Doctors' offices may have a different end goal than most businesses, but one thing they share in common is the need for software to help make their day-to-day management easier and smoother. A wide variety of medical software exists for just this purpose, from electronic medical records (EMR) to medical accounting tools.
However, primary care physicians face unique challenges that require the implementation of software that differs from the types used by specialists or hospitals. Whether they are clinics or family practices, these primary care physicians need versatile, adaptable software that can both maintain records and help run the office, assisting with both the medical and business sides of their practice.
This buyer's guide will describe the two sides of primary care EHRs, explore the most popular features and help you figure out what key questions to ask of software vendors—and of yourself—before making a purchase.
Here are the key issues that we'll cover:
Primary care software is a subset of medical software, which contains features that are useful both for doctors' medical work and for the daily management of their office as a business.
Though both parts should work together in integrated harmony, here's a look at these two sides of primary care software:
Electronic health records, or EHR, is the primary type of software used by doctors to help them take care of their patients. EHRs serve as digital databases that store patient charts, while also allowing practices to track patient demographics, histories, SOAP notes, test results, medications, prescriptions and more.
The goal of an EHR is to increase doctors' efficiency so they can spend more time with patients, provide post-visit care via prescription management and check-ins on a patient portal, better support claims sent to insurance companies and generally improve the quality of patient care.
You may also see them referred to as electronic medical records (EMRs), computerized medical records or digital medical records.
Practice management software, on the other hand, is more focused on helping doctors and their administrative staff run the business side of a practice. It helps those practices record patient information and demographics, manage patient charts, perform billing procedures, generate reports and schedule appointments through patient scheduling applications.
The goal of practice management software is to improve physicians' workflow efficiency, allowing them to spend more time tending to patients, and often to boost the amount of reimbursements obtained from insurance providers.
You may also see them referred to as physician's office management software and medical information systems (POMIS).
|Patient history||Houses patient charts as part of the EMR database. It's crucial that primary care physicians are able to maintain a detailed, accurate history of their interactions with patients in order to provide the best, most personalized level of medical care.|
|Patient correspondence||Provides a primary care practice with quick access to common forms of correspondence, including work/school excuse letters and automated health maintenance/checkup reminders that can be sent out based on the patient's record.|
|General practice SOAP notes templates||Because primary care physicians see such a wide variety of medical conditions and problems, they need an EMR that has hundreds of specialized note templates to accommodate those various conditions.|
|Laboratory, medical device and pharmacy integration||Many EMRs provide automatic importing of lab results and/or medical device data, eliminating time-consuming and error-prone transcription. Similarly, direct integration with pharmacies allows for e-prescriptions and direct communication between doctors and pharmacists in order to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.|
|Referral integration||EMR software for primary care practices will include tools to make referrals to specialists as quick and easy as possible. Common features include an online referral network, automated printing of referral letters and even the ability to send the entire electronic patient record to the doctor of referral.|
|General practice billing and treatment protocols||Because primary care physicians deal with such a broad swath of potential conditions, primary care EMRs often provide assistance on ICD-10 and CPT coding and billing for common and unusual patient visits. The integration between administrative and clinical workflows can make the claims process faster and more accurate.|
|Automatic billing||One of the core functionalities of practice management software is automated medical billing, along with real-time verification of insurance coverage and eligibility.|
|Claim tracking||Streamline the tracking of various claims across the overall revenue cycle.|
|Customized patient scheduling||Scheduling/calendar features which enable appointments to be color coded to indicate information such as provider, duration, time and type of complaint.|
|Automatic reminders||Send automated electronic reminders to patients via email or text message. In addition to providing a service for patients, this helps reduce the number of no-shows and can maintain an optimum volume of appointments.|
An example of a patient chart in Kareo
Medical practices can vary widely in size, shape and form, which leads them to require different functions and features in their primary care software. Your practice is likely to fall into one of the following categories:
Other factors to take into consideration when picking the best primary care software for your practice may include:
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