A general practice or family practice medical office typically uses a range of medical software solutions to enhance clinical workflows and deliver quality patient care. Although some of these may be purchased as stand-alone systems, the general practice office often uses a centralized platform offering several of the same benefits. Let’s take a look at the features and systems that enhance a medical office’s practice management:
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Appointment Scheduling Software and Patient Identification
Generally, a medical practice will use a set of digital solutions that will help to identify and schedule new and established patients. Many of these will also have features for checkout, as well as auxiliary features for courtesy calls or text reminders. This type of medical software has become something of a standard for a medical office, in the same way that similar systems have been developed for retail and other segments.
These types of tools will fall under the category of “front office” tools: they’re mostly be used by clerical personnel, not in a clinical setting, and they tend not to have much relevant to clinical workflows.
Billing and Coding Software
Medical practices also rely on medical billing software and coding software to help document clinical services.
Billing and coding software takes the documentation components of clinical care and presents them in a way that meets standards for the diverse community of payers that the medical practice must interact with, both government agencies and private health insurance companies.
With that in mind, billing and coding software can take in data sets such as:
- Diagnosis and procedure codes
- Place of service codes
- Patient identifiers
- Medical staff identifiers
- Date of service and other visit documentation
All of this data will be presented in a way that honors a contractual agreement between the medical office and its patients.
Patient Charts and Benefits
Interestingly, much of the data that is used in billing and coding is also used by doctors and other clinicians in the documentation of patient care. For instance, new ICD-10 codes are a component of medical billing, but they also show up in chart notes and other types of internal documentation, to identify the diagnosis the care that a doctor has ordered as a result.
Many of the software projects that general practices use will have detailed digital functions revolving around diagnosis and procedure codes. They will have templates for automatic tools that help doctors to more effectively enter a diagnosis, document a procedure, or dictate the results of the consultation or exam.
As a side note, it’s important to look carefully at the features and functionality of these key clinical systems.
With the right design, these types of clinical tools provide more transparent clinical documentation.
Patient access is another major part of medical software for general practices and specialists that’s growing at a tremendous rate. The idea is based on the concept of medical information transparency. Before patient access tools existed, patients had to go to the medical practice to ask for record releases, and were often given printouts or faxes, or some form of documentation that was hard to dispense and transport.
The new model is much easier — each patient gets a password and username, and they can individually access the system to see what’s going on with their health. They can get test results, exam results and other key information from the doctors, as well as the medical history that the practice has built for them, without going into an office and signing release forms. The practice can dispense this information without worrying about HIPAA or other privacy regulations.
Beyond this, patient access is a tool that enhances a two-way street of communication between a patient and their doctors. With general practice physicians so pressed for time, they don’t always get all of their key communication done in a routine office visit. The patient access portal becomes a way for a patient to stay in touch with the practice, and even to ask questions and resolve issues.
All of the above types of functionality can be packaged into a comprehensive EMR/EHR system for general medical practices.
Many of the most common and popular medical software tools that practices use will have most of this functionality included. Established vendors will promote the many different types of functionality that their platforms offer to doctors and others, for example, the patient access portals that they have built. Practices looking at obtaining one of these systems or changing their vendor should do a direct apples-to-apples comparison of systems, in order to come up with the best result for their practice.