Governance, Mission, Growth

With Practice, Practice Management Systems Expand

By Renee DiIulio

Integration of systems and modules, such as the Horizon Radiology integrated RIS/PACS workstation shown here, is increasing in popularity.

Without question, practice management software can help a medical practice of any specialty run more efficiently. Most systems assist with time-consuming but routine backbone tasks, such as scheduling, billing, and workflow tracking. As the programs have come of age, companies and users have expanded functionality. Often, the advances are not earth-shattering, but they do maximize value.

“Most health care organizations aren’t leading edge, but we want to get those leading-edge technologies to leverage features for their advantage,” said Mark Pilarski, VP of product management of the Horizon Radiology Manager (HRM) at McKesson Corp, San Francisco. In addition to updated components, newer program editions have added specific feature functionality and increased cost-effectiveness.

Enhancing Efficiency

David Branson
Mark Pilarski

“Anybody who runs a practice is concerned about getting value through each step of the process,” said Pilarski’s colleague David Branson, HRM product manager. The best way to do that is to adjust workflows to take advantage of the new features—for instance, go paperless.

“Much of what cued radiologists or technologists in the past has been paper-based—a requisition or printed data,” Pilarski said. “Institutions should leverage the systems to become paperless.”

Since June 2003, Proliance Surgeons Inc PS, Seattle, has been using practice management software from NextGen Healthcare, Horsham, Pa. “From the beginning, we have used it to schedule and track appointments, handle billing, and create reports for auditing,” said Kim Cuervo, an applications trainer with Proliance and a NextGen certified professional. “But we have become more efficient and enhanced its implementation in the workspace, particularly using more reports.”

The organization’s audits have grown more detailed over time. The multispecialty institution has about 28 practices, eight MRI centers, nine ambulatory surgical centers, and more than 40 locations throughout western Washington. Annual auditing provides information on productivity, as a whole and individually, as well as charges, fees, payments, adjustments, refunds, and the like. “We do a number of things based primarily on a financial perspective,” Cuervo said.

Proper practice measurements can help to guide any facility’s business. According to Branson, “Practice measurement is important to all groups to make sure they are managing costs, getting the most from their referring bases, and delivering a certain level of care to patients.”

The ability to customize programs to a certain extent is helpful, since each practice is different. Cuervo noted that one of Proliance’s challenges has been building continuity across the different specialties where possible. “The requirements for general and orthopedic surgeons do not always match, but we want to achieve continuity in such areas as billing and audits,” she said. “We want them to use it in the same exact way each time.” This goal is achieved through constant retraining. The institution holds quarterly user meetings, often incorporating corrective training based on collected experience. “We show them the ramifications of improper use,” she said.

Leading Edge

Savvier technology users are more likely to take advantage of advanced features, and as more computerized systems infiltrate health care, integration becomes one of the more valuable features. Cuervo’s wish list includes EMR and image control system (ICS) modules from NextGen. “These systems are definitely on our goals list this year,” she said.

Both types of systems can integrate with the practice management module seamlessly to expand its functionality. Cuervo said, “The ability to computerize all of our medical records and not need to refer to a filing cabinet increases efficiency.”

McKesson is calling its similar effort the “connected community.” According to Branson, “In the past, the institution stood alone and worked with its referral base, but now it’s becoming more important to connect communication and tie the hospital, patient, payor, financial institution, pharmacy, and physicians together.”

Additional specialty modules can include radiology, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and case management. “We have been focusing a lot of feature functionality on the radiologist, technologist, and patient,” Pilarski said, “and we are now switching to an IT focus, such as PACS and RIS administrators.”

At McKesson, future updates will occur with more frequency and fewer changes. “Customers wanted new rollouts to be more consumable and available more frequently,” Pilarski said.

With each generation, products become more well rounded, attempting to fill needs and niches in the marketplace. As the market has shifted toward pay-for-performance, disease management, and personalized medicine, patients and health care institutions are seeking the best tools to help maximize performance and value. Practice management systems often deliver, particularly with practice.

Renee DiIulio is a contributing writer for  Axis Imaging News. For more information, contact .