves overall work flow and data management.

Many such systems are available, but here are some important issues to consider when choosing one that will work best for you:

1. Timely training and support are critical while learning a new office management system. Avoid systems with compartmentalized support features, which means you might need to talk to several people from different departments to get technical assistance. Having one key person available for training is preferable, so is having a series of tutorials that are readily available and easy to understand.

2. Look for a system that can bill third party payers like insurance companies and provide you with accurate and timely accounting of their collections and account status.

3. It's always critical to have a system that your staff likes and can use with a short learning curve. Choose a system that has user-friendly features that make it easy to view different clinics and providers, as well as the basic information of each patient on the schedule.

4. The system should have a highly accurate report writing component that requires minimal time. Choose a system that allows you to customize a report to your own needs, and use this feature to improve marketing activities. It should be easy (and free) to email or fax reports to one or more referral sources. Timely reports are critical in providing prompt and understandable information to referral sources. Some systems even provide you with a tabulation of physician referral sources for the last 30 days.

5. Choose a system that provides patients with a separate report, presented in easily accessible language and graphics. This is especially important for the “tested not closed” and “prospect” patient categories.

6. The best systems are integrated with QuickBooks with as little extra data entry as possible, and allow for rapid data retrieval, data storage, and inventory tracking.

7. Most modern systems provide credit card processing and patient financing options as part of the process, so doing a cost comparison of these services is essential.

HIPAA compliance and audit trails are basic components to look for when choosing an office management system.

Finally, look for a system with developers who recognize that their product is not perfect—that it is a dynamic system in constant improvement. As this industry changes, office management systems must be flexible enough to accommodate user feedback and continuously boost efficiency.

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