myPractice goes elephant hunting for allied health
You could say that software developer Glen Germaine is an accidental standard-bearer for the temperance movement.
Spurred on by requests for help from his dietitian and nutritionist friends, eight years ago he left his job as systems development manager at Liquorland to establish the allied health software company myPractice.
“They were looking for a practice management system that was suitable for allied health – for their needs, rather than something that was cobbled together and didn’t really meet their requirements,” Mr Germaine said.
Moving from hooch to health was not easy for Mr Germaine. “I’ve got no clinical background, so I was completely reliant on their guidance,” he said.
What started as a simple appointment-book program has now expanded to the recent release of myPractice 4.0, with a development strategy that has drawn on user feedback from more than 500 practices as far away as the US and Asia.
However, Mr Germaine said myPractice was centred on the Australian market because of the momentum driven by eHealth initiatives like the PCEHR and secure messaging. Ensuring allied health practitioners are covered for these changes will be the company’s focus for 2013.
Highlights of version 4.0 include improved administration through MYOB integration and an expense-tracker function that generates reports simply, as well as improved communication from integration with online email marketing solution MailChimp.
“The biggest surprise to me over the last year-and-a-half has been the push towards getting out there and marketing to clients, particularly when you look back to when we started,” Mr Germaine said. “It wasn’t on the radar at all. Now, marketing their business and keeping in touch with their clients is a big deal.”
Customers of myPractice are largely psychologists and dietitians, but the business has expanded to other specialties over time because of user-driven development. The program is now used by exercise physiologists, speech therapists, chiropractors and diabetes educators.
For the coming year, myPractice is concentrating on working towards PCEHR integration, although Mr Germaine will take a gradual approach. First up on the development team’s plate for version 5.0 is integrating with the Healthcare Identifiers Service.
Mr Germaine said his team is taking a staggered approach because the reverberations of changes in eHealth are yet to be fully felt in the allied health sector.
“There’s no value in us jumping in boots and all and becoming fully integrated at the moment [in PCEHR and secure messaging],” he said. “It’s just not a requirement for the allied health area [now], and we’re taking a wait-and-see attitude, to see where it heads and what the requirements are.”
Mr Germaine expects that the “first rumblings” in the sector regarding PCEHR will come via GP referrals to his psychologist clients.
However, myPractice is working on the basis that PCEHR and secure messaging will be part of the next release, scheduled for November.
While myPractice is not working with NEHTA on this functionality, Mr Germaine said the authority had been doing good things in the last six months.
“Last year was frustrating, not knowing where they were headed, when things were going to be implemented, and what effect it was going to have on us.”
Mr Germaine said it would be his clients who will set the agenda for further eHealth integration.
Additional to the work on version 5.0, myPractice will release no-frills mobile and iPad apps to allow users to access the most important functions, such as managing appointments, as soon as possible.
These are expected to be ready mid-year, and Mr Germaine said this might lead to more users opting to take subscriptions to myPractice’s hosted model.
A web client application tentatively scheduled for release around the same time is further expected to push demand for hosted subscriptions.
Crucially, integration with Medicare Online and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs – a long-sought-after functionality that has hit a couple of speed-humps on the way – will be made available.
While the company has a development agreement with HICAPS, it does not expect to complete the work this year, due to the high burden on resources levied by the other builds.
And on that point, Mr Germaine framed the problem in terms all developers would be familiar with.
“It’s always a matter of, ‘What are the biggest elephants in the room that you’ve got to deal with?’,” he said.
Posted in Allied Health