The Case for Application-Specific Practice Management Software: An Insider’s View

Hearing Economics is pleased to host Christine Diles, AuD as a guest blogger this week.{{1}}[[1]]Christine Diles, Au.D. and Bill Diles, M.A. have owned Kenwood Hearing Center Sonoma County, CA for over 30 years.   They have expanded the practice  to 3 full time locations with a staff of both audiologists as well as hearing aid dispensers.  Dr. Diles is a consultant to the Product Development Team at Sycle.net  and  a long time customer of the company.[[1]]Her topic is practice management software — a topic that is dear to my heart and I am happy to get her insights.  

Decades ago,  I resorted to cobbling  together my own management systems, in the belief that offices efficiencies improve patient care and reduce practice costs.  Anyone who has gone down that road knows the frustrations of doing it yourself – the economies of scale are just not on your side.  By the mid-90s, frustration drove me to temporary insanity and I formed a company called PMS, which stood for Practice Management Software, LLC.  “Products” were going to be named descriptively (e.g., Standard PMS,  Major PMS) ,  synchronized with QuickBooks financial software, and sold (and supported) at low cost by a hearing aid manufacturer.  I quickly discovered that I was in over my head for about 1000 different reasons. Though I continue to use my own solutions– which often create more problems than they solve,  I do not recommend this approach to others.

Dr. Diles has been down something of this road but took a different path, choosing to work with a dedicated software company to test drive and improve products at her practice sites.  Our readers know that posts in our blogs do not endorse or plug products or companies, but we are interested in hearing from people in our field with specific experiences and special expertise.  Dr. Diles comes to us today with her perspective of how practice management software has helped her private practice evolve and grow. 

 

Fresh faced, eager and newly trained, my husband/classmate and business partner (same guy) and I began our professional journey as audiologists in private practice.  As eager as we may have been, we were also completely clueless about how to run a business. We were well equipped for the times with a seriously ugly audiometer, screwdrivers for trim pots, a black schedule book and a sharp pencil. We didn’t actually have tuning forks but had spent lots of time in grad school learning how to use them!  We had a pegboard bookkeeping system, paper receipts and we dispensed most hearing aids for around $500.

Still at it all these years later, our three beautiful audiology offices are each equipped with advanced diagnostic instruments, elegant décor, a dozen or so computers, flat screen TVs, Bluetooth this and that and all of the other modern gadgets necessary to take care of our patients and run profitable enterprises.  In addition to our priceless people, we depend heavily on the hub of this wildly spinning wheel; namely, our Practice Management Software.

We can electronically call up each patient with complete demographics as well as a thorough history of all appointments and purchases. We know when they were last evaluated and what that audiogram looks like. At the click of a mouse we can pull up when they were notified about a warranty ready to expire and when it’s time for a check up.

New products or procedures are introduced and we’re a click or two away from making sure our patients are informed. We also reach out to folks who came in to see  what was going on with their hearing but just weren’t ready to take the next step.  Our digital records allow us to easily keep in contact with them so that when they’re ready, they’ll remember just how much they liked us.  Or maybe it was the office Pug or birdfeeder that they’ll remember!

Modern consumers of healthcare are demanding.  They expect efficiency and efficacy from the products and services we provide.  They have access to a ton of information; some good, some not so good.  To keep up we need to know all about the latest and greatest in hearing care technology, and we must excel in customer service as well as business practices or there are challengers clamoring to swoop in and take our place.

Baby boomers have driven culture and innovation since they began showing up in 1946. Ten thousand of those babies will turn 65 today and every day for the next 19 years!  There are formidable entities that would love to grab market share in the Hearing Care space that has historically belonged to independents.   Staying independent just isn’t as easy as it once was and to do so, we need the same tools that the big boys use. Along with good technology, good techniques and good intentions a good Practice Management Software system can provide that ‘leg up’.

We still make coffee, we remember the names of our patient’s grandchildren and we hold their hands and share tissues when a tragedy occurs in their lives or in ours.  This remains a very personal profession.  In my office, that aspect can change after I retire, which won’t be anytime soon.



About Holly Hosford-Dunn

Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, graduated with a BA and MA in Communication Disorders from New Mexico State, completed a PhD in Hearing Sciences at Stanford, and did post-docs at Max Planck Institute (Germany) and Eaton-Peabody Auditory Physiology Lab (Boston). Post-education, she directed the Stanford University Audiology Clinic; developed multi-office private practices in Arizona; authored/edited numerous text books, chapters, journals, and articles; and taught Marketing, Practice Management, Hearing Science, Auditory Electrophysiology, and Amplification in a variety of academic settings.

3 Comments

  1. I agree, Holly!……a “student or starter” Practice Management system is something I have championed for a while……the youngsters just starting out, the more seasoned transitioning from old school methods….while all of the industry specific products available are robust business management tools, they can be intimidating……lemme work on it :)

  2. One of the best-known software companies has recently started to sell a slightly simplified version of their software in a student package, stating that this is not for commercial use. Naturally, this is being distributed to everybody without regard to their true status as student or not!

    1. Hmmm. Do you see an issue with that? The product is “slightly simplified” and available at a lower price. Not sure why they bothered to say “not for commercial use” but really, what’s wrong with price lining and offering a reduced version at a reduced price? As for the student angle, it’s good to think that students at least get the idea that they might want to acquire and become proficient in office management software. Being a free market person, I’m kind of liking this…..

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