What is practice management software? Why do surgical practices need to use it? Is it different from EMR and surgical scheduling software? What are the benefits of using healthcare management systems for practices, patients, and surgeons? How can you successfully integrate PMS, EMR, and surgical scheduling tools?
Integrating Practice Management Software, EMR, and Surgical Scheduling Tools
Today’s surgical practices face a number of challenges when it comes to efficiency. Practice overheads have increased significantly over the past 15 years — as much as 60 to 70% of charges — putting small and medium-sized practices under increasing financial strain.
Careful practice management is the most significant way of reducing surgical practice overheads, largely through increasing productivity, reducing costs, and improving business operations.
Healthcare practice management software is a critical tool for surgical practices to achieve all this in a cost-effective way.
The Challenges of Managing a Surgical Practice
The day-to-day running of the average independent surgical practice involves multiple repetitive tasks such as:
- Updating schedules
- Calling patients
- Filling out forms
With the complexities of medical insurance, healthcare advancements, and third-party processing, this administrative burden keeps increasing.
These activities consume vast amounts of time and resources that could be saved or redirected through effective practice management. Managing a practice well involves establishing effective and efficient processes that ensure a smooth workflow — from the patient’s initial contact with the practice to surgical appointment scheduling, through to accounting and reporting.
Various tools on the market can help practice managers optimize their medical office systems and upgrade their businesses on all levels.
What Goes into Managing a Practice?
To run an efficient and profitable practice, it is necessary to have good systems in place to manage surgical practice administration and medical record keeping, as well as surgical scheduling.
Good Surgical Practice Administration
This includes all the activities related to the day-to-day running of the practice, for example:
- Registering patients
- Booking appointments
- Ensuring that all the information is stored correctly
- Billing and accounting
Reporting on patient numbers, length of appointments, and other critical data is also an important part of surgical practice administration.
Accurate Medical Record-keeping
This involves the proper recording of the patient’s treatment. A thorough medical record includes active diagnoses and past medical and surgical history. Such records may have to be submitted to outside parties including other medical professionals, surgeons, specialists, courts of law, or anyone else who needs to know about the patient’s past medical history.
The medical records must adhere to the legal and medical standards required by the state in which the practice is located.
The All-important Surgical Scheduling
There are many moving parts involved in scheduling a surgical procedure — from booking the OR and the surgeon, ordering equipment, and getting insurance authorizations to billing and record keeping.
With everything that it entails, it is easy to see how practice management can become a burgeoning cost and a challenge to practice efficiency. Managing a practice manually requires a lot of effort, patience, and time and can lead to wasted resources and errors. Software solutions for each area of practice management have helped automate most of these activities, and have become indispensable tools for running a healthy surgical practice.
The Necessity of Using Healthcare Practice Management Software
Technological advances have moved medical practices from largely paper-based endeavors to ones based on cutting-edge software that has streamlined and automated many of these administrative tasks.
Healthcare software has become critical for small and medium-sized practices, and a range of solutions are being offered both for practice management and medical record keeping.
What Is Practice Management Software (PMS)?
PMS systems are designed to streamline and automate all the administrative functions associated with running a practice. There are a multitude of features that PMS developers offer, and which platform a practice chooses depends on their specific needs and specializations.
At its core, however, most PMS systems will offer:
- Calendar for scheduling and managing in-office appointments
- Database for patient demographic information
- Notes function for keeping clinical notes
- A place to upload patient correspondence
- Test results and data
- Ability to send electronic appointment reminders
- Capacity for billing and financial reporting
What Is Electronic Medical Records (EMR)?
EMR software allows medical providers to create, store, and update patients’ clinical records on a digital platform. Core features of this type of software often include:
- Access digital records anytime from anywhere
- Share records and communicate with other providers safely and confidentially
- A way to create and send prescriptions electronically
- Portal for patients to access to information and test results
- Integration points with labs for safe and efficient test result distribution
Sometimes there is an overlap between EMR and PMS systems but in general, the EMR system is used for assisting the practice with clinical matters, while a practice management program is used for administrative and financial matters.
What Is Surgical Scheduling Software?
Surgical scheduling software is a more recent addition to practice software solutions. Surgimate, for example, offers a revolutionary platform that enables practice staff to efficiently book surgeries, maximize block time, and increase surgical revenue. A good surgical scheduling software will offer:
- Calendar function with the ability to see block time, move surgeries, and view the different surgeons and facilities
- Patient status tracker to manage all items required pre-surgery and to highlight follow-ups
- Form management feature to generate or pre-populate forms
- Reporting features on different metrics of the practice’s performance to enhance efficiencies
- Integration into the other PMS and EMR systems for a seamless flow of patient management
Benefits of PMS, EMR, and Surgical Scheduling Systems
It’s obvious that the management of medical practices has been made much more efficient and streamlined through the use of practice management software, EMR, and surgical scheduling systems.
A huge number of tasks involved in ensuring that a practice runs smoothly can now be automated, reducing the number of resources needed for these previously time-consuming events, and lowering the number of mistakes and oversights that inevitably occur when running a medical practice.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific benefits for the practice, patients, and surgeons.
Efficient Software Benefits for Practices
Software benefits for practices include:
- Time saved with automated workflows, less time spent on administrative tasks
- Fewer scheduling and billing errors (and frustration)
- Increased profitability with a potential 40% of tasks being automated, less administration required for practice management
- Improved billing with more efficient interaction with medical insurers and treatment approvals, and faster payment
- Document management and automated forms create a digital trail and result in more accurate info
- Patient loyalty with a more satisfying and stress-free experience
Add all of these together, and practices see greater efficiencies (i.e. fewer errors, a reduction in missed appointments, and more effective time management), improved business, and increased profitability.
Efficient Software Benefits for Patients
There are benefits for patients as well:
- Easy access – The automation of booking appointments is a great benefit to patients. Some practice management systems allow patients to make bookings directly online, making it much simpler to book and change appointments.
- Less waiting – Optimized workflows and improved time management on behalf of the practice means less time sitting in the waiting room for patients – one of the biggest complaints of patients around the world.
- Better patient engagement – Practice staff who have less administration to do and fewer frustrations and errors to deal with result in improved patient interactions. Higher quality communication and engagement improves the patient’s experience, often at a time when they need it most.
- Better healthcare – A practice that is running efficiently provides a higher standard of care to the patient – everything from fewer frustrations, great record keeping, and efficient communication with other healthcare professionals involved in their treatment mean that patients are getting better health care.
Efficient Software Benefits for Surgeons
And don’t forget, these systems benefit surgeons also:
- Optimal block time usage maximizes profitability with efficient OR use
- Fewer cancellations with all pre-surgical requirements completed well before surgery day
- Easy analytics and reporting allow for any other inefficiencies to be identified and improved upon
PMS, EMR, and Surgical Scheduling Software – A Powerful Combination for Surgical Practice Management
The different types of practice management systems provide multiple benefits, but the real value of automating your workflows can only be realized when all the different systems work together.
Practices with limited technology budgets have been known to invest in one system — an EHR, for example — and try to use it to help with another function such as surgical scheduling. As each tool is designed to excel in its specific purpose this rarely offers optimal results.
As surgical scheduling and coordination is an essential element of any surgical practice, many practices are interested in purchasing this type of software. It is essential to ensure, however, that the surgical scheduling solution you adopt will be able to integrate seamlessly with any PMS or EMR system you are already using.
Surgimate’s API / HL7 engine, for example, imports key information for the surgery from your PMS or EMR system into Surgimate Practice to make surgical scheduling seamless.
Adoption of software platforms is on the rise in surgical businesses and for good reason. Given the numerous challenges that healthcare providers face trying to provide appropriate levels of patient care while remaining profitable, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that small to medium-sized surgical practices could remain competitive without good electronic systems in place.
By adopting practice management software, EMR, and surgical scheduling software, many of the most pervasive challenges can be effectively addressed. Interoperability, however, remains essential. A major advantage of Surgimate’s surgical scheduling platform is that it can integrate seamlessly with your PMS and EMR, drawing data from these solutions and using it to provide a truly seamless and efficient practice management experience.