Article Date: 11/1/2002

cybercare
Linking Software Systems
Get an idea about how to link two accounting software programs to further your practice's finances.
Richard Hom, O.D., F.A.A.O.

As you may recall, last month I wrote about using "off-the-shelf" accounting software and paper-and-pencil office systems. This month, I'll focus on how to use practice management software (PMS) with commercial, off-the-shelf, small business accounting software such as Intuit's Quickbooks and Quicken and Peachtree's Peachtree Accounting.

What you need to know before you start

It's not easy to transfer dissimilar information electronically or automatically. At its worst, it may be necessary to manually enter data into your accounting software. To avoid this potentially laborious and error-prone procedure, PMS and commercial small business software should have utilities to electronically transfer information between themselves

Unfortunately, many of these utilities don't behave in the same manner. Some utilities transfer only category lists. Some include only typical or general transactions. Others require that your PMS vendor perform the transfer itself.

A fortunate few PMS packages may even build special utilities that are based on a software development kit (SDK). Intuit published an SDK, and PMS vendors who create utilities to use this SDK can simplify information transfers with the company's products.

ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN SCHREINER

Setting up the transfer

The first step in transferring information is to identify the different kinds of information that your PMS package can transfer electronically. Most can transfer transactions, patient information and orders. Next, determine which commercial business software package uses which method of transferring information. Does the PMS package have a file utility that imports and exports text or comma-separated value (CSV) files from another program, or does it have a utility built on Intuit's SDK?

The next step is to coordinate the organization of the commercial small business software by naming and characterizing its data to resemble the PMS package as closely as possible. For example, if the PMS uses "procedure," then configure the commercial software to use this name also. Now you're ready to create a file from the PMS and store it in a readily accessible and recognizable place on your computer's hard drive.

Finally, use the commercial business software's file import/export utility to locate and open the file from the PMS. Automatically, the commercial software should begin incorporating this information into its accounts. You should transfer PMS information to your commercial business software periodically (any time period that corresponds to your own accounting and reporting requirements).

It'll all pay off

Working with different software programs needn't be difficult. Practically all commercial business software vendors are focusing on small business segments and can help you through the process of integrating them with PMS. If you have a more complicated or complex office, you may need a computer consultant or an accountant.

You'll see that all of this work is worth the effort. In the end, you'll have a more complete picture of your practice's financial health.

DR. HOM IS A PRIMARY CARE OPTOMETRIST WITH THE SAN MATEO COUNTY GENERAL HOSPITAL. HE HAS NO FINANCIAL INTEREST IN ANY PRODUCT MENTIONED IN THIS TEXT. REACH HIM AT RCHOM@HIPPUS.COM

 


Optometric Management, Issue: November 2002