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  • Annand Sharma

🕵️‍♀️📋Tech Recipe: Choosing Your Core Business Operating System

Background:


Selecting the right core operating system is crucial for streamlining operations and enhancing efficiency. For services businesses this could be a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). In our case this is a Practice Management system, and for many businesses this is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. These systems act as the central nervous system of your business. A good core business system integrates various functions into one comprehensive framework.


Before diving into vendor evaluation and selection, it's essential to pinpoint the challenges your business aims to solve with this technology. Throughout this post we’ll reference our use case, a mental health practice. Our key operational aspects: scheduling patients, documenting patient visits, and billing patients or insurance. These may sound simple on the surface, but as you peel back the layers there is plenty of complexity and nuance.


The process of choosing the right system begins with understanding these core functions and gathering input from individuals involved in each.



Instructions:


1. Identify Core Business Functions:

  • List the primary functions that are crucial to your business operations. For most companies, this includes aspects like inventory management, order processing, and customer relations.

  • Our case: For a mental health practice, the core functions are scheduling patients, conducting patient appointments, and processing payments and billing.


2. Assemble a Cross-Functional Team:

  • Gather a team that represents each part of your business operations. This ensures that all needs and challenges are considered.

  • Our case: Include clinicians, clinician managers, front desk staff, administrative personnel, and billing and accounting departments.


3. Conduct a Needs Assessment:

  • Hold meetings with each group or department to discuss their daily operations, challenges, and what they need from the core operating system to perform more efficiently.

  • Our case: Clinicians might need easy access to patient histories, while billing departments require robust billing code lookup and claims processing features.


4. Create a Unified Requirements List:

  • Compile the feedback from all teams into a comprehensive list of requirements for your core operating system. This list should prioritize features based on their impact on your operations. Where possible, or relevant, separate this list into the specific functional areas. Make sure to highlight the places where there is overlap between areas as those will be the ones to pay attention to during the next steps.

  • Our case: Prioritize features like appointment scheduling flexibility, comprehensive patient records management, and integrated billing and claims submission capabilities.


5. Research Potential Systems:

  • With your requirements in hand, start researching software that fits your criteria. Look for systems that specialize in your industry, as they will likely align more closely with your needs. In most industries there you’re likely to find a handful of incumbents and a number of younger startups. For example you have Oracle ERP or SAP ERP on the incumbent side of ERPs and Odoo on the more recent, modern side.

  • Our case: Look for Practice Management Systems that offer telehealth integration, patient portal functionality, and customizable billing options.


6. Evaluate Systems Against Your Requirements:

  • Create a shortlist of potential systems and evaluate each against your requirements list. Consider requesting demos or trial versions to get a hands-on feel for how each system works.

  • If there are important requirements that fall outside of the scope of these systems, make note of that. You may need to find other software solutions for these needs and the next step will be crucial to enable that. In these cases you may also consider building custom software on top of the solution you’re evaluating.

  • Our case: Ensure the systems allow for easy scheduling, offer HIPAA-compliant patient communication tools, and streamline the billing process with minimal manual entry.


7. Consider Integration and Scalability:

  • Assess how well each system can integrate with software you are already using and its ability to scale as your business grows. 

  • Our case: We already know that our practice management system has to integrate with our website, our lead generation platforms, outcome measurement software, and telehealth system. Many practice management systems have some, or all, of these features, but our requirements are different from those offered by the software. 


8. Gather Feedback and Make a Decision:

  • Once you have tested potential systems, gather feedback from your team and weigh the pros and cons of each option.

  • Our case: After trialing a system, solicit feedback from all user groups within your practice to ensure the chosen system meets the majority of your operational needs efficiently.


9. Plan for Implementation and Training:

  • After selecting a system, plan for its implementation, including data migration, customization, and staff training to ensure a smooth transition.

  • Our case: Schedule training sessions for all staff members, focusing on the features they will use most frequently, and prepare for a phased implementation to minimize disruptions to patient care.


Conclusion:


Choosing the right core operating system for your business is a critical decision that impacts almost every aspect of your operations. By following these steps, you can create a complete picture of your needs. 


It’s very likely that there is not one software package that solves all of your needs. This is why it’s important to make sure the core system offers software integrations through a platform or API so that you can bring in other software products.


The goal is to make an informed choice that supports your current needs and future growth. Success means your team can focus on delivering exceptional service rather than struggling with inefficient processes.

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