Implementing a new Practice Management System can be a daunting and busy time for everyone involved. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to introduce efficiencies into your practice, if you’re able to harness the functionality on offer.
We have been implementing Practice Management Software for over 30 years and during this time we have seen a few issues that continually arise with new implementations. They can overshadow the success of a project and that’s why we have put together this article. It’s designed to provide an outline of the top 10 mistakes that practices make when they are implementing new software and how to avoid them.
Most practices don’t change systems very often and aren’t aware of what can go wrong or what planning is needed. If you’re thinking of implementing a new system, take advantage of the lessons learned from so many practices that have undergone this process, it will help to ensure your project runs smoothly.
It’s important to have a meeting with all stakeholders in the practice to identify the needs of each user. Gain an understanding of what users like in the existing system and what they don’t like. This information needs to become part of the Requirements Document (that will list the features needed in the new system). It can be useful to put a weighting next to each requirement so that during the decision-making process you can easily identify the more important features.
It’s also a good idea to make a list of the goals and objectives for implementing a new system. Once a project gets underway and the selection committee becomes overwhelmed with the products on offer, it’s useful to refer to this list. That way you don’t lose sight of the end game or get distracted by features that look impressive during a demonstration, but will never be used.
Top Tip – Schedule a meeting with system users to identify existing problems so that you can ensure the new system will overcome them.
Modern Practice Management Systems offer many productivity enabling features, yet often when practices implement a new system they simply look to replicate what they were doing previously. This can be a costly mistake because there are many time savings to be achieved with a many new systems.
To get the most from a new system it’s a good idea to map your existing processes and look for any wasted time. Also check if each step of a process if it’s still necessary. Often practices want to duplicate outdated processes that are no longer needed. Staff don’t consider that implementing a new Practice Management system may deliver efficiencies if they take this opportunity to revise their processes and workflows.
Once the processes are documented it will be much easier to discuss them with your vendor, ask for Industry Standard Best Practice Flow Analysis to assist you to identify efficiencies. When your vendor can view your documented processes they will be able to discuss alternative ways of doing things that will shave hours from repetitive tasks.
Software implementations often go wrong when the practice has either assigned the wrong person to manage the project or failed to put together a project team that will guide the implementation and take ownership. Without the right team in place, costly mistakes can happen, and the project will experience delays.
It’s a good idea to put together a leadership team to drive the PMS implementation. The team should consist of at least one clinician that understands what’s required of the system and how it’s currently used. Team members that represent Financial, IT and Operations are also key to ensuring the need of all facets of the practice are considered.
Costly delays occur when a formal project plan hasn’t been developed and the correct resources aren’t allocated at the practice. Good planning will resolve this problem. Most software vendors provide a project plan from their side, but each practice needs to create one that takes into consideration the vendor timeline and the resources needed within the practice. It’s a good idea to assign a project manager from the clinic side, to ensure the project stays within the agreed timelines. For smaller practices that are time poor, this isn’t always possible. Most vendors can provide a Project Manager for the whole project if you don’t have the resources, so it may be worth including this in your requirements document.
Depending on the size of your practice it may be wise to have a resource dedicated to the project 100%. When staff are trying to squeeze implementation tasks into their already busy schedule slippages can occur which will impact project delivery.
One mistake that many practices make is failing to allocate adequate time for testing and staff training. The result is often costly mistakes and patient delays.
Leading up to the go-live date, staff should attend training and then be allocated time to work on the new system before it goes live. Training courses should be customised to how staff will be using the system.
Most practices are very busy and trying to learn a new system with a constant flow of patients is challenging and this can lead to user acceptance issues.
Get IT involved
Costly problems can occur when a practice doesn’t realise their existing hardware isn’t compatible with the new system. This can cause unnecessary delays when software is installed and won’t work with the existing hardware.
It’s essential to involve your IT person during the selection process as they will work with your vendor to ensure there are no compatibility issues and all hardware specifications meet the vendors minimum requirements. Your IT person will also ensure that there are no performance issues and that you have the correct network bandwidth, internet speed and access rights when your system goes live!
Medicare and My Health Record
Issues with Medicare and My Health Record can be both frustrating for new users and cause cash flow issues for the practice. Both Medicare and My Health Record use separate digital certificates. The password details for these are often not saved, or misplaced. When these certificates aren’t working with the new system, this causes delays with the transmission of claims and My Health Record uploads.
Another problem that can occur is when patient data is converted from the old system into the new system and it’s not thoroughly tested. While the conversion process is usually quite accurate, issues do arise. It’s vital that adequate time is allocated so that all records are thoroughly tested to ensure data accuracy and no patient records are lost. Your vendor will be able to help you through this process.
Often clinicians don’t want to change Practice Management Systems, they are happy using the system they have and prefer this to the discomfort of using a new system. That’s why it’s important to get them involved during the selection process so they feel they were part of the selection process and they support the change.
Those practices that don’t communicate the benefits of the new system or provide enough training may experience issues with users not wanting to use the system or asking to go back to the previous system. To avoid these Change Management issues it’s vital that users receive regular updates on the implementation and understand how to use the system and where to get help if they have a problem. Change Management issues can be disastrous for any Practice Management System implementation.
The financial investment along with the resources needed to effectively implement a new system can be significant. It’s crucial that practices can utilise all of the features available in order to get the best return on their investment. If your practice is just using the basic features and hasn’t realised any productivity savings or business benefits, then that’s a serious problem.
Consider providing additional training to users and ensuring they understand what on-line training is available to them. It’s always a good idea to do a Post-Implementation review with your vendor.
If you are considering changing your Practice Management Solution, call Medtech today we have a superior Practice Management Solution! Click here to find out more.