Practice Management Software: How Far Will It Take Us?
A Business Briefing by Bob Hutchinson
Readers new to this technology will find reading our IT Basics briefing a useful start to understanding PMS (Practice Management Systems) among our Business Briefings.
More advanced users should read our briefing on the “Paperless Practice”
How Far Will It Take Us?
There are surprisingly still a few practices running with paper book keeping but there is now a much wider uptake of Practice Management Systems, and the market has in my view been strengthened over the years by a number of buyouts and new entrants who have sprung up from programme writers moving to fresh fields. This has created a very broad choice in the market. The leader being Ocuco who provide its brand leader Acuitas in various forms to suit practice sizes as well as support for Focus 1 and Focus 2 in the UK.
Strength brings huge resources in R & D and IT and the requirements in primary care are forever in need of new products and tweaks to the system.
So sometimes new entrants will bring in new ideas that they have the time to develop in new systems where as it costs too much to improve legacy systems. Certainly for many companies who are small to medium and have had products in the market for some time with no future in growth further evolution of the system is cost prohibitive. When choosing your supplier check the back up and support and also verify that when installed your system will be set up properly. It’s a balance between great design, strong back up and a willingness to go the extra mile to get you started.
With improving hardware the PMS boxes now contain lots more software gismos for helping practices in many different ways. Be careful to go through your software requirements set out in the previous briefing, there are still some systems out there with limited access to csv.file output and limited report writing. There’s no point in feeding information in if you can’t interrogate the system and use your spreadsheet programmes to try out ideas away from the PMS.
The day of the recall only system should be well and truly behind us. We must as managers become aware of our market opportunities, measure our successes and failures and use PM systems to steer us towards a more profitable and reputable business.
To get the most out of today’s system first go buy an internet connection. I cannot emphasise this too much, there is now so much information on the net that is very useful to have access to during the working day. Information on drugs and adverse reactions, clinical pathways, Contact Lens Company centres of excellence and learning and of course here on PHN regularly updated information and news, plus you can now use PM software systems where the programs are hosted for you on the web rather than using your own server space. Warning working in the cloud needs good internet access and download!
So what can the new tools in the practice provide for you in your practice or group practice? Commercial awareness, benchmarking and feedback on your clinical decision making as well as your sales history, are some of the areas that in the future you will be able to access.
Also interrogating sales history and live stock levels can be used as a successful marketing tool.
You can decide on your product mix in frames to suit your customers, hone your recall skills to call back patients for commercial as well as clinical reasons and grow your business by using a simple but effective website and providing for on line appointment booking not only for your existing patients but also for new patients finding you on the net.
The clinical analysis of a successful practice is becoming an essential element with level 1 to 3 Quality in Optometry governance levels in place it is important that all the information is keyed into a clinical record for easy checking and for proof at future visits from the NHS.
Being able to track referral rates and outcomes over a period using age, gender and ethnicity will provide useful comparisons to existing studies and within your own practice or group for peer review.
As the optical technology has grown with the vast array of optical equipment it is vital that your PM system can accommodate large files containing images and data from each piece of equipment related to the patient’s record file. The busy practice will find that time is saved in the future by having access to a terminals both in the clinic rooms and in the dispensing and reception area.
The ability to provide local members of the public with information about your practice has recently been enhanced by Ocuco with its E-Web Extra module providing you with a number of templates to choose between to design your own simple but interesting website. (Further info at: http://www.primaryhealthnet.com/phnsupplierssub.asp?id=31&page=20 )
Many of you with web sites will know that there are problems in gaining visibility on Google searches and also in keeping them refreshed. At PHN we can provide improved SEO and visibility for as little as £10 per month per practice giving you a presence on the net on a page 1 Google ranked site, namely www.mylocaloptician.co.uk. Your entry can link directly to your own site.
Don’t want the bother of a full website of your own? For £20 per month through PHN you can have your own page which acts just like a mini web site with the ability to add downloads, files and catalogues plus contact forms and much more placed in the directory under your local town where over 30,000 members of the public search each month.
So in essence make sure that all the information posted to your PM system is analysed and produces reports that will make you question the success of your staff and your practice. You can’t see everything that’s happening day to day in your practice but you can design reports that will provide key management information.
Great bed time reading on paper or on your tablet!
Bob Hutchinson has been working in the centre of the optical sector as an optometrist,management consultant and entrepreneur. .
Recently retiring from clinical optometry, he continues to act for many SMEs as well as larger groups in strategy, PR & marketing and financial advice with a specialism in optical VAT.
His client base also includes large industrial companies in equipment and IT involved in the optical industry to name a few.
Still involved in optical decision making his aim has always been to encourage regulators and negotiators to allow the sector to flourish, and to assist others to own and manage financially robust businesses.
Eros Business Consulting