So hopefully we all know by now that using a practice management system is a good idea, but how do you determine which one is the best for your practice?
Your first option is to adopt the traditional client/server model. However, this option is typically more expensive and you are responsible for purchasing, installing, and maintaining the system.
The other, more up-to-date options are cloud-based solutions. There are two types of cloud-based options your practice can choose from: Application Service Providers (ASPs) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Both of these systems are hosted on remote servers and accessed by you, through the Internet. However, ASPs and SaaS models do have some distinct differences, and only SaaS is a true cloud-based solution.
Are You Using a True Cloud Practice Management System?
1. How accessible is your software?
With cloud-based solutions you are able to access your information from a variety of devices. Your computer, smartphone, and tablets can be used as long as you have an Internet connection. Applications accessed through the cloud are written for the web and are easy to access, and you will always be using the newest version of software.
With ASPs, your applications are not developed for the web and your hardware must be able to operate the very specific software. This, in turn, can create more expenses for your practice.
2. Is your software offered as both in the cloud and installed?
There is no way that a system can be moved to a SaaS model--it needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. So if the software suddenly becomes a cloud solution with the option of an installed version, it is most likely an ASP model. If a system is truly on the cloud, there should not be an installed version in the first place.
3. How simple is it to upgrade your software?
With cloud-based systems, upgrades are made by the data center and are available to the entire user community, almost instantaneously. These upgrades are made on a frequent basis, so your practice will always be using the most updated system. Also, if there are multiple versions of the software that are still supported and available, it means that it's not a SaaS model. You should only be getting the latest version.
The down side to using ASPs is that upgrades are hard to implement, because only the core commercial service provider is able to issue them. On top of that, an ASP provider needs to update each customer's instance individually which becomes costly and time consuming. Therefore, upgrades and maintenance are batched up and delayed and on average, once a year or less!
4. What do your start-up and maintenance fees look like?
True cloud-based solutions will typically only charge you for an ongoing monthly subscription fee. They never ask for a down payment and have very little to no administrative costs. The largest cost difference between cloud-based systems and a client/server system, is that the practice is not responsible for maintenance costs. Maintenance fees are included in the monthly subscription price of a SaaS. Most cloud-based systems also offer pay as you go plans which means you'll never have to pay for data you don't use.
Costs between SaaS and ASPs are very similar. However, if your system is truly cloud-based, you will very rarely pay fees outside the monthly subscription. Red flags should be drawn if you have to pay a down payment, administrative costs, or maintenance fees.
5. Is your software designed for simultaneous users?
If you answered yes, then your system is most likely accessed through the cloud. True cloud-based systems are designed so each customer can have a custom experience. This means you adopt the system as a whole practice, but each department can customize the system to fit their specific needs.
This unique feature is not possible with ASPs because their application can only be configured by the provider. Unless your system is indeed a cloud-based one, there is no way to tweak your system across departments.
6. How long is your contract?
One of the upsides to using a cloud-based solution, is that your contract can be as short as month-to-month. So, if you are not happy with your current provider, you have the ability to switch within a short period of time.
Other systems that are not accessed through the cloud trap you in contracts for as long as 5 years. So, if you're not happy, you could be stuck with them!
There are quite a few similarities between a true cloud-based system and systems such as Application Service Providers. However, even though they're similar, true cloud based technology is cheaper and easier to operate and manage.
Still not sure if you have a true cloud practice management system? Check out this chart and ask yourself these questions:
Today more and more businesses are taking advantage of SaaS for their IT experience. So is your practice management system truly cloud-based? If not, it may be time to update your system for the better!