sourceaditya: November 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

10 reasons to get a PC for your clinic or practice

A computer is standard machinery in most offices today. Invariably some of the better run businesses boast a computer setup. A medical practice is like any other business with a few special characteristics, the most notable ones being: it’s a very personal service being provided and knowledge of this complex service is exclusively with a special few who “operate” the service so to speak. So how does something so impersonal and mundane like a PC find a place in this business? Well we have 10 good reasons why it should find a place in your practice.

1. Medico-Legal Protection

The government makes it mandatory for Doctors to maintain medical records for indoor patients’ period of 3 years. Similarly new bills are being introduced almost each day to ascertain the type and duration of medical record storage. Article 1.3.1 of the Indian Medical Council Regulations actually states “Efforts shall be made to computerize medical records for quick retrieval”.

The data in the electronic format is more secure from theft, destruction and loss if the right precautions are taken. Medical records and accounting information is much more stable and well formatted in electronic form. Hence it is advisable to start moving your data onto the PC. It may just protect you from a legal wrangle sometime down the future.

2. Data Security

As mentioned above data is more secure in electronic formats if the correct precautions are taken. It can be easily backed up in secure locations and also electronic formats present today are a lot sturdier than paper!

Medical records, accounting information, medical notes are valuable information for you, your practice and the clinic. It is a pretty simple choice in moving your data into electronic format; in fact a lot of my clients at Plus91 scan and store their old forms and records in our softwares so that they are secure.

A PC gives you an added resource to be secure about the information you generate and posses at your clinic. Even presentations, lectures and medical notes are better off on a PC.

3. Easy Access to Data

Imagine a patient walks in without her case paper, what do you do? Search your paper records for a copy; that is if you even have one! I know doctors who throw a fit when this happens, but I guess a patient cannot be blamed. What about the times when important decisions need data from old visits or external test reports. Don’t you wish you had them at your finger tips?

A computer in your practice gives you the opportunity to achieve this nirvana. With the right tools and a little training you can have medical records, patient history and even access to online resources to help to make better and quicker decisions.

4. Customer Service

A computer allows you to improve customer service in a multitude of ways. From being able to take and manage appointments more efficiently to generating reports and records quicker, a computer helps you improve the clinic’s interaction with the patient.

Patients often come asking for old records, medical certificates, or with a query which you are not familiar with. In all these cases a computer would help you solve his queries and problems faster. How? Medical record - > search and print, medical certificate -> enter patient information in pre-filled format and print, query -> search for information online or a PC resource to make better decisions or find a relevant doctor to refer to quickly on the internet. Now a days with newer technology better customer service can be provided via SMS and email alerts, online patient interaction, easy record transfers, online appointment etc.

5. Communication

A PC is a very effective communication tool. Right from helping you generate notes and records which communicate medical information to tools on the Internet to let you communicate in general. A PC is a friend when you are in need. Every query will have an answer of some sort on the Internet.

It also allows you to communicate with your peers and post your insights for other to read. Medicine, more than any other domain requires you to be in touch with the latest developments. Books like MIMs are slow to communicate and limited in their effectiveness. Every nation which threatens peace is the one who shuts itself from the world. Communicate because it helps you treat patients better. A PC is the biggest leap you can make in this direction besides getting a cell phone.

6. Save Space!

All those paper records, excess staff required to manage your clinic, overcrowding due to mismanagement of appointments can be avoided by getting a PC. How? Digitizing your patient records help you get rid of them. Make your office paperless, it leaves a wonderful impression on your patients.

Use appointment schedulers to manage inflow of patients. More importantly, an efficient software solution will help you run your clinic or hospital on lesser number of staff. So, yes save space by getting a PC.

7. Generate useful information

Every service or product is improved through feedback, study and statistics. Why should your clinic or your ability to treat patients be any different? A PC helps you capture this information in a logical and effective manner. More importantly it helps you use this information in a more practical manner.

Know how long your patients have to wait, find out what drugs you prescribe more and their actual feedback, find out which patients or procedures help you generate maximum business. And do this within your normal working process. The PC not only helps you capture these, but helps you by giving a systematic and readable output which you can use. A PC provides you with effective tools to help increase productivity and efficiency. In fact many doctors use data gathered to publish studies and write papers!

8. Avoid loss and pilferage

A PC helps you manage your inventory. Using simple office tools or special softwares you can track the status of your disposables items, drugs and other inventory. Many times staff and other stakeholders might steal or take away inventory. Having an ordered system prevents misuse and makes one think twice of taking advantage.

Today, software solutions allow you to auto debit items via bills and also generate reports for per item of usage. A PC is a definite step towards preventing loss and pilferage in the clinic

9. Smoothen Operations

A PC will increase productivity of staff and give them something to work on, even during the lean periods. Also the excitement that comes with using a organized system is something which cannot be discounted. A PC helps smoothen overall operation in your clinic.

Data will be available freely, generate records and reports instantly, cut down on manual repetitive work. Add a new dimension to the work you and your staff do each day.

10. Contribute

A PC allows you or gives you the opportunity to contribute to the medical and knowledge domain. Through emails, blogs, articles you may write which would have gone unwritten, or data you use to support new findings, the PC allows you to contribute like never before.

Contribute to your patient by improving service and efficiency through the use of a computer in your practice. Contribute to your own growth by doing something new today, by buying a PC for your clinic and using it to do the things you only wanted to do but never could.

Finally, clinic and hospitals have been running over the years with or without a computer. A computer may not be a panacea to all your problems or a life changing event in itself. What is does do, is give you an opportunity to be able to do all the above things. All via a single window solution that is your computer screen.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Top 10 mistakes that’s Doctors’ make in buying medical software in India

Choosing software to run a medical practice has never been easy. Earlier it was due to lack of choices, today it is due to profundity of choices but with too much variability. Doctors are a very unique proposition, few things to keep in mind are:

a. To treat a patient and be confident that your decision is right requires tremendous self confidence. Hence doctors have a strong ego. This isn’t argument whether it’s good or bad, simply put if they didn’t medicine would be a farce.
b. They have a tremendous thirst to learn. Years of med school train you to pick up knowledge and most doctors interested in buying software will have some knowledge. As we have often heard, little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially for those who happen to make software.
c. Doctors are pressed for time and efficiency, at least most are, hence their decisions are based on the fact that “anything that does not gel with me is going to hamper me”.

Doctors who wish to enhance their practice and provide better care and service to their clients by using technology are on the right track. But keeping the above points in mind they aren’t always going about it the right way. Indian doctors especially tend to lose their way in this nascent market. Some of the important mistakes are highlighted below:

1. Over shooting the requirement:
Some doctors tend to want their softwares to do everything, even pay their taxes (Just joking). Sometimes putting too many things in your software tends to delay its deployment, make it complicated to use and once in a while not taking a software altogether because you can’t find one that does. This is also applicable in smaller doses. For e.g. wanting the entire drug database of 15000 drugs in your software! Now you know you will never use even 1/100th of those. There are enough online resources to give you details when you do require some information. Why then load your software and make it slow by cramming it with stuff you will never use. Rather have a small efficient intelligent database which you can grow over time. That’s what we recommend at Plus91. We even have come across instances of clients giving us 300 page documents of what they want, safe to say half way through they walked into science fiction novel. Stick to the basics, your aim is to improve your practice not solve the world healthcare crises.

2. Acting like a bania:
Investment reaps rich rewards. It’s a simple fact of life. Why then try to needle your way to the cheapest bet. Negotiating is great, but actually choosing quality, support and peace of mind over a few rupees really takes the cake. Sad to say this mentality is very prevalent in the healthcare market space. This is mostly due to its nascent nature where the true value of the product “practice management software” is not bench marked. Simple, unsupported softwares made by the local software engineer are dime a dozen in this IT intensive economy. But in the long run it makes more sense to invest a little more in good software and from a company focusing on the healthcare space. Your domain is intense and deserves respect, someone who doesn’t spend time understanding that cannot make a good product. That is why, people who did buy good softwares bought from vendors which were start buy doctors, because they did have the right idea. Bottomline stop acting like a bania in choosing a package. Every doctor I know earns enough to invest in a good package which will enhance his or her practice. Keeping this simple fact in mind, it’s a mistake that Doctor’s chose quality over quantity, especially if the price difference is barely anything. Chose your vendor carefully, you want them to be partners for life. (For that they should make enough to profit )

3. Thinking someone else knows your business:
A lot of doctors tend to put their trust in what their software vendor is doing for them. If a custom built package is being made, unless you provide the vendor with adequate knowledge on your processes, templates and need, the project will never come out the way it was planned. I know doctors who would give a brief outline of what they want and leave it that. Now the vendor is left scratching his head of what really is required and then when he comes out with a best case scenario, the two never meet or even come close. Always be involved in a project for a custom built solution. Do not boss over proceeding but provide all the information required personally. More importantly take updates from time to time. Many times softwares have been reworked and projects delayed because after delivery the doctor realized this was not what he/she wanted. It is a mistake to leave your customizations in someone else’s hands especially in experienced person in the field of healthcare.

4. Digressing from your need:
Keep in mind what will help your practice. See if the product or project satisfies your pain points and gives you enough bragging rights with your clients. That is your primary aim, get your software and run it with these aims in mind. Anything done beyond this should come later. For example, we have clients requesting for Tally integration in their software. Now, this is a great idea and we at Plus91 are working on it and confident about delivering it. But actually delaying an order or cancelling an order based on this feature is unjustified. Your clinic or hospital has a need to manage accounts; if the software caters to that it is enough to allow you to move on to other nuances of deciding on the package. Many times the process of buying the software has gone astray due to discussions and plans built around these noncore needs. It is a mistake to want your software to do too many things first off, get what is essential at the least and start from there.

5. Waiting for something better:
Doctors tend to become fearful of the time they will spend on the software learning it or using it, that they keep waiting for something better to come along. Unless you don’t jump in the water you aren’t going to learn how to swim is simple adage which applies here. Some of the best run private hospitals I know with roaring practices are early adopters to technology. Today they might still be using legacy systems but they are better run then non IT friendly setups. Softwares will evolve over time, it’s time to stop delaying and waiting for something better, because each day we at Plus91 are coming up with something cooler. We don’t aim to give it to you cheap unless you already own our software. It is a mistake to wait when you can always upgrade! Make use of the inherent advantages of the software industry.

6. Thinking your staff shares your vision:
Many good doctors buy the perfect software and then find that it seems to have not helped at all. Sometimes they blame the software, sometimes they just ignore it and never buy or upgrade again. Most doctors fail to understand that their staff is one of the key stake holders in this process. Unless the staff uses the software and maintains discipline in using the package, it is bound to fail. The software may be the best in the world and solve all your issues, but unless the staff wishes it to be used, it isn’t living upto its potential. Doctors need to be firm and ingrain their vision for the software in their staff. Take to task issues in the early days of adoption of people failing to comply with requirements. It is a mistake to assume that software will be easily adopted by support staff, nurses and fellow doctors.

7. Not nurturing innovation:
Today Indian healthcare IT is a nascent stage. The biggest stake holders in this industry today are the doctors. It is important for them to nurture innovation. Sometimes it is valuable to take a risk or allow a software company to go that extra mile in providing a feature which will change the process flow of your clinic. Using the software in the same stagnant way can lead to a deadlock at this early stage. Doctors who deny or outcast software products which provide extra features or new age ideas because they do not comply with their understanding of what software must do make a mistake in closing the door on innovation. A potential client who asks me to block some modules to save money because they won’t use them is basically closing his own mind to the potential of some new processes improving his business. Do not use it if it isn’t your primary aim, but never close the door, because one day you may realize its potential. Even when clients do not ask for the SMS or Email Plug-in we still leave it on the User Interface, because just seeing that button there will make them realize of all the times they wish it was active and could send out a report or reading instantly.

8. Under estimating your need:
There is also such a thing as going for too less. Your clinic needs software to manage accounts, inventory, reporting, patient profiles and referrals. Why then are you buying some small accounting software which is used in a shop? Here the doctor, either due to lack of knowledge of the products available or to save some money is buying a package which does not really fulfill all his needs. Many a times this leads to him being unsure whether becoming IT savvy was helpful in the first place. It’s a mistake to tackle each item in your requirement list with a separate package.

9. Delaying Decisions:
The single biggest mistake a doctor makes in buying software is when he delays his decisions. Whether it is buying the package or providing requirements or taking delivery. What are the outcomes of the delay? A disenchanted vendor, a even more confused buyer (the doctor now whose thinking even more), a anxious staff and finally a client base who haven’t got the satisfaction of being surprised with a better and more efficient clinic. Situations may have shades of gray but decision should be black or white. Stick by the above saying in making decisions for your software. Making too many changes back and forth in a tried and tested product brings about instabilities which may manifest on-going live. In the healthcare business which deals in lives this is not a good scenario to happen.

10. Disregarding the hardware:
Hardware always compliments your software. As much as the software vendor may try to make his solution lithe (Plus91 products can run on any windows and unix system, starting from 256 mb ram, or even an amd netbook processor) to get best results, have good adequate hardware. Do not be afraid to upgrade, or connect on LAN to help enhance the productivity of the medical software. It is a mistake to invest in new socks without the shoes to nestle them in. Buy good and complying hardware which will help you maximize the benefits of the software that runs on it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Plus91: Making the little things in IT work for your Medical Practice

Softwares in the medical domain are undergoing a tremendous change. Even in India we see some interesting features, services and products built around the technology and scope of what IT can do today (Online consultations, Health Data cards etc). Here at Plus91 we too, think out of the box or sometimes in a very tiny box and design our products to maximize user satisfaction and increase productivity. These small ideas may not seem a lot, but they do make things easier. So it's important to make the little things in IT work for you.

So what are the common doctor complaints about Medical softwares? The most common one I have heard is not being flexible enough to allow me to add data as I want to. Now changing something for each doctor is a cost burden hence most companies do not get into it. But what if I make the software such that making a change doesn't become burdensome. And going further if I can give this tool to you, the doctor. I think it would convince a lot of skeptic doctors to re-think about softwares. Plus91 us aiming to achieve exactly that. Already template modification is a matter of minutes.

The next thing I hear often is cumbersome interfaces and a lot of typing kills the patient interaction and joy of using a software. Today technology offers a lot of opportunity to make life easier. Increasingly we are using little innovations like Auto-Complete options, Intelligent and Self Additive drop-downs and roll over expansion lists to make the interface simpler to look at and easier to use. If one does not provide these neat little tricks on your screen then you may be losing valuable time in entering your data.

Portability is major concern for the doctor, this along with security really makes one re-consider whether investing in a software is safe. Paper at the end can be easily transported and also xeroxed and stored. So what about your data. Plus91 offers unique solutions in Data Storage, online back-up and finally a external hard disk based auto sync system which backs up not just your medical software data but your entire hard drive. We also provide give you an opportunity to share your data via the Internet with your patients through an Online EMR facility. Emailing the report is now a one click process right from the software screen. Lastly we also provide on request our entire package on single pen drives. This is a real source of joy to the traveling physician, now just plug, play and use the package at any clinic or hospital you are at!

Sometimes Doctors need information at their fingertips. It is vital then to be able to traverse through their system within seconds to locate some data. This can now be done with ease using simple interfaces which allow you to open a commonly used page from any screen. Generally a direct link to open a page from where you can access information helps, no need now to remember numerous short cut keys or multiple click processes. Plus91 uses neat dashboards which allow you to access almost any page in the software instantly.

Now what about information from the Internet. Most of us have used RSS feeds sometime in life. So how does it help to be able to use this technology on your software. Imagine a day when you can get alerts on holidays, latest in medications, and other information right in your software to help you make decisions better. Plus91 provides some cool interactive technology which allows information to be transmitted into the software, may it be emails or alerts, for you to access and view on your dashboards.

Imagine you buy a software, what is the one big worry you have when you do! How long will me and my staff take to master the package. Will it delay my patients interests. Now using simple AV help files and a very simple interface with nice big buttons which tell you exactly where your going the time required to master a Plus91 product is considerably less than any other as complex product in the market. Because IT has enabled us to design visually educative graphics which make your job of learning to use the software quick and comfortable.

Lastly, something as easy as auto-remember and spell check is an added advantage which any software should possess. Its not the easiest thing to integrate into a package. As a medical practitioner it saves you considerable time to click on the old entry or know a spelling mistake when you type quickly. So instead of breaking our heads over integrating it we made our softwares run in Mozilla Firefox which provides these features and helps both of us save time.