Choosing an On-Line diary
There are lots of things to think about when deciding which on line diary. We have put together a guide to help with making these choices, and we looked at the diaries we use at Realtime and road-tested them for you on tablets.
You need to define what you want the diary to do. Think about:
1. How many people are going to use your diary?
A single person’s clinic is likely to be fine with a simple free diary (e.g. MyOffice), Real Time use this one as their Free diary. But if you have a lot of other people logging in and running diaries it may not be the easiest to read, or book into.
Are there going to be diaries for several practitioners or more than one location? You need to look at how these display, how you move from one diary to another. How do you move an appointment from one diary to another, or within the original onto a different date? This is probably very personal and I would suggest you look at several carefully before making a decision.
Check what it will look like on your pc. Are you using a Mac or tablet? Which browser will you need?
3. Accessibility/Speed of use.
How long does it take to load onto your pc when you turn it on? Does the diary log you out after an hour or so? Once you have opened the diary for the day you will want it to stay open all day.
Small/ simple features can make life so much easier does your diary have many? e.g. Software that will pick up the patient details and carry them to the next appointment or drag and drop for quick appointment changes is really useful.
4. Do you need a contacts list?
We would say you do. Having the details of each client saved in a database somewhere will mean you don’t need to fill in the information again and again every time you go to book them. A record of when they have attended is useful for professional audits and proper record keeping plus you can create a mail merge and generate mail shots. Record keeping is vital for your own protection and that of your patients.
5. Do you need clinical records?
We seem to be pretty divided over whether these are useful or not. Health professionals who keep their clinical records online need to be registered with the Data Protection Commission, ( on 01625 545 740, for an annual fee of £35.00). Manual records don’t need this. If you do decide to use on-line services test them very thoroughly for ease of use and take regular back-ups. You need to feel you can enter the data you need effectively, and find it again easily, that other people can follow what you have done, and that it will be secure. You should not be able to amend records without the record showing this.
If you are running a multi-practitioner clinic you will need to keep track of income per practitioner. It might be helpful if this is part of the software but will there be a charge for it? Will it produce and save invoices and correspondence? Can you download your clinic Logo?
Prices vary and it is best to check with the supplier. What are the additional charges. Is there an extra charge for more diaries, and additional log ins, accounts? ( Always think about how you intend to expand your business).
Reminder texts and emails really do work and sending one from your software is by far the most cost effective way to do this. You will normally need to purchase some sms credits, possibly through the software provider.
As stated above you need to register with the Data Protection Commission if you keep clinical notes or any financial information, but not for simple name address and telephone number. You also need to think about how the diary is hosted. Is it mirrored, so that if the server goes down there is a copy somewhere else? Is this mirror at the same location or elsewhere? You should keep a backup yourself somewhere, how easy is that to do?
Creators of software of this kind are often very small companies with very clever people developing the program. It helps if you can understand each other, or if there are people there who can help with queries and glitches who don’t make you feel like an ignoramus.
The iPad was the biggest selling item last Christmas and apparently the sale of tablets is the only item in sales which has gone up since Christmas! As a nation we are using more and more mobile devices and it would be convenient to be able to use the tablet for our clinical diary. We looked at the diaries we use at Realtime and road-tested them for you on tablets.
Below are the overall scores for the diaries we are familiar with. Whether we used an iPad or Android based tablet seemed to make no difference to how the diary behaved, although our particular android device was slower, but it is older and has a smaller processor. These scores are purely subjective and were based on how the diary behaved on that day.
PPS took a longer time to load, but once loaded was very straight-forward and smooth. ClinicOffice and PracticePal were not as fluid and intuitive, although perfectly serviceable. Google is easy and cloud-based but doesn’t collect your contact’s details, so they need to be re-entered at every booking which leads to transposition errors, and there is no audit trail.
MyOffice was disappointing. It is orientated in portrait and is basically using the same diary as my iPhone, so you scroll up and down to get date, and time. Its fine if you are not using a tablet but if you want to go mobile you might want to look at some of the others.
The most important thing is to do some research and try before you buy.