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Setting up a private medical practice: Getting IT right

Medical IT

Setting up a private medical practice: Getting IT right

15 Jun 2015

If you are in the process of setting up a private medical practice, one of your early decisions needs to centre on your IT and computer needs. Even if you are a single consultant with a part-time secretary, you need an efficient office system to prevent your time being squandered on crisis-management when things go wrong.

Seems daunting? It’s common for medical staff not to know where to start – here PPM Software sets out the 6 simple steps you need to follow to get your IT working for you from day 1.

Step 1: What functions does the computer system need to deliver?

Ask yourself and your staff how you will be using the equipment:

  • Do you just want to be able to work with documents and spread sheets?
  • Do you want a storage facility for photographs and medical images?
  • Does this require a high-resolution display?
  • Do you need internet access and email? What about security?
  • Do you want an integrated practice management system?


Step 2: What sort of capacity do you need?

You need to consider the scale of your practice – what will be your minimum requirements:

  • A single computer or a laptop?
  • A small peer-to-peer network?
  • A fully functioning network with a server that allows in-office and remote access for several staff members?
  • Do you need the potential to expand in the near- to medium-term built in?
  • Do you require access from various locations? If so why not consider our hosted solution


Step 3: What about IT peripherals?

If space is at a premium, choosing hardware that combines different functions can work well but if you want high resolution printing you may need a more expensive stand-alone printer:

  • What volume of printing will the practice be doing?
  • What quality of printing do you need? Colour? Laser?
  • Will you need to scan in documents and photographs?
  • What about sending and receiving faxes?
  • Do you need video conferencing and/or Skype for international consultations?


Step 4: What about security and communication?

Your practice will need to fulfil the requirements of the Information Commissioner, particularly with respect to storing patient records and sensitive information relating to their condition/treatment.

  • Do you need specialist software/advice on firewall/antivirus software?
  • What will be your policy on communications via email?
  • Do you need applications to allow synching of calendars so that staff can co-ordinate clinic times and appointments?
  • How can you make sure your patient data is secure yet easy to access?


Step 5: What IT support do you need?

For simple systems, perhaps with only one or two PCs, it may be fine to buy hardware ‘off the peg’ and arrange a maintenance contract with the supplier. For more complex network systems you need to ask:

  • Do you need a contract with a local IT consultant who can sort out any serious problems quickly to avoid downtime?
  • Do you need specialist ad hoc advice on specific issues to supplement your ongoing local support?
  • Do you need support from suppliers of individual software and applications?


Step 6: What about financial management?

Once a practice starts to get busy it can become increasingly difficult to keep track of money that is coming in, or that isn’t but should be…

  • Do you have dedicated staff to track whether invoices are being sent and bills are being paid in a timely manner?
  • Will expansion take your system to breaking point?
  • Do you need to invest in practice management software?


Putting IT into place

Once you have considered each step you should have a fairly detailed picture of the type of computer system and support that you need. Installation and set up can be tricky so you will probably need support from your supplier to do this. Most practices find it cost-effective to pay for an initial set-up as this saves money due to less hassle for staff.

Even a small practice of one or two consultants can benefit from high-quality support for their hardware and security software, supplemented by the package ‘PPM’ – Private Practice Manager from PPM Software. ‘PPM’ can be tailored to any size of practice and can be fully integrated with Microsoft Office.

‘PPM’ will handle data storage and retrieval, provide financial management and enable you to set up secure communication between staff and between staff and patients via text and email. Encrypted communication is the key to ensuring patient confidentiality while offering the advantages of being able to deliver and receive important information without delays.

Room to grow

With the right hardware, peripherals, software and support, you can begin your private practice on the correct footing. Staff will be able to work effectively and efficiently and, as the practice becomes more successful, the foundation is there to allow expansion to accommodate increased numbers of patients and, if necessary, additional consultants and admin staff.