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Every facility is different and brings unique needs to its search for the right practice management software. Nevertheless, a look at how two users arrived at their decisions provides valuable insight into the search process.
"We began our search about four months ago," says Bo Brannon, executive director of Occupational Health Solutions, an affiliate of the Osteopathic Health System in Fort Worth, TX. "We decided to do it because of our growth. We have two full-service clinics and one drug screening collection facility. We were tied into the hospital clinic billing software and doing our own billing and collections, and their software certainly is not meant for workers’ comp and occ-med."
Brannon says he looked at the three S’s: STIX, Stolas, and SYSTOC. "We didn’t have any preconceived ideas," he asserts. "I had a list of questions I compiled myself — the most important of which was the following: Our protocol system is manual and makes sense to us. What software best duplicates our system, so it will make sense to our staff?"
Ultimately, he picked STIX. "All of the systems probably cost about same," he notes. "We had a committee meeting that included billing, marketing and front-office people. Since we are protocol-driven, they were concerned about which system best fit our protocols."
The new system is working far better than the old one, Brannon says. "The flexibility of STIX fits perfectly for us, being a multiple-base system but all in one geographic area."
The protocols tie into the billing in a way that makes the process much less labor-intensive, Brannon notes. "If you have it set up the way they design it, it just flows in so you spend much more time collecting than billing, which you need to do in health care today," he explains. "You click one button and that bill’s already in the system. You bring the patient in the front door, he goes out the back door, and the bill can just follow him with virtually no manual work at all. It’s all pre-set, whether you want a drug or alcohol screening, a physical exam, a back test, or a pulmonary function test. You put the patient’s demographic information in and it’s done. If you do all those services, you just click a complete’ button. Then the information just sits in the database waiting for you to demand the bill, which comes out itemized."
If the billing office is not sitting around re-entering those charges, they can be looking at outstanding balances and working the phones, says Brannon. "I want them to be able to make phone calls every day to make sure everyone’s current — or know why they’re not," he asserts. "With a larger facility, you could even have less staff in your billing office."
Client companies are provided with a password. They can log onto the Internet and look at their protocols to ensure they are current, Brannon says. "We can download drug screening information to them; they can look in and see who’s been in, and what the balances are on a day-to-day basis. It’s very client friendly."
Brannon also appreciates the fact that he can add new service modules as his organization grows. "They were also professionals," he observes. "I’m not a huge player, but I dealt with the president, and the vice president of technology worked with my [information systems] guy to find the best way for us to set up the system." The price of the system doesn’t bother Brannon at all. "We will make back our investment through improved collections," he asserts.
For Pam Hulsey, manager of WorkWell, an occupational medicine clinic in Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, KY, the recent purchase of a P-M system meant staying with a company she knew and trusted: MediTrax. "My first search was about 10 years ago," she recalls. "We needed something to do all of our registration, all of our billing, and enable us to track injuries as far as restrictions."
She has been at WorkWell for about two and a half years. "The previous facility was a freestanding clinic, and this is a hospital-based one," she notes. "After being in a freestanding clinic and having control over our own billing, I wanted to be sure we would still have control and provide answers for our clients. I didn’t want to be telling them to call the billing office and not know what was going on there — what the AR is, who’s paying you and who isn’t. With MediTrax you know all that."
Cost was also a consideration, she says. "It was a very affordable program — actually it has come down in cost," says Hulsey. "The other business I was with had five different clinics at one time, and no real networking capabilities; so we bought the system five times over. At that time we were paying $13,000 for the programs; now, it’s about $8,000." She does pay an annual support fee, which entitles her to all program updates. "You just go to their web page and download them," she explains. "If you have a little bit of computer knowledge you can do it yourself; you don’t have to wait for MIS [Management Information Systems]."
Hulsey has never felt the need to go with one of the big three. "I’ve seen one of the Big S’s’ in one clinic we are affiliated with," she notes. "There was something in particular about how the program was written, and the MIS department said, You have to go with this,’ but compared to what we have, they are very, very similar. The big difference is that MediTrax does not have an appointment schedule on it, and the other ones do. But as far as protocols for specific companies, billing, posting checks and the other basics you need to have software perform, it was able to do everything."
Hulsey says she "can’t imagine" an occupational medicine clinic not having a practice management software program. "Even if you only treat your own employees, you may not bill, you but can still set up the system to track charges indirectly, and show your employer that you saved $X’ by providing physicals, drugs screenings, and so on, vs. having them sent out." For Hulsey, her system is an integral part of her clinic’s everyday life. "When we come in [in the morning] it’s up and running, and it goes all day long," she concludes.
[For more information, contact:
• Bo Brannon, Executive Director, Osteopathic Health Systems of Texas, 1916 N. Beach, Fort Worth, TX 76111-6703. Telephone: (817) 759-0387. Fax: (817) 377-0827.
• Pam Hulsey, Manager, WorkWell, Hardin Memorial Hospital, 110 Layman Lane, Elizabethtown, KY 42701. Telephone: (270) 706-5625.