Must-Have Medical Software: What’s the Right Tech for Your Small Practice?

Are you using the right technology? If you’re working late hours finishing tedious administrative tasks, or if too many things are slipping through the cracks, the answer is probably “no.”

Using the right technology in your small medical practice can provide several benefits such as reduced medication errors, better communication, improved efficiency and lower costs.

Despite the benefits, Gartner’s 2017 Top Technology Trends for SMBs1 survey finds that small and midsize businesses (SMBs) see “using the right technologies” as both the biggest constraint and the biggest challenge they’ll face to achieving their business goals over the next one to two years.

In this article, we’re helping you identify the right technology for your small practice. We’re also offering some tips for getting set up, and we’ll look ahead to what’s up and coming in the medical tech industry.

What We Mean by the ‘Right’ Technology

From tablets and smartphones to remote monitoring devices and cloud computing, technology has helped to shape the modern medical practice. But, with so many options, it can be challenging to make the best choice.

You only have one opportunity to get it right the first time, and trying to backtrack after a poor investment in software can be a drain on resources.

To avoid pitfalls, take the following into consideration as you narrow down a list of specific software solutions:

Choose a solution that’s designed for your practice’s specialty and size

Beware of vendors claiming to offer a medical solution that suits everyone’s needs. Instead, seek a vendor with prior history of delivering scalable solutions to small practices.

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  Get staff members and other stakeholders involved early on in the process. Determine which specific functions you need, and likewise, don’t choose a platform with functionality you’ll never use. In addition, be sure to take advantage of free trials and demos to get hands-on experience with the capabilities of the product.

Choose a tool that works with your existing technology

Unlike large practices, small practices may not have the need or the budget to purchase a complete software suite. For this reason, it’s important for small practices to choose a tool that integrates smoothly with any existing technologies as well as one that offers other integration options.

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  Check for the integration options offered by any vendors you’re considering. You may be using third-party solutions to meet other business needs, such as patient experience and reputation management and accounting applications, and integrations with these tools can increase the value of new tech.

Choose a vendor that provides high quality technical support

Customer support is a critical factor when considering a new tool—particularly during setup—since small practices usually do not have a dedicated in-house technology team to manage support.

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  Ask vendors what types of support they include with the purchase of the software, as well as any that must be purchased separately, for instance, phone, live chat, email etc. Also be sure to find out during which hours support is offered.

Look for flexibility from vendors

It’s important for small and growing practices to select a vendor that offers both scalability and options for customization.

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  When you go to a potential vendor with your requirements, ask about the possibility to customize the system to your exact needs. Also, look for vendors that offer the option to add on more advanced functionality down the road once you’ve grown.

Narrowing Down the Right Type of Medical Software

Let’s take a look at an overview of some of the most commonly used types of medical software: electronic medical records (EMRs), practice management and patient portals, as well as the most highly recommended products in each category.

Electronic medical records (EMRs)

Most medical practices have already transitioned from paper-based records to electronic medical records (EMRs), but there may be some that are still considering the switch, or that are planning to upgrade their existing EMR.

EMR software automates the operational tasks of medical practices and provides digital storage of patient records along with tracking of medications, test results and patient demographics.

Read more about the essential features to look for in an EMR: “The Essential EMR Features Your Small Practice Needs.”

Patient history in drchrono EHR
 

Most recommended EMR software:

Based on number of times recommended by our our expert software advisors.

Practice management

A practice management solution manages the day-to-day operations and workflows of a medical practice. These systems enable staff to create new patient reports, carry out billing tasks, manage insurance claims and schedule patient appointments. Practice management software can often be integrated with your EMR solution.

Billing data and analytics dashboard in Kareo
 

Most recommended practice management software:

Based on number of times recommended by our our expert software advisors.

Patient portals

Online patient portals allow patients to view information about previous doctor visits, lab results, upcoming appointments, billing history and all communication with physicians. Patient portals can often be integrated with your EMR.

To read more about the benefits, features and implementation of patient portals and match them to your specific requirements, check out our explanation of what makes a great patient portal.

Online scheduling in AdvancedMD‘s patient portal
 

Most recommended patient portals:

Based on number of times recommended by our our expert software advisors.

3 Tips for Implementing New Technology Successfully

Implementation of any new technology—whether an EMR, practice management system or patient portal—requires some investment of time and resources, both during the selection and implementation stages, as well as afterward, as you train staff on the new system.

To ensure you see a return on your investment, follow these three tips for success:

1. Educate your staff. Even the most user-friendly and intuitive software platforms require proper training. You may have spent a significant amount of time choosing the right technology, but if you don’t go one step further to invest the right amount of training time, your implementation could fail.

Communicate with your administrative staff, nurses, techs and other physicians, before, during and after the implementation of any new technology. Involve your medical staff early in the software selection process. This will not only give them a sense of ownership in the decision-making process, it will also accurately set expectations.

2. Implement technology in phases. Implementing a new system all at once can cause too much down time, resulting in a loss of productivity and a lower quality of care. In addition, if the entire medical staff is learning the system at the same time, the vendor might get overwhelmed with support requests.

Instead, roll out new technology in one area of the practice at a time. For example, start with staff members who manage and schedule patient appointments, and once they’re comfortable with it, they can then help train the technicians and nurses. This will help you identify challenges and pain points early for a successful full-scale deployment.

3. Always put patients first. Make sure your new technology implementation does not disrupt a patient’s experience significantly. For minimal impact on patients, notify them early and often about any upcoming changes in technology that may affect them.

Ask software vendors if they provide resources you can use to educate patients about the benefits of new technology, which will reassure them that they won’t be impacted negatively by any changes.

Up and Coming Medical Tech You Need to Know About

Small practices should take a proactive approach to learning about the latest technology. This way, you can decide whether your practice is ready to invest, or if you should take a wait-and-see approach.

Here, we’re discussing some of the most relevant medical tech trends for small practices:

Wearable devices. Wearable devices have the ability to track critical data such as a patient’s physical activity, sleep patterns and exposure to sunlight. They help physicians keep an eye on patients remotely.

Wearable devices help small practices enhance the quality of care by providing a wealth of detailed and accurate information that can be monitored in real time, so physicians can intervene more readily if the need arises. They can also save patients time and money if some in-office patient visits are replaced by remote monitoring.

billing analytics in Kareo
Wearable device (Source: Medical Practice Insider)

Artificial intelligence (AI). AI has the ability to draw intelligent inferences from large amounts of data. With AI-based technologies in health care, physicians can better manage medical records, design patient-specific treatment plans, eliminate repetitive manual tasks and book consultations. In addition, life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, strokes and respiratory cancer can be diagnosed early through the use of predictive analysis.

There are many companies currently developing AI-based technologies for the medical industry. For instance, IBM Watson Health can review large amounts of complex medical data and convert it into a summarized version that is ready for physicians to use.

billing analytics in Kareo
AI-assisted liposuction system in action (Source: Business Wire)

Artificial pancreas system. These devices monitor the blood sugar in a patient’s body and automatically supply insulin. Despite the name, however, an artificial pancreas system doesn’t replace the real organ, nor is it implanted into the patient’s body. The device only regulates glucose levels.

Diabetes is a growing concern in the U.S., with more than 100 million adults that are either diabetic or prediabetic, so an artificial pancreas systems is a significant development in health care technology. Currently targeted at type 1 diabetics, these devices check glucose levels more often, while providing a more accurate dosage of insulin when needed.

For more on future technologies, you can also read our article, “The Doctor’s Office of 2024” to understand what’s next for doctors and patients.

Conclusions and Next Steps

Using this guide and following the best practices we’ve laid out here will help to ensure you choose the right technology for success.

Check out these helpful resources for even more information:

If you’d like to do a comparison of specific solutions, you can call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free 15-minute consultation with a software advisor.

Or, you can fill out a short questionnaire to receive custom price quotes of medical software options delivered to your inbox.


1Information on Gartner’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs Survey
Gartner conducted this survey in April and May 2017 among 699 U.S.-based small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that have more than 10 employees and an annual revenue of less than $100 million. The survey excluded nonprofit organizations. The qualified respondents are decision-makers or have significant influence on the decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization.

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