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    Tech Q&A: Spreadsheets help review billing software options

    Q: I want to upgrade my outdated practice management and billing software. What should I keep in mind when assessing the various offerings on the market? Price? Ease of integration?

    A: First, begin by collecting the following numbers: your provider and user count, claims count, and insurance verification volume estimates. Develop a spreadsheet and compare the overall costs of the various systems you are considering. Also, evaluate the technical support and training capabilities of your vendors. Ask for references, and spend time talking to others who are using the same system.

    Ease of integration has become more important in recent years as healthcare legislation has increased the data-sharing needs of practice management systems. A reduction in data entry, plus improved clinical efficiencies, will offset the expenses associated with data inegration over time.

    Be sure to select a system that provides an intuitive way to make appointments, register patients, enter charges, and run reports. By considering all these factors objectively, you'll identify hidden costs that can turn into heartache following implementation. A slightly more expensive system that fits your practice better and is easier for your staff to use actually may be cheaper in the long run.

    Answers to readers' questions were provided by Lyle Melick, manager of information systems at SS&G Healthcare Services LLC in Akron, Ohio. Send your tech questions to
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