Tips for Choosing a Practice Management System

Looking for a new PMS? Here are six considerations for choosing a practice management system that will be worth the investment for your veterinary hospital.
Amanda Carrozza
Published: March 28, 2018
Practice Management SystemThe global veterinary software market was valued at nearly $323 million in 2016, and one of the main components expected to fuel future growth is the increasing demand for practice management systems (PMS). These systems help practices manage resources, monitor patient health through invoicing and billing, assign tasks, track inventory and more.

If your practice doesn’t already use an electronic PMS or you’ve become dissatisfied with your current provider, it may be time to look for a new program that integrates client information, financial reporting and other beneficial features into one system to help your office run smoother.

But with so many choices, how do you know which product will work best for your practice? There are several factors to consider. With the end goal of improving practice efficiency and profitability, you’ll want to think about your staff size, the overall cost of the product and whether the service is cloud-based.

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The answers to these six questions should steer you toward the best PMS for your practice.

Who will be using the PMS?
It’s rare that a single user will need to access and work with your hospital’s PMS, and each user likely has different needs. Even if you are the ultimate decision maker, it’s wise to include everyone who will be using the PMS in the selection process. Asking each staff member to create a list of necessary and desired features will give you a broad understanding of what aspects are essential to ensuring your practice runs proficiently.

What is the real cost?
When comparing products, you’ll have to delve into the fine print to understand what each one will cost your business. The advertised price is rarely the total you’ll end up paying, so consider all possible related charges, including:
  • Setup or registration fees
  • Data conversion fees
  • Cost per doctor in the practice
  • Cost per additional user
  • À la carte features not included in the basic package
  • Costs to update the software in the future

Cloud computingIs cloud storage important to you?
Historically, a PMS was operated through an on-premise server, meaning the software was physically installed on every computer that required access. Data and security were, therefore, also stored and managed at the practice’s physical location. In recent years, however, many practice software companies have made the switch to cloud-based service and storage.

Some of the main advantages of a cloud-based server — which is deployed via the web and requires an internet connection — is that they are generally more user-friendly, offer mobile accessibility, have increased storage capabilities and are owned by a third-party company that is dedicated to managing the software.  

There are debates over which system offers more security protection, but as more and more industries that collect sensitive information (e.g., banking and credit card companies) turn to cloud-based storage, the practice is becoming commonplace. Storing data on the cloud provides added protection, particularly in cases of emergencies or natural disasters, because cloud-based data is not at risk of being lost if a computer crashes or equipment is destroyed.

Will the PMS integrate with other software already in use? 
If you already have a PMS in place or you use other medical, insurance or diagnostic software on a regular basis, you should find out whether your current data can be easily transferred to the new system and whether the supplemental software you’ll continue to use will integrate into the new PMS. If the new system doesn’t integrate with the other products you use, it may become a burden and open up your practice to errors.

Do they offer a demo?
Your PMS is an integral part of your day-to-day, so being able to work with it before making a purchasing decision can give you a good feel for you comfort level with using it. Even if the company selling the PMS you’re interested in doesn’t advertise the option of a product demo, you should ask if it is a possibility. They will likely be happy to oblige, as a product demo offers the company a sales opportunity.

computer reportsIf you don’t consider yourself particularly tech-savvy, it’s especially important to make sure the dashboard and interfaces are user-friendly for your skill level. During the demo, ask specific questions to better understand the various features and how they can be adapted to fit your practice’s needs. You should also ask for a walk-through of how the most important functions work. For instance, rather than just providing an overview of invoicing, request that the sales representative show you how invoices are created, sent, stored and tracked.

What reports and analytics are provided?
In addition to managing your clinic’s calendar and generating invoices, the PMS you choose should be capable of running a variety of reports. For example, aging reports need to be clear and concise and have the ability to be segmented based on your needs — 30-day report, 60-day report, etc.

Some PMS can also analyze and report on data that are important to profitability, such as the average number of visits per year per patient or the median profit for each visit. These data are critical for projecting and evaluating how you can increase revenue and grow your business over time.

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