Software Advice has talked to thousands of medical offices about practice management software over the years, and the benefits of these conversations are twofold:
- First, our team of advisors is able to help match buyers with the best software vendors for their unique needs.
- Second, we’re able to collect and analyze the data from these discussions in order to see buyer and market trends.
We recently used our data for the latter by looking at a random selection of 200 buyer conversations that took place in the past year. In this article, we’ll detail our findings, from common pain points to most frequently requested software features.
• Most practices are looking to replace existing software that they find subpar. [Read more]
• Better organization is the primary reason for wanting new practice management software. [Read more]
• A lot more practice management software buyers are specifically asking for cloud-based deployment solutions. [Read more]
• Scheduling is a must-have feature for software buyers, and integrated billing and scheduling is ideal. [Read more]
Most Practices Want to Replace Existing Software
Of the software buyers who called our advisors looking for practice management systems, the majority already had some form of medical office management software in place—be it scheduling, EHR, practice management or patient engagement software—that they were looking to replace or upgrade.
But we were surprised to find out that 24 percent of practices use only manual methods to chart and track patient information, schedule appointments and bill patients. And a significant number—16 percent—of practices have no system in place at all.
Forty percent of practices in our study are currently operating without software. That’s a big number, and it means those that do invest in practice management or record keeping software will have a major advantage over a lot of other medical offices.
The second important thing to consider is the 11 percent of practices that outsource their billing to third-parties. Users want to bring billing back under their own control with an integrated system in order to lower costs and improve first-pass acceptance rates.
It makes sense that those without systems in place would want to reap the benefits of medical software. But we’re still looking at a grand total of 60 percent of buyers wanting to replace existing systems to elevate their practice with the appropriate patient scheduling best practices.
Practices Want to Go Paperless for Better Organization
Pain points can be a tricky data set to nail down because every software user faces different environmental challenges—but that doesn’t mean the information we get by asking isn’t incredibly valuable.
We found that while the majority of our buyers were opening brand new practices and looking to start out with a strong system in place, the highest percentage of buyers looking to replace existing systems were unhappy with their current organizational practices.
Organization may seem like a fairly vague and open-ended complaint, but users can easily address it by looking for software features like:
- Customizable templates such as patient intake forms to save offices from having to collect, store and secure information that isn’t necessary to their specialty.
- Support for SOAP notes that make documentation and billing so much more efficient and easy to manage.
- Physician calendars that are automatically updated with integrated patient self-scheduling systems.
The idea is to find built-in shortcuts for as many administrative and time-consuming tasks as possible. By using electronic systems to collect and store information, manage patient and physician schedules and automate tasks, offices see fewer mistakes caused by simple human error and a reduction in lost or missing documents (just to name two organizational benefits).
The Time for On-Premise Software Has Passed
When we checked in 2014, we found that 88 percent of buyers (from a sample of 385) preferred cloud-based deployment, over the 12 percent who wanted on-premise. These percentages were found after removing the 69 percent of buyers who did not have a deployment preference.
This time around, after removing the 33 percent of buyers who didn’t specify a preference, only one percent of buyers requested an on-premise deployment solution.
That’s striking for two reasons: First, that so many more buyers had a specific deployment preference this time than in 2014; and second, that so few buyers actually wanted an on-premise solution.
Past research suggests the extremity of this trend is specific to practice management buyers, but the general attitude towards all medical software seems to follow this line of thinking.
On-premise solutions mean locally managed servers, which can lead to security concerns, limited mobility (as in, no remote access) and high license fees with additional costs for continually upgrading software.
Speaking of software costs, we took a look at budgets for practice management software and found that the majority of practices—30 percent—were prepared to pay up to $500 per provider every month.
Buyers Want Scheduling Capabilities and Integrated Billing and Scheduling
When asked what features they most want out of practice management software, 81 percent of buyers specifically called out scheduling.
Following close behind scheduling—and ranking almost equal with one another—are the ability to track treatment plans, assessments and progress notes (including SOAP notes), billing capabilities and a fully integrated EMR.
Again, these features all come together to indicate that buyers want to be able to do everything within one software system, and vendors that meet that need will be successful in this market.
When compared with our last practice management buyer study, the need for integrated systems is another area where we see a continuation of the trend. In 2014, 69 percent of buyers wanted their PM software to include both medical billing and patient scheduling integrations. This year, we found that number went up to 76 percent.
This makes sense when considering two other data points we found in this research: Many practices are currently outsourcing their billing, and they want to bring it in-house and streamline the collections process.
The biggest takeaway from this data is the value of a fully integrated system.
It’s clear that buyers want to be able to control scheduling, billing and record-keeping all from a single system platform. Unifying the various software within a medical facility enables offices to initiate clear, well-defined billing, charting and patient scheduling best practices, as well as reduce lost information and improve record keeping.
If you’re not boasting a fully integrated at your small practice, you’re in danger of falling behind more efficient and effective practices that are.
Software Advice caters to small and midsize businesses primarily, and we define that in medical offices by number of providers. With that in mind, the majority of buyers considered in this data (56 percent) were from practices with only one provider. In most of our phone conversations, we were speaking to physicians (24 percent) or office administrators (29 percent).
The buyers we spoke with represented a fairly diverse set of medical specialties, but the majority (27 percent) came from the mental and behavioral health disciplines such as psychologists and psychiatrists. Twenty percent of buyers worked in other fields such as cardiology, optometry, dermatology, etc.
Our advisors regularly speak with buyers who contact Software Advice. To create this report, we randomly select 200 of our advisors’ phone interactions with small to midsize practices that took place between January 2017 and February 2018 and analyzed them.
These findings exclusively represent those buyers who contacted Software Advice for guidance on medical practice management software selection, and may not be indicative of the market as a whole. Expert commentary solely represents the views of the individual. Chart values are rounded to the nearest whole number.
If you have questions about this report or would like to obtain access to any of the charts included above, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.