Whether you are a provider’s office or a medical billing service, one of the biggest decisions you will need to make is what practice management system to use. What doesn’t make it any easier is that the options are endless and the prices vary from free to several thousand dollars. As a medical billing service we actually get to work with quite a few different practice management systems, or PMSs. Over the years we have had several people ask us what PMS we use, or what PMS we recommend.
When we give advice on PMSs we have always tried to steer clear of recommending any one system in particular but rather we look at the needs of the person who is asking. What is a great software for one practice may not work out so well for another. We also have always tried to make them aware of all of their options including the free software.
Having never worked in any of the free software programs it was hard to give too much information about them other than “they’re free!”. We had heard that the reporting functions were not as good as a paid program but that is really it. We have never really recommended a free PMS to anyone even if they were limited on funds. Cutting costs with a PMS system is a bad idea. And switching to another system down the road can be very painful. But until last year we really had no experience directly with one of these free systems.
Recently we were contacted by a provider who was using a free PMS. They were having billing issues and wanted us to take over but continue to use their system. We often do accounts using the provider’s system so we didn’t think it would be any trouble. Wow! What an eye opener. We actually went into this very confident since we have used other products offered by the company who provides the free PMS that they use and we are very happy with them. Boy we were in for a surprise.
“The reporting functions are not as good” has a whole new meaning to us now. The reporting functions are not only limited, they are crippling. We actually found that we could not perform the work on the account that needed to be done because the reports could not provide the data needed. We also found that simple billing tasks that are performed very quickly in our PMS were very clunky, difficult and time consuming. It literally would take 8 to 9 times longer to do something as simple as create a claim.
Some may say “that’s because you are used to your system.” True, but the 8 to 9 times longer was after 8 months of using the program. New programs are not usually an issue for me. With a bachelor’s degree in computer programming, I’ve never had any trouble picking up a new system.
The good news is that we now have experience with one of these free PMS programs so we can now give a more educated opinion. The opinion really hasn’t changed much, just became stronger. Don’t cut corners when choosing a practice management system. It will end up costing you more in the long run.