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How to choose a practice management system for your private practice

Management System for Private Practice - Medical PA - Designated Medical

Choosing a good Practice Management System (PMS) is a major decision for all doctors, clinics and hospitals working in the private healthcare sector. In this article, I share my advice and guidance for anyone embarking on such a decision. I have worked in private healthcare for over 20 years and so my suggestions are based on my experience as a user of such systems, rather than technical knowledge, but I am guessing that is what you are interested in too.

Features and Functionality

You will be most concerned about the functionality that a PMS offers you and the most important functions to explore thoroughly are those that you will use regularly. On a daily basis, you will be checking your clinic lists and patient correspondence. A good PMS software makes this quick and easy with minimal “clicks”. During your clinics, you will want to move quickly from one letter or set of results to the next and also from one patient to another.

To check that the PMS you are considering is fit for purpose, you should involve your medical PA/ secretary, typist and billing manager in the decision-making process.


Speed is especially important as you will be using your chosen software during your clinic. Obviously, the speed of the internet is important but there are problems with speed when your provider needs to invest in their own servers. When you are choosing software, you should ask for statistics on speed and reliability including the percentage of “uptime”.


Another important aspect for all medical practitioners is the ability to dictate letters and results and ensure these can be securely delivered to your medical PA/ secretary or typist ready for transcription. Once the letters are typed you want to use a process, managed by your PMS to allow you to check new letters, approve them and flag back to your secretary that they are ready to be sent to the patient or clinician. The PMS should also allow for the letters to be sent easily, quickly, and cheaply by secure email.

Invoicing and credit control

When working in private practice obviously the ability to invoice patients easily and accurately is fundamental. Your PMS should allow you to take payment in advance, for example when a patient books online, or immediately after an appointment by credit card.

Electronic billing is essential, and a good practice management system will be integrated with the Healthcode system to allow immediate, electronic communication of invoices to the main Insurance companies.

The management of credit control is also key, and a good PMS will be set up to ensure that this is simple. You should look for functionality that allows you to pull off reports relating to invoicing, including aged debt. To help you manage credit control your PMS should allow you to set up a system of reminders to send to patients to chase unpaid bills or shortfalls. You have a choice to manage invoicing and credit control in-house or outsource to a specialist. If your preference is to manage this in-house, then it is more important for your PMS to have very strong functionality in this respect.

Lab tests

Most private practitioners will regularly perform lab tests and most good practice management system allow for tests to be requested via the PMS and for the results to be automatically received into the PMS and stored in the patient notes. This functionality saves time but also helps to ensure that all lab tests are received in a timely manner and that nothing is missed.

Video consultations

Many doctors are offering video consultations to patients and most practice management system have the capability for this built in. If this is important to you and your patients, then you may wish to explore this further.

Mobile App

A good PMS will also offer users the option to use a mobile app on their Smartphone and this can be incredibly powerful. An app allows you to access your PMS easily from your phone or tablet and can be a lifesaver on a busy day or when the internet fails, and mobile data becomes your backup. An app should ideally allow you to access your clinic list, patient contact details and patient correspondence.

Online booking

Online booking is already well established and popular across many industry sectors, and we have every reason to believe that it will also be welcomed by patients booking private medical appointments. Most PMS systems already offer online booking but if they don’t currently, I would expect them to have it on their roadmap. Not being able to offer online booking could prove to be a significant disadvantage.

Supplier relationship and support

I have covered the technical features of a PMS, but we must also consider the relationship with the supplier of the PMS software. You will want to ensure that you have good support for your PMS both for yourself and your team members. When you are choosing software, you will be dealing with the sales team, but once you sign the contract you will be introduced to the support team and the quality of their service will have a big impact on your practice, either good or bad.

I would encourage you to investigate the support offered prior to signing on the dotted line. If you are already established in private practice, then you may well have data to transfer from an existing system onto your new PMS. You will need to understand how this data transfer will take place and the costs associated with it. Some providers will do this free of charge, but others will charge a fee.

And finally, regarding your choice of supplier, it is important to be certain that the company has stability and a strong financial situation. You are making a long-term decision and need to feel reassured that your supplier has a long-term future.


Equally important is training for you and your team members. A good PMS will be designed in a manner that means it is fairly intuitive to use, but there will be functionality that you will not benefit from if you are not given adequate training at the start.

It would also be good to know that additional training on specific functionality is available later too as you develop your practice. It is natural that once you are familiar with the basics you will want to explore additional functionality.

Data Protection

The issue of data protection and security is a great concern and with data attacks becoming more commonplace there is a need for software to become more sophisticated to ensure that the data held is secure. Any personal data being sent from one party to another is a potential risk and currently, we use secure email to limit this.

A better solution for data security will come from the provision of a “Patient portal”. In this model, the patient will login into their own private portal to access letters and results, therefore, eliminating the need to transmit personal data. I would expect all good PMS providers to have this within their roadmap.

Development Path

I would also encourage you to explore future plans for your PMS. A good provider will be able to articulate its roadmap for developments in the coming 12 months. There are a few things I would expect to see on that roadmap.

Independent Advice

It is well worth investing considerable time and effort into choosing the right PMS system for your requirements. Once you are using a PMS, the thought of moving all of your data to a new system will feel incredibly daunting and you will want to avoid doing so. You will need to explore each PMS and measure its suitability against what is important to you, so it is a personal decision, but you can also get some valuable insight from others who have made similar decisions.

Ideally, you would talk to other doctors, clinic and practice managers, who have recently made a choice of PMS, so they are well-informed regarding what is currently available on the market. Be careful when talking to doctors who made their choice a few years ago as they may be missing some of the newer developments such as online booking.

I would also encourage you to talk to other users such as Medical PA’s. They are using the systems day in day out and will have very strong opinions on the various systems available.

Each PMS supplier will have glowing testimonials and case studies on their website which are useful, but I would also ask to speak to current users directly for each PMS.

You can search for reviews of each PMS via Google, and I encourage you to do so. As I write this article there is not much to be seen, although I do expect this will change as software review websites are becoming more and more popular by the day so it’s definitely worth checking.

Also, ask your potential supplier about User groups and forums. If these are well established, then there is a strong suggestion that this is a company that listens to their customers and takes on board their suggestions, so a particularly good sign.

Free trial

Finally, I would suggest that you ask for a free trial before you sign up. A free trial will be limited as you will not want to spend a lot of time entering data, but it would be worth entering a few clinics lists, patient letters and using the software in different locations to check speed, etc.

Data transfer costs

I touched on the issue of data transfer in regard to setting up your new PMS. You may have data that you need to upload, and you need to be clear on the process, timescales and costs associated. My next point may sound rather negative, but it is always wise to be prepared for every eventuality.

If you choose a PMS and decide after six months that its not right for you, what would your options be? Do you have to sign for a full year or is it a rolling monthly contract? Would your provider make your data available in a format that is easy to upload to a new PMS system? How long would they take to do this and how much would they charge for doing so? At the very least this will give you peace of mind.


A cloud-based software program is any program that runs on the internet. Cloud-based software can be accessed from anywhere that has the internet, so can be used in different hospitals, clinics, working from home, and whilst travelling.

The alternative to cloud-based is server based. There are pros and cons to each approach but my experience in the private medical sector would suggest that most doctors and clinics should use a cloud-based PMS solution. The only exception I would envisage would be a large healthcare company with its own in-house IT department that would be able to cope admirably with the demands of running a server-based solution.


Scalability comes in two different respects. Firstly, we need to ensure the PMS software allows enough storage to maintain patient notes and correspondence for a growing number of patients. This might be especially important in a speciality where lots of images need to be stored. As far as I am aware all of the major software systems allow for large volumes of data, but it is definitely worth checking.

The other way a clinic may wish to scale is in terms of the number of consultants working within that clinic. Some software is better suited to this type of environment than others so this would be an important factor to consider if you are choosing software for a growing clinic.


Some PMS systems providers charge a large one-off fee for purchasing their software and a smaller ongoing support fee. Other providers charge a monthly subscription fee for the software.

Some PMS systems allow multiple users as part of the subscription or licence fee, but others will charge per user. This is a key consideration as the cost of multiple users can become significant. A consultant will need access to their PMS and will potentially also need to grant access to their Medical PA, typist and billing company. If you are being charged on a per-user basis, this can become quite significant over the course of a year.

Integration with other software

Some PMS systems have a lot of functionality built-in, but others prefer integrations with other software and each approach has its pros and cons. Built-in functionality is simple and easy. Integrations require more management and potentially cost, but this means you are able to choose the best-in-class software for your needs.

I mentioned earlier that dictation and transcription are important aspects of a PMS solution. Some systems have inbuilt functionality for dictation, transcription, and secure email but others require the use of integrated software. It is important to understand the way a PMS works to ensure that the functionality you need is inbuilt but if not that the integrations with leading software are well established.

One area that is worth exploring to ensure it meets your requirements is finance in terms of reporting and financial management. Most PMS systems offer a level of reporting that allows you to review your financial data and your practice’s financial performance. Clearly, your income data will be very detailed as all of the invoicing information will be available.

Some PMS systems offer the option to track practice outgoings and perform bank reconciliations. If this is the case, then you may have the option to pull off useful reports such as your profit and loss. Most PMS systems will integrate with well-known finance software packages such as Xero, and this may prove to be a better option for you, particularly as it may make the process for your bookkeeper and accountant more efficient.


In summary, choosing a PMS is a crucial decision that will affect the long-term development of your practice. It is a decision that is unique to you, but you can learn a great deal from others working in a similar environment and by doing thorough due diligence.

If you have any specific questions that you would like to discuss directly with me, please do get in touch. I would be happy to help.

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