Three Timesaving Features Needed in a Practice Management System

What’s the biggest mistake an independent medical or mental health practice can make when searching for a new practice management system? They do not research it thoroughly before making a final decision, says Fred Maher, practice transformation consultant at United Physicians, Inc. in Bingham Farms, MI. “They may ask a colleague or two for input, and that’s about it,” he says.

However, choosing a practice management system is one of the most important decisions a practice manager will make, and it can greatly influence the short- and long-term success of the business, says Maher. It can also make or break physician and staff productivity. With the right practice management system in place, staff have access to information at their fingertips—information they can use for high-quality patient care, accurate billing, quality reporting, and more. 

Consider these three time-saving features that can make a big difference in helping today’s medical and mental health practices thrive:

1. Integrates with the electronic health record (EHR). A practice management system focuses on administrative tasks (e.g., scheduling, billing, and payment) while the EHR provides tools for clinical data capture. However, seamless integration between the two is critical because it enables practices to reduce duplicate efforts, minimize data errors, and easily capture billable charges based on clinical documentation, says Maher. Although many EHR vendors offer an integrated solution, not all do. Partnering with a vendor that offers this type of integration means less hassle so providers and staff can focus on patient care—not managing technical challenges, he adds.

2. Offers dashboards and reports. Dashboards are important because they provide real-time, succinct, and actionable data, including trends over time (e.g., revenue trends or number of patients seen), says Maher. 

Dashboards that integrate clinical and administrative data enable practices to participate in CMS quality reporting more easily, he adds. For example, during performance year 2020, 25% of a physician’s final score under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment Program (MIPS) is driven by measures related to promoting interoperability that include meta-data related to clinical and administrative tasks. Examples include e-prescribing, electronic referral loops, clinical data registry reporting, immunization registry reporting, public health registry reporting, syndromic surveillance reporting, providing patients electronic access to their health information, and more. 

“This is critical because reporting requirements are often difficult to understand, and the data is cumbersome to collect,” says Maher. “If a dashboard is set up to accurately collect the required data, practices have the added peace of mind that they are maximizing their reimbursement while also remaining compliant. In addition, they avoid penalties for late submissions.”

Dashboards and reports also help practices report on a whole host of quality measures and improvement activities that are also important under MIPS, he adds.

Seamless integration is particularly important for generating reports and dashboards that support population health management. For example, practices should be able to easily create reports that include a list of patients with certain chronic conditions as well as parameters (e.g., lab values and ‘last seen’ dates) that can help physicians make sound clinical decisions and outreach patients when necessary, says Maher.

3. Functionality goes beyond the basics. For example, does the practice management system also include a patient portal, online self-scheduling, mobile intakes, eligibility checks, procedure macros, billing analytics, online bill pay, and more? Does it allow for e-prescribing and include an add-on for e-prescribing of controlled substances? “You need to have all of these features if you want to save time and energy,” says Maher. 

Choosing wisely

When selecting a practice management system, ask everyone in the practice for input. What are everyone’s daily challenges, and what do they hope a new system can address or perform? This step is critical for buy-in, and it can ultimately ensure the practice ends up with a solution that will work in the long-run so there is no need to make additional transitions in the future.

Maher says managers need to ask this question: What will the practice management ultimately do for the practice? In other words, what value will it add for physicians, staff, and patients? 

Also ask: What is in the pipeline in terms of improvements or upgrades in the coming months? 

In the next couple of years, Maher says novel functionality could include artificial intelligence-driven reporting, including dashboards that notify physicians whether the overall quality of care is improving or declining. For example, today’s quality dashboard could show that a primary care physician was able to increase screening colonoscopies by 25%. However, a dashboard of the future could evaluate the data and answer this question: What did the physician do differently? If they continue doing it, could they replicate or even improve the results?

“Quality of care is a major driver for health care reimbursement now and it will play a greater role in the future,” says Maher. “A system that, in real time, can evaluate several past performance indicators and make suggestions to improve quality would be a great enhancement.”

One option is Kareo’s practice management system, which is part of an all-in-one integrated technology platform to streamline care delivery, business management workflows and patient engagement. You can read about its many features here.  For general assistance in making the switch to a software platform you can trust, you can download our guide here.

About the Author

Lisa A. Eramo, BA, MA is a freelance writer specializing in health information management, medical coding, and regulatory topics. She began her healthcare career as a...

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