Automated Billing Programs Prove Worth the Cost

The National Psychologist

January/February 1996

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

 

Readers are responding and here are some of their questions:

Q: I keep seeing advertisements for automated billing programs. Do I really need one?

A: YES! During research for my new handbook on technology for mental health practitioners, I asked many companies that sold billing programs to give me names of their users in my local area. I contacted many of them and found unanimous agreement that a billing program brought great benefits. One psychologist told me: "In the first three months I increased my collections $30,000." Another could not stop raving about how fast he got paid with electronic billing. Others talked about how a previously hated weekend chore (billing) now took only a few minutes at the end of the day. Many of them mentioned being apprehensive initially about spending up to $800 for a computer program, but they all felt that the program saved them more than that amount in a short time.

The billing systems are not hard to learn to use. Even if you consider yourself totally computer illiterate there are many billing programs available that are easy to use.

Q: I have an old IBM-Compatible computer (a 386 machine). Are there programs I can use in my practice or do I need to buy a brand new computer?

A: YES, there are programs. No, you needn't buy a new computer. Americans have been brainwashed that they need the newest and fastest computer. This is not true. There are many functional billing programs that will run on a 386 machine. There are also many, many computerized psychological assessments that run on these machines. My colleague, Dr. Michelle Weil, uses a 386 at her office and is very satisfied.

Q: I have a Macintosh computer and all the advertisements for billing programs, assessment programs and other practice aids appear to require IBM-Compatibles. Do I have to buy a new computer? I have heard that IBM-Compatibles are less user-friendly. If I buy one will I need to learn a complex computer language?

A: Our research indicates that there are about five times as many IBM-Compatible billing programs than Apple billing programs. Mac users do not have to switch to IBM although if they want a wider range of options, IBM offers more. For computerized assessments the ratio is even greater. The programs that are available are very good. Whether IBM-Compatibles are less user-friendly, is a matter of personal preference and taste. All programs that use Windows, and even many that use DOS, work like the Macintosh where you use the mouse to point at a picture and click a button to get the computer to follow your instructions. It's easy!

If you are considering an IBM-Compatible computer, the post-Christmas season is the best time to buy. Prices are down as much as 20%-30% and you can buy a whole computer setup for less than $2,000.

Q: I keep hearing and reading about the Internet and the World Wide Web. Is there anything there for psychologists? What's the best way to get started?

A: Research for our handbook produced hundreds of resources for psychologists. Here are just a few:

Getting started is now easier than ever if you have a computer and a modem (it doesn't have to be a fast, state-of-the-art modem). You can get a 10 hours free disk offer from America Online. These disks come inside many magazines (the ones that are encased in plastic at the newsstand) or call 800-827-6364. You pop the disk into your computer and follow the simple instructions. America Online helps you pick a local telephone number so it is not a toll call, gets you signed up (you need to give them a credit card number in case you go over your 10 free hours) and you are on your way in 15-30 minutes. Use your 10 hours to get a taste of what's out there. If you like it stay.... but beware..... it can be very addictive!

 

Copyright, 1995, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper which may be purchased for $30 a year. Write or call: TNP, 6100 Channingway Blvd., Suite 303, Columbus, OH 43232; telephone: 614.861.1999 or fax with Visa or MC to 614.861.1996.