The modern medical practice is a busy place. Whether you work in a small, local practice or a larger inner city hospital, the story is always the same: A large influx of patients with overworked staff trying to manage the circus. The daily challenges and demands of the medical world come from all angles. Professional Doctors and practitioners count on efficient systems to deliver the highest quality treatment that patients expect and require. Administrative staff depend on systems that can streamline an otherwise indigestible amount of workflow. It is in this context that various forms of medical software have come forward, and in this context that innovation is rife.
Medical software is almost as old as software itself, and has been in increasing use since the late 1970’s. Its prevalence has been driven by advances in technology and particularly in recent times by the advance of smart phones, which has created a plethora of opportunities for innovation in diagnosis, monitoring and interactive functions. In its broadest terms, medical software is any software which relates to medical practice purposes, diagnosis, data analysis for diagnosis and treatment, and tech which can be used by patients for monitoring and diagnosis purposes. Much of the software is used for practical managerial purposes so that Physicians and various practitioners may automate the day to day work flow of the practice. With the advance of Practice Management Software, practitioners can automate patient scheduling, staff scheduling, billing as well as expanding the capacity to communicate with customers and track customer profiles in their systems and across practices and staff members. Software functions such as these are a predominant subgroup of medical software at large.
Practice Management Software vs other software
It goes without saying than, that the field of medical software is a very wide. With the development of technology and the spread and ease in which software can now be created for specific tasks, there are is a large array of applications that now exist. Some of the branches that fall under ‘medical software’ are; dental management, imaging and visualization, medical information systems, research, mobile software, health system management, diagnosis, self-diagnosis and monitoring to name a few. The majority of this article will discuss Practice Management Software, with a focus on billing, scheduling, claims management and Health Record Management applications, as this software has the widest application to all medical branches, and is generalized outside of ultra-specific tasks (such as diabetes blood sugar monitoring) or field (say radiography).
The first lot of Medical Software CRM this article will look at are those that are involved with staff and patient scheduling. Organizing staff and patients is a huge part of day to day work flow, in a variety of different practices and clinical organizations. For this reason, there are a vast array of Practice Management applications that are designed for this express purpose.
The most obvious purpose for scheduling software is to manage and communicate with incoming patients. Software like A.I MED and Scheduflow and Patient Communicator all offer advanced features that revolve around the scheduling of patients. Offering typical calendar and appointment filing features, programs like these also include such features as automated patient communication and booking confirmation. For example, YellowSchedule, a software designed for therapy practices, offers users the ability to send automated Text-message reminder messages. In addition it can keep track of prior patient notes and files as well as their history of attendance. Confirmation of bookings can also be automated via the ability to send ‘yes/no’ response messages to confirm bookings, which helps to cut down on lost revenue due to unexpected cancellations.
In addition to patient scheduling services there are medical software applications that organize and schedule staff. Software such as Momentum allow users to manually schedule and track the schedule of employees, and customize and edit shifts. In addition, it offers advanced reporting features which can offer insights onto such things as scheduling fairness. This app like many other is also available for access by staff from tablet, and so they may do thing like request vacation time remotely. The benefits of this software are improvements in work flow and reductions in scheduling errors, the likes of which are extra problematic in an emergency environment.
In addition to scheduling features, there are a variety of medical software applications that utilize billing and accounting features in order to cut down workflow in transactions and costs, automate processes and streamline claims or other medical discounts.
The express feature of billing software is to create a comprehensive and saveable bill instantaneously. Most medical Billing Software such as HPlusPro exist for the express purpose of cutting down workflow and blocking leaks in revenue due to human error or system failure. Additionally, features include the ability to create a patient file with billing history so that transactions may be viewed over a long run of client/practice interactions. Software such as HPlusPro or PracticeSuite offer visual payment processing that can be viewed through intuitive dashboards so that all points of the payment process can be tracked. With the prevalence of cloud systems on many of these medical software applications, such as CollaborateMD PMS, Bflow Solutions and Clinix PM, often times this information can be sent within and between medical organizations and practitioners.
These applications allow users to access to large bases of data on certain patients. This allows for the creation and accumulation of personal statements, which helps track and account transactions and create a paper trail automatically for things such as medical claims on the part of the client or practice. This means that tax considerations or claim considerations, or information regarding the method of payment can all be stored in a single patient file.
Claims management Software
Closely related to billing software is claim management software. Often included in the Practice Management packages that many medical software applications offer, this type of software is designed to comprehensively automate claims processes. Software such as Healthsuite, include; the capacity to electronically integrate manual claims, the capacity to identify patient eligibility for medical benefits and health claims, the identification of referrals from other practitioners across platforms and locations; and the automation of reimbursement, benefit management and overall billing processes.
Patient Record Management Feature
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) or Electronic Health Records (HER) software are systems that aid practitioners in the filing of patient charts, billing and transaction histories, interaction histories, prescription information as well as notes and DR assessments into one convenient file. The only difference between the two terms above is that EMR exists within the system of a single practice, whereas EHR carries patient records across organizations, leaving a long run public record. Like other software that integrates between client and user (such as CRM software), EMR software has extensive capacities in the way of facilitating and tracking patient interaction. In addition to providing an automated system for the assimilation of patient data, including such things as past billing, referral and claim information, the software provides an easy to use visual interface for users to edit and track profiles. In addition to facilitating workflow for administrative staff, this technology empowers practice professionals to access important information on demand for diagnostic and treatment purposes. A General Physician using a cloud based EHR software like MedicFusion can, for example, access a patient’s extended medical record and find out if that patient has prior conditions that would prevent the allocation of a new medication.
There are a variety of other administrative tasks that this software can facilitate. Programs like Oscar and DoctorsPartner give users the capacity to electronically prescribe or refill medical prescriptions. In its simplest form, E prescription modules allow either a physician or a physician assistant to send an electronic form that can then be received by local pharmacy. In addition to saving the time associated with filing and prescribing medication via old methods, E prescription is also much less prone to errors such as illegible handwriting or inappropriate dosage via cross analysis with a patients past records; acting as a sort of emergency fail safe.
Other types of Medical Software
Outside of practice managerial software there are applications that serve other purposes. Many of these have specific purposes and function across various platforms. One interesting development in recent times is the advent of software that utilizes mobile devices. Glucosio, for instance, allows diabetic patients to track their glucose levels. In addition to the monitoring feature, Glucosia tracks user’s data and assembles it in a data base for diabetes research. There are also applications that utilize IOS and Android platforms for self-diagnosis such as Isabell Symptom Checker, but these have caused some controversy regarding their accuracy. An array of imaging software has become available as well for medical imaging. A vast array of new software has become available in addition to PET and CAT scans, with software such as ITK-SNAP, Invesailius and MITK (to name a few) providing additional means for 3d restructuring of physiology. There are a vast array of other software applications that exist for research and mass data storage purposes, but there are too many to go in any great detail in one article.
The advent of new and constantly evolving medical software proves a great opportunity or medical organizations of various type and size. These environments present an array of daily challenges that are both pressing and of great importance. The software that is now available reaches many narrow corners of the clinical profession, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the advent of systems that integrate work flow and patient records are some of the most greatly utilized across all medical services and organizations. The automation of scheduling for both staff and patients saves on costs in lost revenue and wasted time, while software that manages claims and prescription improves accuracy in the prescription of treatments and the management of medical discounts. It is yet to be seen if applications on mobile devices will increase in utility as this software evolves, but with the increasing proliferation and integration of such devices in the daily lives of most people, there are sure to be some great innovations to come.