What is practice management software?

We get it – it’s one of those terms that tends to get thrown around a fair bit. So we thought we’d take you through exactly what practice management software (PMS) is, and what it does.

Cliniko's appointment calendar.

Our definition of practice management software is fairly simple: it’s software that helps you run or manage your healthcare business.

But what does this actually mean from a practical standpoint? Well, practice management software is essentially a software system that replaces many of a clinic’s processes that used to be paper-based.

Good practice management software will automate and digitise most of the day-to-day tasks of running a practice: the calendar is digital; appointment bookings can be made and cancelled at the click of a mouse; all the information you need about a patient is stored securely in one place (treatment notes, contact details, their forms etc). It requires minimal paper, effort, and time from practitioners – hurrah!

Life without practice management software

Practice management software couldn’t be more different from the old paper-based systems that healthcare clinics once used. Imagine the paper calendar sitting on the reception desk; the thick appointment book with names written into the timeslots (and many crossings out!); and the massive filing cabinet in the corner of the room, full of treatment notes, patient contact details, completed forms, and invoices. We get the heebie jeebies just picturing it! Paper-based systems were clunky and laborious, requiring an incredible amount of time from practitioners just to keep on top of daily admin. They also weren’t secure.

Many clinics switched to electronic methods to try and get rid of the mountain of paperwork, but this hasn’t always been a very effective solution. Unless software is specifically designed to help manage an allied health practice, it may not be very user-friendly – or it’s just a bad fit. It’s also unlikely to meet the specific privacy and security regulations that come with storing patient information.

These days the most common scenario if a clinic has gone digital, but isn’t using PMS, is that they end up cobbling a bunch of different software applications together – oftentimes mixing and matching various free programs that they find online to save costs. But free software often comes with its own set of problems, usually related to privacy and use of client data for marketing purposes (we’ll be running an in-depth post on this in future, so keep an eye on the Cliniko blog). Plus, using a bunch of different applications won’t offer you the seamless workflow you can get from actual practice management software.

A practitioner’s perspective

We put out a poll to Cliniko’s email subscribers, asking what types of features they currently use in their practice management system. The 90 people who responded could select multiple options and, as you can see below, some common answers emerged:

  • Booking and scheduling (including the calendar, online bookings and wait lists) are the primary drawcards for most practitioners, with 94% stating that this functionality helps their practice.
  • Almost as many practitioners say they also use PMS for its ability to manage health records (such as treatment notes, body charts, and patient communication records) – 90% of practitioners list this as a useful PMS feature.
  • Business management (SMS communications, letter templates, and message boards) is a drawcard for 73% of PMS users, while finance management (online payments and invoices) is popular with 71% of users.
  • Reporting and tracking (appointment reports, referral reports, and revenue reports) is important for 57% of PMS users, which is still a majority.
  • Somewhat less utilised are third party connected apps (which means any tool that integrates with a PMS account) and the in-built telehealth functionality that Cliniko offers. A slightly lower percentage of practitioners, 43% and 42% respectively, list these features as helpful.

Why would you choose to use PMS?

Now you know what practice management software can do for your business, but why is it better than the alternatives? We think there are a few key reasons why using PMS is important for any healthcare practice:

1Increased security and privacy

So it’s not the most fun topic, but one of the most essential reasons to use practice management software is the security and privacy protection it offers – it’s far superior to the office filing cabinet or files stored on your computer hard drive. Most jurisdictions have legal requirements around protection of patients’ data and the right practice management software can make it far easier to comply with this.

At Cliniko, we take security extremely seriously – this is fundamental to everything we do. We have a dedicated Data Protection Officer, and we meet or exceed all regulations of the Australian Privacy Principles, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Read more about our security policies.

2Ability to back up data

If you’re using a paper-based system, you’re simply not able to backup any of your data properly. If something unexpected or accidental occurs – if, for whatever reason, there’s damage to your paper hardcopy files – there’s no way to retrieve that information. But even if you’ve got files stored on your computer hard drive, let’s be honest, how often do most of us really go through the whole drawn-out process of backing everything up for safekeeping? And, even if you do, how often do you test those backups?

Yet all the information your health clinic holds is essential (think patient contact details, treatment records, accounting information etc!). In many regions, you are legally required to store this information for an extended period of time. It’s crucial that, no matter what happens, your files are safely and securely stored, and accessible to you. Cloud-based practice management software like Cliniko is one way to ensure this.

At Cliniko your data is not only backed up daily and stored in multiple locations, but incremental live backups occur constantly throughout each day. This all happens automatically, but you’ve also got the option to perform your own manual backups whenever you’d like, so you’ll always have peace of mind that your data is secure.

3Saving time

The 2021 Cliniko survey revealed that one of the biggest challenges facing allied health practitioners today is lack of time. In fact, 23.3% of the top challenges you reported to us were directly time related. Even when you’re done seeing your patients for the day, there’s usually still an endless list of admin tasks that need to be completed – such as letter writing, contacting patients outside appointments, and new patient intake. These three tasks are actually the trio of top hassles according to the survey, all of which are good examples of duties that become much easier if you’re using practice management software. With PMS in place, you have access to letter templates, automated appointment reminders and confirmations, and online intake forms that patients can fill in ahead of time.

The more streamlined and efficient your admin processes are, the less effort and time they require from you. Every time you can automate or digitise one of your processes, you’re saving yourself time to focus on treating your patients or getting to finish up your workday a bit earlier!

Healthcare businesses aren’t the only ones with PMS

Practice management software isn’t a term we came up with – it’s been around for a while and (somewhat confusingly) gets used in a bunch of industries outside allied health. So when you’re choosing practice management software for your practice, make sure you’re NOT selecting:

  • Legal practice management software
  • Accounting practice management software
  • Or anything else that’s not specifically related to allied health

How to choose PMS wisely

Keep in mind that, even within allied health, practice management software is not all the same. There are many platforms out there and you’ll find big variations across systems, with different practice management companies prioritising different things. Cliniko, for example, has a strong focus on being easy to use and providing exceptional customer support.

Given that there are many systems falling under this one broad term, it’s absolutely crucial that you do your research to figure out what it is that you need. Thinking about costs is also going to be an important part of the process.

Lastly, you might look for a system from a company that aligns with your ethical beliefs. At Cliniko we donate 2% of all subscription revenue to charity and we’re a carbon neutral business. We’re also passionate about what we do and are completely privately owned – you can read more about our story.

What specifically does Cliniko do?

We can ultimately only speak for what Cliniko does, but below we’ve listed just some of the things our system offers. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all Cliniko’s features – these are simply a few examples of the kinds of things that Cliniko can help with:

  • Telehealth: integrated Telehealth software lets you treat patients remotely, while offering both security and privacy.
  • Appointment booking and scheduling: managing your schedule becomes much easier when you’ve got everything in an online system. Clients can make appointments themselves and receive automated appointment confirmations and reminders, which is then visible from your end in an online calendar.
  • Health records: you’ll have access to all records for each client in one place, securely stored online – from your communication records with them to your treatment notes, plus you can easily attach any files you need. Letter writing also becomes much more straightforward with templates you can customise.
  • Finance management: we’ve come up with some ways to make managing your finances feel less complicated. Cliniko gives you options to organise invoices, payments, expenses, and product inventory.
  • Reporting and tracking: while promoting your business is important, it isn’t a skill that comes naturally to everyone. However, if you can track income, growth, and referrals over time, you can figure out which marketing channels are the most effective for you – and this is where Cliniko’s detailed performance reports can be helpful.
  • Business management: Cliniko also assists with the business side of running an allied health practice, such as keeping your contacts in order. If you’ve got clinics in multiple locations and a whole team of staff, we offer ways to help keep everything running smoothly.

You can access all these functions through the Cliniko platform, which is secure, online, and easy to use on any device – regardless of whether you’re on a mobile, tablet, or desktop.

While we’re extremely proud of what Cliniko offers (and obviously think you should try us!), the best way to know if a particular practice management software is for you is to explore it for yourself. Check out our 30-day free trial to try all the things we’ve mentioned here.

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Create an account to get full access to Cliniko. You’ll only be charged if you choose not to cancel your subscription at the end of your 30-day trial.