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  • Nearly all medical practices use some form of practice management software, but does yours leverage customer relationships and provide optimizing features for scheduling, billing and managing inventory?
  • Four software companies share their key features to help you find the right match for your practice

Dr. Joseph and Jennifer Aguiar
Providing procedures of choice rather than of medical necessity almost demands that cosmetic surgeons employ state-of-the-art software to best leverage customer relationships from first contact to follow-up appointments, sources tell Cosmetic Surgery Times . Along the way, one mustn't overlook optimizing functions such as scheduling, billing, managing retail inventory and tracking employee performance and marketing/advertising dollars to maximize practice revenues.

Nearly all medical practices use some form of practice management software, says Marie Olesen, CEO of La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Center and developer of Inform & Consent and other programs now marketed through Mentor Solutions, which has approximately 1,100 installations. Traditional medical practices operate in cost-oriented businesses, documenting transactions such as appointments, charges, and third-party payments, according to Ms. Olesen. In contrast, she says, "Cosmetic practices are in a 'revenue' business. Because they are in retail medicine, they have the potential to increase revenue and profit by managing proactively." Therefore, she says, cosmetic practices are well advised to invest in software designed to grow revenue, with capabilities including customer relationship management (CRM), imaging, and point of sale (POS) tracking. According to Ms. Olesen, a good rule of thumb is that if 30 percent of one's revenues come from cosmetic services and sales prior to automating these processes, she says, "It might be 45 percent with them."

NEED-BASED DESIGN Effective CRM software, for example, tracks all steps in the transition from prospective caller to patient: who called, made and kept appointments, to who scheduled and completed surgeries. "What continues to be unique about our software is that we're designing or changing its features based on needs determined in the day-to-day running of the practice," Ms. Olesen explains. Another software option, CosmetiSoft (Meditab Software, Inc.; formerly Lynx), allows users to capture data relevant to determining returns on marketing, advertising and p.r. investments right at the point of new patient registration, including how the patient heard about the practice and what procedures the patient is interested in. Receptionists enter this information by choosing from convenient on-screen lists. "Immediately upon registration of a new contact, the system starts gathering information automatically," says Larry Peterson, product developer and Lynx founder. The system then permits patient coordinators to follow patients, making sure they've had consultations and keeping contact with those who don't immediately schedule surgery. "They can also give the patient multiple surgery quote options. The system tracks that very elegantly — from scheduling through billing," using custom templates for each physician, procedure, and surgery site combination, Mr. Peterson explains.

ONE-STOP SHOP Plastic Surgery Tampa and Essentials Med Spa chose CosmetiSoft because it encompassed all the billing, marketing, and POS capabilities the practice required at a competitive price, says Jennifer Aguiar, owner and practice administrator. Previously, the practice used one program for spa and POS functions, another for patient tracking and billing. However, this arrangement proved cumbersome because some staffers only knew one or the other program. Ms. Aguiar says that when she purchased CosmetiSoft, she asked its developer to incorporate some features from her old system, such as gift-card tracking. The company has begun implementing the changes, she reports. "When you're working with a software company," she advises, "you don't want to buy a package that they think is perfect." Rather, pick a good product whose developer welcomes suggestions.

In addition, Ms. Aguiar recommends making sure a product's POS capabilities are user friendly and comprehensive, including a barcode scanner and tracking of taxable versus nontaxable items, a feature which many programs can't handle. "Marketing and referral tracking are very important. You need to know your ROI [return on investment] on all your marketing pieces," and whom to thank for referrals, she says.

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