Keys to Winning in an Old Market: The Recipe for PM Success - Cover

Keys to Winning in an Old Market: The Recipe for PM Success

Practice management (PM) software has been around in some form for three decades. But in the past several years, the market has seen drastic changes in KLAS scores, several acquisitions, and a number of up-and-coming vendors.

It intrigues me that we are still seeing so much evolution in a market with legacy products. Perhaps PM vendors are still learning what is most important to providers. Luckily, KLAS’ recent Practice Management 2019 report gives details about three keys to creating a great experience for a PM customer.  

Key #1: Support

Attentive, competent, and personalized support is one of the best predictors of a provider’s satisfaction with a PM tool. The top-scoring PM vendors—including Epic and NextGen Healthcare for 11+ physicians and Greenway Health for 11–75 physicians—all have high support scores, while lagging vendors tend to have low or rapidly falling support scores.

High-quality support is helpful in every healthcare IT segment, but why is it absolutely critical in the PM space? The short answer is that PM work is about money. A PM tool manages the income for the entire physician practice; if the billing system crashes or has an issue that prevents claims from going out, that financial impact can increase exponentially by the day.

This is why providers need their vendors to fix problems quickly. In order to coordinate a quick resolution, a support representative must be knowledgeable and empowered. This kind of employee creates the foundation for a healthy vendor-provider relationship.

Key #2: Functionality

Many providers with lower-rated products tend to complain that they have a hard time doing fundamental tasks in their PM solutions without putting workarounds or additional tools in place. Others are worried that their vendors aren’t making product development a high enough priority.

In the case of legacy product vendors, some choose to rest on their past successes or core strength of the solution instead of really pushing the product forward.  This can be dangerous, given the evolving needs of the market. Several of these vendors have gone through declines in the past few years, but one or two are mounting a strong comeback. 

NextGen Healthcare had the #2 spot in the large-practice PM space in 2012 but saw an alarming decline in the following years. In the last few years, however, they decided they needed to turn things around, and that’s exactly what they did. Since 2016, their PM product scores have risen by more than 16%, and they even won the Best in KLAS award for midsize practices this year!

NextGen Healthcare has shown that it’s possible for legacy vendors to increase customer satisfaction by improving the functionality and usability of their product. However, this is a category where younger vendors with developing products are also having a major impact. AdvancedMD and eMDs (Aprima) both score well for practices with 11–75 physicians, largely because of strong functionality and ease of use.

Key #3: Scalability

Physician practices with 10–20 providers are a sweet spot for several vendors. These vendors appear to have playbooks that work quite well for practices of that size. However, there are many significant differences between midsize and large physician practices that must be understood and catered to. Vendors who are unable l to do this struggle with larger implementations and stepping up to that level of complexity.

The following chart from KLAS’ Practice Management 2019 report shows the relative scalability of the measured vendors’ tools:

Vendor's Scaling Ability by Number of Physicians

You’ll notice that several vendors appear to do quite well at delivering to large customers. But what must a vendor be able to do in order to satisfy these providers? Here is a brief and basic list:

  • Use savvy resources to manage a complex implementation
  • Understand the kind of post-implementation support that a large practice needs and then deliver it
  • Provide a tool with sophisticated reporting that is capable of handling 100+ different provider billing numbers and schedules at once
  • Adjust urgency levels, realizing that billing issues create higher-magnitude problems and funding losses for large practices

Players to Watch: All of Them 

I wish I could peek into the future of the PM market. I have numerous questions that I know many of my provider friends share:

  • What impact will recent M&A activity (athenahealth merging with Virence Health and eMDs acquiring Aprima) have on the PM space?
  • Will relative newcomers AdvancedMD, eMDs, CareCloud, and MEDITECH prove disruptive as they settle into the market?
  • Can Cerner make the changes needed to mend the relationships with their larger customers?
  • Will the scores of Greenway Health and NextGen Healthcare continue to rise?
  • Will athenahealth—a historical winner in the PM space with recent score drops—be able to course-correct and stabilize?

The past several years have shown that anything can happen in the PM space. Every single vendor is or should be navigating market consolidation, honing their approach, or instigating a terrific turnaround. I can’t wait to see how vendors’ efforts improve the lives of providers.

    Photo Cred: Shutterstock, S_Photo