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On Practice Management Software

By Steven M. Verno, CMBS, CEMCS, CMSCS
2009 Steven M. Verno via our Medical Billing Community Forum
Published with author's permission 

Practice Management Software

Physicians Offices use practice management software to manage patient appointments and electronic medical records and if using their own in-house billing staff, submit claims and to do their own in-house billing. The big question new billers who want to work out of their homes or offices, want to make sure that the money they invest is done wisely.

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Cost of Medical Billing Software

Software can be very expensive. Some billing software programs can go as high as $200,000 or more. Some can go as cheaply as $600. There is the thought that the more expensive the software, the better it is. But, this is not necessarily so. You can buy a $500 car and it gets you from point a to point b. You can buy a $1,000,000 car but if it doesn't get you from point a to point b, what good is it to you?

There are so many software choices out there. You have Lytec, Medisoft, Versyss, Unisys, Medical Manager, Centricity, Collaborate MD, Zirmed, EBC, and many, many more. I cant name them all, there are so many. If you google medical Billing software, you get more than 5,000,000 hits.

I used to use Lytec since 1994 but I haven't used it for several years and they made many great changes to it. I liked it because it was very easy to use. I was also the systems manager for Medical Manager, but its been 5 years since I used it. A couple of minutes behind the keys will get me back to normal again. I've also used Centricity and a billing company that worked for my provider used EBC.  The last I used was Zirmed. Very simple to use with almost no training. I have seen Collaborate MD at a seminar and I liked what I saw. I wont mention the ones I didn't like because I don't want to be sued by those companies. You see, if you provide an opinion, and it is not favorable, the software owner, distributor, or creator considers it as slander. So, to play it safe, it is best to not make a comment about the software.

Buying software can be a gamble. There is no 100% guarantee. Its like buying a used car as is. Once you drive it off the lot, the problems are now yours. Some software companies provide free demos you can download and play with. Most demos allow you to play with up to 3-4 accounts. The demo does everything that the real program does. You can buy an activation key which makes the demo a live program. if you wish to send claims electronically, you need to hire a clearinghouse. The software may be able to be used with different clearinghouses or it may be restricted to one clearinghouse. Like software, there are many clearinghouses. With a clearinghouse, there will be startup costs, monthly costs, and a per claim cost.

When I checked out a billing software, I would call their customer service line at different times per day. It would see how long it would take to get through to customer service. Customer Service is an additional cost you will face. I've seen it as low as $600 per year. It can go higher. We once paid the $600 fee and after doing so, the customer service department said they couldn't answer our question. It took letters to the software CEO, the BBB and FTC to get our money back. After all, why pay for customer service if they cant answer our question. If I couldn't get through to customer service, then there was no need to obtain the software. This is because if we had a problem and we wouldn't get through to anyone, we were stuck and that costs money.

Do you and the doctor need the same software? It helps. But, if not, you need to enter data you get from the doctor, manually, unless the doctor has the ability to export the information and your software allows you to import the data. You may have to tweet the data so that the fields exported are the same as your import fields. For example, in the doctors software, field 1 is the last name of the patient and in your software, field 1 is the account number. To make the appropriate changes, I would use Excel and move the fields around. Then I would save my work as an ASCII file. I would find the field files so that if mistakes are made, i can delete the bad one. You don't want garbage into your software because if you input garbage it outputs garbage.

The term GIGO means garbage in, garbage out. Garbage out is money lost.