Practice Mate

Practice Mate is free online medical billing software. It integrates with Office Ally, the popular free clearinghouse. We use Office Ally in our medical billing service for some of our smaller clients and we like it.

I decided to try Practice Mate because I leave no stone unturned to save you time and money. We all like "free", however, it's important to do your homework before committing your time and energy.

Practice Mate also integrates with a low cost EHR system and a patient portal called Patient Ally. Patients can enter their demographics, insurance and health information, and communicate with their doctor.

Here's what I found after working with Practice Mate:

Patient Scheduler - The scheduler includes: multiple columns by provider and/or resources, color coded appointments, add notes and appointment types, repeating appointments, customizable appointment fields, checking in and out, print a superbill, add a copay from the appointment and print a receipt. A list of patient appointments can be generated by date. Naturally, the fact that the system is online is a great feature because the data is shared.
Appointment time intervals can be adjusted globally but not by provider. Color coding is not assigned by appointment type so the color must be added manually for each appointment. The printed appointment list does not reflect the entered note. Patient remainder balances are not reflected in the scheduler. The repeat appointment feature works well for scheduling weekly appointments (good for a mental health professional) but not for multiple appointments per week (as in a physical therapy or chiropractic office).

Demographics/Support Files/Insurance Entry - Demographics are easily entered in the system and one nice feature is that data can be imported automatically if your patient signs up with Patient Ally and enters their information. This can be a real time saver. Support files can be imported from other software using Excel or comma delimited files.
The demographic/support/insurance files have no default settings. The data fields in all medical billing software are pretty standard but the difficulty with this program is that it is so mouse driven. This makes the data entry slow throughout the program.

Transaction Entry - You can set up default procedure and diagnosis codes in Practice Mate. This is a nice feature and would work well for mental health professionals who usually use the same codes consistently. The easiest way to enter charges is directly from the scheduler. The system is geared to have the office staff enter the patient demographics, appointments, and copays and the medical biller handle the rest.
Entering charges, payments, and applying those payments requires a lot of heavy lifting because there are so many screen changes and mouse clicks. The tab key can be used in some places but you can't get away from the mouse clicks and there are a lot of them. There is no patient ledger to display all charges, payments, and adjustments in one place.

Claims Processing - Claims processing in Practice Mate is well integrated with Office Ally which uses intuitive displays to identify rejected claims and see reports. Claims are very easy to update and rebill.
Practice Mate displays visits and claims in separate lists so to research anything requires lots of screen changes and mouse clicks. This is a problem throughout the software and slows the process down considerably.

Electronic Remittance Processing - EOBs can be downloaded, printed, and the deposit information can be automatically entered.
Although EOBs can be posted automatically, there are still at lot of mouse clicks and screen changes.

Deposit Entry/Insurance Payment Application - Daily deposits can be entered by the office staff and applied later by the medical biller. The deposit report can be used as an attachment to the deposit slip and balanced to the cash. The payment application screen takes you to a list of the patient's charges where payments, adjustments, and a reference note can be added.
It takes several mouse clicks and a couple of screen changes to post payments. There is no entry for a deductible or takeback. It is the responsibility of the user to manually move the visit from primary payer, to secondary payer, to patient responsibility. There is no program logic built into the system to do this automatically.

Statements - You can see a list of statements that have been sent and they can be easily reprinted. The user manually manages whether a patient receives a statement through the payment posting process. The statements are very simple and look OK on plain paper. A global message can be added before statements are generated. Office Ally does not provide electronic statement processing but the statements can be exported to a file for processing by another vendor.
Other than a global note, you cannot enter a note on the statement. This would be helpful to signify a deductible amount, no benefit or coverage message. Also, there are no 30/60/90/120 aging details.

Reports - Practice Mate has basic production reports and some charts. The appointment and deposit reports are adequate.
Reports cannot be customized, and unfortunately several reports are missing key information. There is no report that contains all the data you need to verify the accuracy of your data entry. Also, the Aging Report does not include the date of service or birth date in order to contact insurance companies.

Security - Practice Mate has user login and password but no ability to limit access by user.

Accounting - Practice Mate is a real time processing system and has no period end close features. Please refer to the Medisoft review for a discussion on how accounting features impact your practice or billing service.

Practice Mate is a good choice for a very small practice. It's biggest advantage is the integration with its EHR and Patient Ally modules. It is easy to enter charges from the scheduler, however, the rest of the billing process is slowed down by the screen changes and mouse clicks required to navigate through the software making it less efficient for use in a full-time practice. There are many parts of the program that I like, and hopefully, Office Ally will continue to improve it.

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