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While internship that could lead to a tenure as a registrar and perhaps to a consultant’s post has much to offer in terms of peer support, easy access to state-of-the-art job diagnostic technology, a guaranteed income, and a degree of job security, many physicians and surgeons are attracted by the greater independence of practicing privately. Also, there are those who choose to qualify as general practitioners. Unfortunately, in each case, the measure of independence that attracts them will be tempered by a host of new and possibly unfamiliar responsibilities that go hand in hand with their choice. However, a well-designed medical practice software package could make their lives a lot easier.

Of course, with sufficient cash to draw upon, it might be possible to convert a private house or to hire a suite of rooms and to employ sufficient qualified and experienced support staff to ensure that all of the essential administrative tasks are taken care of efficiently. However, the decision to hire staff will automatically add the role of an employer to that of a healthcare professional, as well as adding a substantial sum to the essential monthly operating expenses. Of course, that does not imply that employing administrative staff is unnecessary. In practice, with the aid of the right tools, such as a comprehensive medical practice software solution, one can manage as well and be positioned to do so with fewer staff.

Cutting back on staff is an obvious way to economise. However, without automating as much of the administrative work as possible, this will, of course, only mean these tasks will be added to the existing workload of the GP or specialist. If they are to cope effectively with the extra tasks, it will necessitate either a longer workday or less time to allocate to the needs of patients. In practice, neither of these options should prove necessary when a doctor has access to the appropriate medical practice software.

In a typical day, patients will be in contact with the consulting rooms to schedule appointments and others will be arriving to fulfil their scheduled appointments. Maintaining an appointment calendar for the former and retrieving case notes for the latter are tasks that can consume far less time when managed by a computerised system. Each visit entails a professional fee for the consultation and for any treatment that may be deemed necessary. Such fees may be the sole responsibility of the patient in person, or of their medical aid fund while, in some cases, the expense may need to be shared between the two. The billing functions of a good medical practice software product can help a staff member or, if necessary, a doctor, resolve such issues consistently, in less time, while avoiding the errors that often occur when tackling this task manually.

In terms of errors, medical aid funds set strict claims procedures that include the use of the correct codes, obtaining pre-authorisation in some cases, and timely submissions, Also, as a basic accounting function, it is necessary to follow the progress of claims in order to identify those that have been paid, those that may require re-submission, and those that are outstanding, To this must be added the task of alerting patients to any co-payments that may be for their personal account and then following up on these transactions also. Since income is crucial to the cashflow of any business and, given that medical practice software can automate all of these tasks and raise alerts when human intervention may be necessary, this is much like having an additional skilled employee who is willing to work 24/7.

Speaking of employees, even if the staff complement is only one nurse and a receptionist, they need to be paid, and SARS requires the details of their income as do the employees. Just as it can handle the patient billing cycle, and the claims process, a sufficiently comprehensive medical practice software package could manage the payroll function and generate both the required payslips and the summary report for the receiver of revenue.

One can be forgiven for thinking a system with these capabilities and more must be expensive. V Professional Services offers access to our medical billing or comprehensive practice administration software as an affordable web-based service for which users only require a web browser and an Internet connection.

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