Houston Medical getting set to integrate with Xero

Practice and clinical management software vendor Houston Medical is close to receiving certification to be fully integrated with the Xero online accounting software system.

Houston Medical's VIP.net is one of the first fully featured clinical software packages to integrate with Xero, which also partners with allied health software specialists coreplus and Cliniko.

Often called the darling of the sharemarket, Xero has seen phenomenal growth over the last year or so with its cloud-based accounting system. The company has been active in the franchise, not for profit, retail and hospitality industries, and is set to launch a Xero for healthcare landing page next year.

The cloud-based software includes bank feeds that automatically import and categorise banking, credit card and PayPal transactions, the ability to create and send invoices and get paid online, and to use add-ons for customer relationship management, inventory, timesheets and job management.

It also has a mobile app for iOS and Android that allows mobile access to user accounts, and allows users to share financial data and documents with accountants and book-keepers in the cloud.

The integration with Houston Medical's VIP.net has been driven by one of Houston Medical's customers, the Sydney Eye Specialist Centre. The practice's chief financial officer, Marcus Wilson, first recommended it to Houston Medical.

“One thing about Xero is that it was designed solely for the cloud from the beginning and its whole philosophy has been around open integration with other cloud offerings,” Mr Wilson said.

“The real appeal for us was around the seamless integration with other very cheap add-on products. We are all about cutting down our administrative burden, in areas that practice management systems have not traditionally or logically tried to cover.”

The Sydney Eye Specialist Centre uses VIP.net for all of its billing, practice management, specialist consultations and day hospital billing. It is also able to directly receive data from the multiple instruments that an ophthalmology practice uses.

The centre, which has sites at Double Bay and Kingsford in Sydney, is currently in an expansion mode, Mr Wilson said.

“At the moment Kingsford is the main site and historically that has hosted the terminal servers, the domain controllers, SQL server support and the VIP.net software, and Double Bay has effectively been on the cloud,” he said.

“However, we are soon to move the entire server environment into the cloud. We have installed 10Mbps fibre dedicated links, and we are waiting for the remote servers to be commissioned.”

Xero offers a free application programming interface (API) to assist the integration, Mr Wilson said.

“Xero was designed from the beginning solely for the cloud and its whole philosophy has been around open integration. That is where the ecosystem is really powerful because it is industry-agnostic.

“With the administration side of the business, the key data entry elements are invoicing/receipting, bills paid to suppliers and staff timesheets. We have moved to a point now in the Xero ecosystem where all of that, literally hundreds of monthly invoices from suppliers and thousands of invoices to patients, all of that is electronically linked with no data entry, straight into Xero. So all of the paper timesheets, bills received in the mail, printing paper invoices is yesterday’s pain – it is all connected and integrated and there is no data entry.”

Houston Medical managing director Derek Gower said Xero had been very easy to work with in getting the integration up and running. “As soon as we approached Xero they immediately got somebody on our case, answered all of our questions and gave us free access to a development sandbox to play in and gave us absolutely everything that we needed,” Mr Gower said.

“VIP.net does all the patient billing and receipting, invoicing to health funds, Medicare, DVA etc, and we push the results into Xero, so they've got a fully updated P&L and balance sheet. This can be done daily or weekly as required.”

Mr Gower said a separate add-on package does staff scheduling and another add-on takes the metadata from PDFs attached to supplier invoices. “Previously a PDF invoice emailed from a supplier had to be opened and typed into accounts payable,” he said. “Not now; another application takes the data from the PDF and immediately puts it into accounts payable waiting for the user to approve it.”

Mr Gower said Houston Medical, in association with Xero and the Eye Specialist Centre, had realised the dream of the fully paperless practice.

“A patient text directly updates the appointment book [and] on arrival a patient-facing kiosk with an attached digital signing pad confirms patient information without the need for the usual A4 paper on a clipboard.

”Ophthalmic equipment from all major suppliers feeds in clinical data without any print-outs, a patient requiring surgery is transferred to the day hospital software, clinical coding is completed, Eclipse billing is electronically transmitted to the various payers and finally, the result is uploaded to Xero for full activity based costing.”

He said he had yet to decide how to offer it to other users, but would most likely follow the same pattern as Xero, which offers a monthly subscription.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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