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What to ask before you buy software
Before you purchase practice management software, make sure you ask these crucial questions.
(This list does not include questions pertaining to hardware, networks, security, or redundancy.)
Does the system allow multiple users to edit the same client record simultaneously? When a team member or doctor can't update a client record because another user has it open, the task may be forgotten. This basic capability ensures that your practice maintains accurate client records and is less likely to lose revenue from unbilled items or services.
Does the software support different levels of user or group permissions? Permissions can prevent unauthorized changes to medical data and restrict certain tasks, such as running confidential reports or issuing account credits, to specific users or groups.
Does the product allow you to make client fields required? This capability can help your practice maintain complete client records and enforce office procedures. For example, if you offer a referral program, you can make the referral field required so team members are reminded to ask clients how they found out about the practice.
How many computers does the server support? You might need to purchase additional server licenses to support your number. Ask whether you'll need to separately purchase more licenses for the server, database, or other features. This will help you anticipate future expenses as your practice and your software needs grow and change.
Does the system require any third-party software to generate reports? This can also add to your total cost.
What operating system does the software require? Make sure the software and any add-ons run on the same operating system as other software packages you use in your practice.
Can you create a copy of the database on a separate machine or disk drive so that you can work without having a connection to the network? This option can be less expensive and easier than configuring the network for secure remote access. But it comes with the risk of having client data on devices that can be easily lost or stolen.
Can the software send e-mail reminders to users or clients? If so, are they sent automatically and can they be personalized by subject and recipient? Some systems support e-mail reminders, but the functionality can be difficult to set up and may require additional software and special e-mail accounts.
Does the software send client or practice data to another party? If so, find out how the data is transferred and whether you can opt out. Be sure to also ask this question about all add-ons.
Does the product process credit card transactions? If so, does it encrypt sensitive data? Sensitive client data should never be stored in plain text. If the data is stolen, your clients could be at risk for identity theft.
How are software updates distributed and applied? Some companies charge an annual fee for software updates and upgrades, while others provide free updates for the version you've purchased but charge for upgrades. You should also ask when the company plans to release the next major version of the software before making a purchasing decision.
If the software has automatic updates, can you configure the update schedule? This is important if you schedule automated system maintenance and backups. These tasks need to run at different times.