When adopting medical software, occupational medicine practices have needs similar to many other ambulatory care practices. You need an efficient system for charting, billing and scheduling, and it must have robust reporting and intuitive documentation capabilities.
But occupational medicine practices also have some unique needs that arise from treating transient patient populations, managing high volumes of documents and forms and communicating with a variety of other providers and client companies. For that reason, you’ll want to evaluate solutions specific to occupational health. This includes purpose-built occupational medicine software, as well as general-purpose software that offers occupational health features, applications and templates.
Occupational health software programs will typically include support for billing to workers’ compensation; tracking immunization histories, physical exams and drug checks and managing specialized forms such as OSHA, FMLA and work status reports. If you’re providing on-site care at client sites, you may want an electronic medical records (EMR) system that can interoperate easily with other practices’ records software, allowing you to coordinate with employees’ primary care physicians.
When evaluating occupational health software for your practice, there are some key considerations you should weigh to narrow down your search to the right types of systems.
Integrated suites vs. stand-alone systems. Occupational medicine software can include EMR as well as practice management (billing and scheduling) software. One thing you need to determine is what functions you’ll need your software to perform.
Do you need only a single application, such as billing, scheduling or EMR—known as a stand-alone or “best-of-breed” system? Or are you looking for a solution that combines two or more of those applications in one software package—an “integrated suite”?
Most of the practices we talk to are interested in integrated suites. But a stand-alone system may be right for you if:
Web-based vs. on-premise systems. Another important question to ask yourself is whether you prefer an on-premise system or a Web-based system. (Web-based systems are also known as Software as a Service (SaaS) or cloud computing.)
On-premise solutions are installed locally, on your practice’s servers. They typically require a larger upfront investment in hardware and installation, but lower recurring costs. Web-based solutions are deployed in the cloud (online), and are typically accessed through a Web browser. Web-based systems usually come with monthly subscription pricing and require a lower upfront investment—so as long as you already have a computer and an Internet connection, your setup and installation costs will likely be negligible—but recurring subscription fees. (See our guide on Web-based EMRs for more information.)
Meaningful use and ONC-ATCB certification. Does your practice plan to participate in Medicare or Medicaid Meaningful Use Incentive Programs? The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) from 2009 included a component called the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. HITECH incentivizes doctors to implement EMRs: Practices that adopt “certified” systems and make “meaningful use” of those systems (by meeting certain criteria at specified time points) will be eligible for increased Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Eligible practices that don’t implement EMRs will eventually face decreased Medicare reimbursements.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has designated testing bodies, known as ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCBs), which certify EMR software. If your practice is participating in the Meaningful Use program, make sure your system is certified. Check out our guide on ONC-ATCB-certified EMRs for more information.
Mobile support. Do you want to be able to access your occupational health management software on an iPad, iPhone or Android device? As more and more healthcare professionals use mobile devices in a professional capacity, occupational health software systems are quickly developing “apps” for tablets and smartphones.
If you’ll want to access your software mobilely, ask the vendors whose products you evaluate whether they offer mobile apps. Remember that although most Web-based systems can be accessed via the Internet browser of a mobile device, you’ll still want to have an app designed especially for mobile use. Without one, you’ll be looking at the desktop version of the app—which can be unwieldy on a smaller screen. You can take a look at our guide to tablet EMRs or our guide to Mac EMRs for more detail.
We're able to offer this service to buyers for free, because software vendors pay us on a "pay-per-lead" basis. Buyers get great advice. Sellers get great referrals.