Article Date: 9/1/2002

cybercare
Another Step in the E-Direction
Embrace the future with computerized accounting. Here's the low down.
Richard Hom, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Congratulations! You're busy seeing patients. In fact, you're doing so much clinical optometry that you can no longer "keep your books" by yourself or with paper and pencil alone. Is accounting software something for you?

Here, I'll tell you about moving from "paper-and-pencil" accounting to computerized accounting.

Today's accounting software

In the past 20 years, accounting software for the small business has blossomed into a thriving industry. Advances in computers and in computer programming have significantly simplified the usability of these programs so that even a novice user can become productive within an hour.

Intuit and Peachtree Software are both prominent in making accounting software as user friendly as possible. Both companies' products hide much of the complexity of accounting behind forms, windows and terminology, which you might recognize. Together, these two companies own nearly 95% of the market in accounting software.

ILLUSTRATION BY CAM WILSON

Accounting vs. managing

What Intuit and Peachtree have in common is the use of their software as the principal forum for all transactions for a business. This is a problem for O.D.s though, because most computer-enabled practices use some form of practice management software as the vehicle for recording transactions.

The strength of practice management software packages lies in their orientation toward typical patient transactions (making appointments, collecting patient data, billing patients, regulating inventory, etc.).

Their weakness, however, is their limited ability in financial reporting and analyzing for all of your practice. For instance, some practice management software packages may help you order ophthalmic and contact lens products, but they can't monitor the depreciation of your equipment and office fixtures. That's the strength of accounting software. They're strong in the areas of financial reporting and the correct categorization of income and expenses. What they can't do, though, is handle patient transactions.

So for the 50% of doctors who still use paper and pencil for their patient and vendor transactions, it's easy to transition to current accounting software.

The following section on choosing a software program applies to both Intuit's Quickbooks 2002 and to Peachtree's Peachtree 2003.

Finding your software soulmate

First you'll want to check with your accountant or bookkeeper about setting up the chart of accounts (COA) and correct headings for income statements. If you don't have an accountant yet, you might want to hire one now so you can hand over the tax preparation, financial reporting and software records to him.

Many times, the bookkeeping is treated as a sole or secondary function of your office manager, whose advice may help you better organize your office account setup. Quickbooks and Peachtree don't follow optometric nomenclature for accounts and expenses, so getting someone else to help you set up the COA will benefit you in the long run.

Contact both companies for a trial copy of their software. Often you can download the software for free or request a CD for a small fee from the Web site.

Next, install the evaluation software and use the tutorial. Get comfortable with its function and how close it is to your way of working.

Once you're comfortable with one of the accounting programs, go ahead and buy the "full" version. Both companies sell the full version either through their respective Web sites or through an office supplies/computer retail store.

According to Manvinder Saraon, brand manager for QuickBooks, the full version of QuickBooks 2002 has specific help text that guides you through the process of using the program in a healthcare environment. Likewise, Liz Carman, product marketing manager for Peachtree, emphasizes the flexibility of its program in working in the same environment.

The decision is yours

When it comes down to it, choosing a software program is a personal decision. Weigh its usability, the availability of technical support and the degree of customization before deciding which will work the best for you.

No, it's not like practice management software, so it's not as customized to fit your needs. Remember, these programs help you with your accounting and bookkeeping -- not with your patient management. Both Saraon and Carman offer this advice when referring to their software: "It's simple to use . . . it's fast . . . it's right for your [practice] . . ."

Next month, I'll tell you how you can use accounting software with management software.

DR. HOM HAS NO FINANCIAL INTEREST IN ANY PRODUCT MENTIONED. HE IS A PRODUCT MANAGER FOR NETWORK APPLIANCE, INC., AN ENTERPRISE DATA AND STORAGE MANAGEMENT COMPANY BASED IN SUNNYVALE, CALIF. REACH HIM AT RICHARD.HOM@NETAPP.COM.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: September 2002