Friday, October 28, 2011

Avoid Vendor Lock-In With Your Virtual Medical Receptionist by Jim Peterson

Patient data is something not to be underestimated for, along with appointment scheduling, it is what every medical practice relies on. Furthermore, because of its private nature, patient data is highly protected by both the doctor and the medical receptionist, so that it won't fall in the wrong hands.

Now, because there are many doctors out there who have decided to make us of certain tools to simplify their job, such as virtual receptionists and online schedulers, there are a few factors that ought to be kept in mind when choosing the company that actually sells these в€œtoolsв€.

As you surely know, vendors aim to sell a certain product and, depending on their ambition, their interest in your work and success may be more or less в€œconditionalв€.

That means their aim is to have you buy what their company sells and will do whatever they can to keep you from switching to one of their competitors in the future.

And here comes the so-called vendor lock-in. A vendor lock-in is a strategy used by some vendors to make it possible for you to switch from someone else's software to theirs, while you won't be able to do the opposite without facing significant switching costs and/or losses.

For instance, online schedulers enable patients to book their appointments right from your practice website. When booking, patients have to choose among the doctor's available slots and enter their personal data which is then transferred to your practice database for you/your medical receptionist to check it and organize your day accordingly.

Now, let's say you are no more happy with the online scheduler you got from that vendor who visited you when you first started your practice and would like your patients to use a better one that has more functions and is more user-friendly.

At this point, the question is: Will you be able to export your patient data from your previous online scheduler to the new one without facing any problems? Well, probably not.

Hence, switching to another company would either mean losing all of your patient data or spending a fortune to save it. Needless to say that most doctors simply find such difficulties terribly annoying and would rather keep using a bad online scheduler than switch to a new better one.

However, such problems may be easily avoided by applying a few simple rules. In the first place, make sure the vendor you are talking to is not only interested in selling their products but also in your practice success.

Then, do not forget to opt for an online scheduler that supports data importing and exporting in excel format, so that, should you decide to switch to another company in the future, you will not risk losing your patient details.

If, on top of that, the software also allows you to save your patient data as pdf and have it printed nicely, you can be sure of the vendor's honesty, because that means they are not there only to в€œsnap you upв€, but also to offer a good service.