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Medical software, also known as health information technology software, is a blanket category that includes several different software types. In general, this software helps healthcare providers manage patients and practices.
Medical software is a category of tools used in medical settings that collect data points on individual patient health for future reference, long-term study of behaviors, or short-term diagnoses. The tools can be found in all sectors of the healthcare and medical industries, from pharmacies and labs to mental health and physical rehabilitation facilities.
And with the expansion of software into wearable devices, medical software has moved beyond the healthcare sector and into individuals’ daily lives. Wearable medical devices store vital signs, aggregate health data points across long periods of time, and can be used in conjunction with records tools to improve patient care and engagement.
We’ve researched the medical software on the market and compared their major features. Read on after the chart for detailed information about the medical software market, major features to look for in your next system, and recommendations on the best medical software for your practice or hospital.
Larger practices and hospital systems of all sizes use multi-tool medical software solutions that centralize patient and critical information required to keep the organization running. These tools often include medical records, charting, billing, supply management, and resource allocation software. They also might include patient portal and patient engagement software along with marketing and sales tools that help the organization deepen relationships with current patients and grow the business.
Enterprise medical software is software designed to manage the complicated data and service needs of enterprise-level hospitals and practices. These healthcare organizations employ hundreds to thousands of doctors, nurses, technicians, and office workers, and enterprise medical software tools manage employee records and patient information for hundreds of thousands of patients. Enterprise medical software works to organize and analyze data from each of these employees and patients in a manner that improves patient outcomes.
Enterprise medical software normally allows buyers to purchase bundles that include administrative, patient management, and clinical modules. Many providers also carry specialized software to meet the needs of long-term care, behavioral health, pharmacy, and other medical specializations.
Find out more on our enterprise medical software page.
Electronic health record (EHR) software — and its predecessor electronic medical records software — has become commonplace in practices of all sizes over the past decade. This is largely due to the passage of the HITECH Act and subsidies provided by Meaningful Use legislation.
The value in moving from written records to electronic records is obvious:
While EHR software brings these benefits and more to many healthcare organizations, the software still has room for improvement. A 2018 Stanford University survey found that while 63 percent of physicians feel that EHRs contribute to better patient care, 71 percent feel that EHRs contribute to physician burnout and 59 percent feel that EHRs “need a complete overhaul” to decrease physician stress.
Download: What Doctors Really Want from Medical Software
A basic, quality electronic health record system should be able to record SOAP notes, transfer prescriptions to pharmacists using computerized physician order entry, allow providers to chart without significant impediment, help physicians check treatment recommendations against problem and medication lists, and offer some type of information transfer between different systems.
Learn more about EHR/EMR software.
While EHR software tools deal with clinical information at the point of care, practice management software organizes other aspects of the clinical workflow, such as appointments, room assignments, billing, and even inventory. Due to its direct connection with billing and coding, many physicians adopted practice management software before electronic health records. Before patient expectations of interoperability and data transfer increased to current levels and before the CMS required EHR adoption, physicians could still practice with paper patient records. And practice management software contains similar tools to general accounting software, although specialized for medical practices.
Like EHRs, practice management systems can cover a great deal of functionality. Some simply handle appointments, while others boast functions that accept information from radiology and laboratory systems. More commonly, a strong financial element exists in these systems, and practice management systems often conduct payroll and produce reports that examine administrative costs and practice profit versus overhead. Practice management software also often helps physicians with billing and revenue cycle management, and some vendors offer completely outsourced services, which works well for smaller practices that don’t want to hire additional staff to handle finances.
Learn more about practice management software.
While many hospitals and large practice groups may choose a multi-tool system, the price tag can be prohibitive for some practices. These best of breed software as a service (SaaS) tools provide similar capabilities to modules found in enterprise medical software, but at a lower cost. Small and solo practices may find that contracting with and integrating these software types as needed can help them reduce overhead and time to implementation.
A subset of practice management software, standalone billing software helps providers transition from manually submitting claims using paper records and fax machines to an automated process. Though practice management systems, electronic health record systems, and billing systems are all moving toward integration, you can still purchase stand-alone versions of each. Like the other two types of software, billing software ranges in complexity depending on the specific product.
Due to the different needs of inpatient, outpatient, and specialty practices, buyers can easily find billing software that caters directly to the requirements of their business. The benefits of implementing billing software are similar for many organizations:
The reduction in clerical errors is clear: without having to maintain mountains of paper files, organizing information becomes easier. More accurate billing results in increased revenue and decreased denials, and this type of software can produce reports that identify patterns in upcoding. These reports help providers determine which procedures they can upcode and which payers will accept upcoding. Finally, gaining greater control over your revenue cycle leads to faster claim submission and greater accuracy.
Ambulatory care software is specialized medical software that meets the requirements of outpatient and ambulatory facilities. These software options come in many of the same best of breed and multi-tool options as other medical software, but with tools that fit the needs of stand-alone or hospital-affiliated ambulatory care centers.
Learn more about ambulatory software.
Long-term care software provides features that are especially helpful to long-term care centers or facilities that house patients for extended stays for physical rehabilitation. These centers include:
Each of these have different care requirements, and software companies have built billing, medical scheduling, and patient care tools that meet their needs. Many of these systems also include marketing and CRM functions to manage relationships with patients and their family members.
Find out more about long-term care software.
Behavioral health software is specialized medical software for mental and behavioral health providers. While these practitioners often practice within hospitals, private offices, outpatient clinics, and other medical facilities, the needs of the practitioners require either a specialized or custom software solution outside of generalized patient or practice management.
Many practitioners and practices could get away with using a generalized practice management solution for billing and patient scheduling. Those practices that need resource allocation tools for room assignments and equipment testing may want to consider a behavioral health software, as these features are otherwise only found in enterprise medical software or medical ERP software.
Learn more about behavioral health software.
Beginning in 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officially changed the Meaningful Use program to its new name: Promoting Interoperability. This program seeks to make it easier for individuals to gain access to their medical records and increases the portability of those records between caregivers. Meaningful use software is often still used by large hospital providers and practices to ensure that government standards are met.
Learn more about meaningful use software.
Dental software is software with specialized features that benefit dental practices. These features may include integrations with imaging tools, appointment scheduling, billing, and detailed records.
Learn more about dental software.
Patient engagement software is increasingly popular among both small and large practices for marketing, ongoing patient care, and even appointment reminders. These tools employ SMS/text messages, patient portal, and may even connect with patient wearable devices to communicate directly between doctor and patient. Practices that seek to improve long-term outcomes, increase prescription adherence, and facilitate patient questions may consider purchasing a patient engagement software.
Learn more about patient engagement software.
Patient portal software gives patients a place to securely log in to communicate with their doctors, view lab results, request prescriptions, and view their medical records online. Many modern EHR software options include a patient portal, but some lower-cost, open source, or best of breed EHR tools might not. Standalone patient portal software can often be customized to securely connect to an EHR via an API connection to share medical records data.
Learn more about patient portal software.
Chiropractic software caters to the specific needs of chiropractic specialty practices, including scheduling, billing, imaging, and patient records. The difference between chiropractic software and a general EHR can be seen in the workflows and templates. Some EHRs may be suitable for use in some chiropractic practices, while others may cause undue burdens due to workflow and usability issues.
Learn more about chiropractic software.
Emergency medical services (EMS) software is designed to meet the specific needs of EMS teams. These EHR systems have mobile capabilities, are designed for use on a tablet or smartphone, and contain workflows designed to ease the processes of charting and records transfer for EMS teams. The software often includes billing, employee scheduling, and automated dispatch tools in addition to patient charts.
Learn more about EMS software.
Government regulations largely drive trends in the medical software market, but increased focus on patient engagement and proactive health practices have changed the ways many practices use technology. Couple these changes with advancements in consumer software, AI, and cloud deployments, and this sector of software changes quickly. These are the top trends driving change in the medical software market.
In 2018 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) changed the name and the program requirements for Meaningful Use. These requirements still promote patient information security and the portability of individual medical records, but the official name has changed to Promoting Interoperability. Interoperability refers to the easy transfer of patient records between care providers, hospital systems, and EHR software.
The Meaningful Use program has effectively aged out, but the Promoting Interoperability program will continue to hold hospitals and practices to standards that change from year to year and require medical software to keep up. Practices should pay particular attention to 2020 measures to standardize e-prescribe tools to help combat the opioid crisis and requirements to make the referral and transfer of care process easier for patients.
As the medical software market matures, more EHR vendors offer cloud SaaS deployments rather than via on-premise, dedicated servers. While not necessarily cheaper, cloud-based EHRs are usually easier to deploy and maintain, as vendors take responsibility for software updates and server maintenance.
While cloud deployment can save practices and hospitals time and money in the deployment of software, many healthcare companies have run into issues finding affordable digital storage for the vast numbers of medical records and data they produce. Recently, healthcare provider Ascension struck a deal with Google to trade server space for access to anonymized health records.
Though medical software adoption rates increase from year to year, many of the early adopters were primary care physicians who were already the target market for first generation EHRs. As more specialists adopt EHRs, they should consider how a system’s capabilities align with their clinical workflow. Specialty offices should look for specialty templates or customizable templates to reduce the onboarding and implementation time.
The electronic medical records market is complex, as is the purchasing process. If you want to save time researching EHR software, TechnologyAdvice can recommend a short list of vendors who meet your practice requirements. Use our EHR-EMR Product Selection Tool or click on the image below to get started.
Practice management systems come in two forms: connected to an electronic health record system or a standalone version not tied to an EHR. When selecting products, it’s important to consider the overall usability and functionality of a system, but integration with an EHR can be a significant benefit. If the two systems don’t interface, you may have to contact one of the two vendors and request technical support, which could lead to lost data.
For more information on practice management systems, see our complete vendor listings or read our comprehensive guide.
The medical software vendor market increases in complexity every day. But you don’t have to make this decision alone. At TechnologyAdvice, we’re experts in helping you choose the best software for your practice based on patient load, deployment, and specialty.
Check out our medical software reviews and articles:
Looking for demos of Medical software? Check out our Medical Software YouTube Playlist!