Friday, April 23, 2010

EHR Bargains Review – Office Ally

(Survival Tips for Small Practices)

Most of us know Office Ally as a free clearinghouse for medical claims processing. Over time Office Ally has consistently added web based services to their original claim processing offering. First came Office Mate, a Practice Management System, then came Patient Ally, a Personal Health Record and now we have the Office Ally EHR. Since most offerings are completely FREE to physicians, I thought this would be a good time to review the Office Ally option for a cash strapped small practice attempting to go electronic and qualify for government incentives.

The Concept of FREE

Unlike most other FREE products on the market, the Office Ally model is very easy to understand. Office Ally’s revenue stream comes from its clearinghouse operations and originates with payers. All clearinghouses receive transactional payments from insurers and in addition they also charge monthly fees from submitters. Office Ally is forgoing the submitter fees, which average about $100 per provider/per month, for electronic claims, electronic remittance and eligibility checks.

Office Ally’s web based services do not require lengthy contracts. You use it if you like and you stop using it if you don’t. Most “free” clearinghouse services require that you outsource your billing and pay between 5% and 8% of net collections. Office Ally does not offer an outsourced billing service and you may continue to do your billing in house. As far as I can tell, the products are not ad supported, so you will not see Diabetes Wonder Drug ads every time you access a chart with a documented ICD-9 of 250.00. Since the products are web based, your data will be residing at the vendor data centers. I have not seen a public statement on Office Ally’s policy regarding their use of deidentified patient data collected from their customers. This should be clarified before you sign up for the service.

Office Ally EHR

The new Office Ally EHR is web based and has the ability to integrate a certified electronic prescribing solution from NewCrop. The EHR is not free. The subscription fee is $29.95 per provider/per month. You can cancel the contract with a 30 days’ notice and get your data exported for a flat fee of $39.95. The electronic prescribing module runs at $30.99 per provider/per month for the full service as required for Meaningful Use. This brings the total package monthly cost to $60.94 per provider. This comes to about half the price of Amazing Charts, the Gold standard for affordable EHR solutions. To be sure the Office Ally EHR does not include advanced functionality like clinical decision support, order sets, quality reporting, lab interfaces and other advanced features available to the CCHIT certified Amazing Charts users. These features will be required for government incentives. It is possible that Office Ally will be adding features and eventually will be applying for Meaningful Use certification, but at this point in time there are no expressed guarantees and I would expect the current subscription fees to increase for a fully certified product.

Practice Mate

Practice Mate is a typical Practice Management System with registration, scheduling and billing management functionality. It is free to clearinghouse users. While lacking bells and whistles functionality, Practice Mate should serve a small practice well enough. There is a phone reminders service that can be added for a volume based fee.

Patient Ally

The patient portal, or PHR, is completely free and integrates directly into the Practice Mate and the new EHR. It has the basic functionality found in most patient portals, such as secure patient communications, refill requests, appointment requests, viewing results, etc.

Office Ally Billing Clearinghouse

This is the original flagship service offering. It is free for providers submitting more than 50% of their claims to commercial payers (not Medicare/Medicaid). Otherwise, there is a flat fee of $19.95 per provider per month. The clearinghouse is in wide use and the payer list, while not covering 100% of payers, is steadily growing. The clearinghouse can be, and is, used in conjunction with other EHR/PMS software, through direct access by paper based offices or as part of the entire suite of Office Ally suite of products.

Bottom Line

The Office Ally EHR is the most recent addition to a historically billing focused company, probably in an effort to offer the client base a path to achieving Meaningful Use, while creating a new revenue stream for Office Ally. All in all, the EHR is very basic and will need to quickly add a host of feature/functionality in order to certify for Meaningful Use. The price point is very attractive for a small practice and so is the completely web based model. From what I could see, the EHR software is as clear and simple as the older Office Ally minimalistic modules. This is good news for a practice trying to save money on training and implementation.

If the EHR becomes Meaningful Use certified, while maintaining the lean look & feel and a price point well below $100 per provider/per month for an entire integrated suite of clinical and business products, I would rate it as a definite Best Buy. Right now I would say it is definitely worth adding to a small practice short list of products to review.

07/18/2011 Update: Office Ally EHR is certified as a Complete EHR by an ONC-ATCB for 2011-2012. It is also CCHIT 2011 pre-market certified. Last week Office Ally announced that its "full suite of office support tools for healthcare providers is now compatible with all Apple products, including MAC computers and iPads".

Next Review: Amazing Charts

29 comments:

  1. Thank you for the write up, you did a great job! We also have a blog where we post updates and you can also follow us on Twitter too. Again, nice article and thanks again.

    http://officeally.wordpress.com/

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  2. Keep up the good work. The industry needs exactly this type of technologies right now.
    I'll be sure to follow your progress.

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  3. I just started looking at this and the review seems accurate with what I've heard from others that use it. Can't beat it, join it!

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  4. Although, a monthly contract sounds feasible, it could backfire as well. Remember that Office Ally is web-based, meaning that the provider does not own the software. My concern is that there is no guarantee that the price won't go up over time and there is no limit that how high it could get. Once a practice is established, using EHR, it would be extremely cumbersome to switch to a different EHR.

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  5. As a billing service, we have used Office Ally for electronic claim submission, claim fix, tracking, code search, payer lists, and electronic remittance advice downloads. Our experience is one of total reliability and quick response. We assume their EHR will be equally solid. Certification begins later this month and we hope to recommend Office Ally EHR to our clients.

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  6. Bob, do you know if they are going to try to certify?

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  7. Trying to follow this stream as I consider Office Ally for my private counseling practice- what is Certification toward, if Office Ally is going for it, and what is "Meaningful Use", also referring to?

    Thanks!

    JE

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  8. JE, Meaningful Use is a set of criteria that physician have to meet when using an EHR to qualify for Government incentives and the EHR needs to be Certified that it has all these features. This only applies if you see a large number of Medicare or Medicaid patients.
    If you only want to use Office Ally for billing, it wouldn't matter.

    Here is a link to the Government website that administers the entire process:
    http://healthit.hhs.gov

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  9. My office is currently having problems with Office Ally and losing (large) batches of claims. We get a remittance number from when we upload to O.A. but when we follow up with Blue Cross, they have no record of those claims. We follow up with Office Ally and they say it's Blue's fault. Blue says it's O.A.'s fault. Extremely frustrating. When you just need to change a claim the reps are very helpful. Not when you have a problem.

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  10. Jeff, I have the same problem with Rapid EPM/EMR and Gateway EDI. We also had problems with quantum health electronic claims submissions... maybe an industry wide problem?

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  11. I've been using Office Ally products for the past 3yrs and I love them. They're extremely affordable and user friendly. The staff are knowledgeable, nice and very helpful. This is one of the companies that will be around for a long time and will be expanding continuously. The have great products and customer service. That's why I love them just like I do with Costco :)

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  12. I was happy with Office Ally while it had it's quirks, for the most part it was as advertised till August 2011. Office Ally at that time decided that BCBS was to be reclassified as a federal claim. And we started receiving a monthly bill for $19.95 for more the 50% federal claims. When I questioned thme I was told that BCBS would not pay them for processing claims so the expense was directed to the provider by reclassifying BCBS as a federal claim. While Office ally might still be a good deal (research in progress), I do feel like the method they used is not good faith business.

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  13. DO NOT USE OFFICE ALLY! After using the program myself and talking with a few other local docs who used it a scary pattern emerged. It seems that O.A. has a routine (or corrupt bad faith business model) of LOSING PROVIDER'S CLAIMS. The software tells the user that the carrier has confirmed receiving the claim but when you call the carrier directly they say they have no record of the claim at all. When you call O.A. they say apathetically that they have no liability or responsibility for this. Six weeks of our bills had to be paper printed and started all over again representing tens of thousands of dollars to our company while our overhead never stopped. Something I am now certain O.A. and the carriers are well aware of. Other doctors I spoke to had the exact same experience. My suspicion is that O.A. is colluding with the carriers to stall, delay and deny legitimate claims as part of it's business model. STAY AWAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Replies
    1. I so totally agree. There is something up with the way OFFICE ALLY performs. Version 5010 is kicking them where it hurts but the Providers are hurting more using OFFICE ALLY.

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  14. I can not speak for the people that are having problems with Office Ally or Practice Mate, but I have had great results with it. I am a single member chiropractic clinic and it suits my needs perfectly. Here in Minnesota we are required to electronically bill. I started using Office Ally as a clearinghouse with my previous EMR software. I was happy with that and I eventually went to Practice Mate. I have been equally happy with this product as well. It suits my needs perfectly and the customer service is great too. There are a few bells and whistles that I would like added, but it is hard to complain when it is free and simple.

    thanks,

    Dr. Jeff
    http://hyackchiro.com

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  15. I have had an awesome experience with officially practice mate. The only company who ever says they do not receive claims is unitedhealthcare. I have had so many negative interations with UHC as a consumer and a provider that I would have to say that they were the problem, not officeally. I have not used the EHR, but I have nothing but good things to say. Love that you can correct accounting mistakes. I 've found that a lot of Medical software systems do not allow corrections in the accounting system. Oh and I love that PM is free!

    Shauna Aningo
    Psychotherapist

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  16. Every healthcare provider should switch to an EMR solution. Paper based records and prescriptions are a thing of the past now and it would be best for both doctors and patients to take advantage of their features and accessibility.

    Medical Billing I Free EMR

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  17. Having a horrible time with Office Ally! The reps do not seem to know their jobs. I have spent a great deal of time on hold and then on the phone. They tell me the problem is fixed and after I receive another denial, I find out it isn't fixed. Just now I was told I am filling out the claims incorrectly. No problems with the other doctor in this office. No problems with the clearinghouse I used before. Medicare tells me it's my clearinghouse. Be careful, free is nice - but you get what you pay for.

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  18. We are currently looking for a EHR for our office. I have been told that Office Ally is a good system to have. We are an OB/GYN office and would like to talk with other physicians who are currently using Office Ally in their office to see how the system is working out for them.

    Thank you
    Vickie
    Office Manager

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  19. We are a medical supply company recently approved to process Medicare/Medicaid claims. How affective is this system for that type of business?

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    Replies
    1. I used it for Medicare and Medicaid and it was great.

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  20. Need help!!!!!!!!!!
    I am stock between Practice Fusion and Office Ally. This is one provider practice and please if there any dermatologist using free EMR let me know what you using.

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  21. I am having to change practice management systems, have been using Practice Edge thru MDOL they are discontinuing due to accounting problems is my guess. Considering Office Ally vs. INSync which is what MDOL has purchased. I am a solo provider with very small practice. Positive and negative feedback about Office Ally is really confusion Great reviews vs terrible reviews????

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  22. Well after all the words and promises
    We stick with Practice Fusion

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  23. Any updates with the "losing claims" problems and clearinghouse functions? Thinking of switching to Office Ally but don't need more problems than what I've already got. Also, how does the eligibility function work?

    Thanks,

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  24. We are a single Dr practice and have been using PM for a year and a half. I'm also noticing a lot of "lost claims" between our office and the Insurances. We are currently looking at another clearinghouse for our billing. We may have to pay out of pocket but for what it is costing us in staff time to rebill outstanding claims it is going to be worth it.

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  25. I'm a provider who has been using Office Ally for many years. There are times where we come across issues of claims not on file, but there is one rep there who has ALWAYS been able to tell me what happened. He has been the absolute best. His name is Will. If you have ANY issues with the claims not being at the payer, ask for him. He will take care of you.

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  26. We have had tremendous problems with our Medicare billings. Office Ally submits images (pdf or jpg),not a true electronic submission. This causes problems with paired codes which result in denials and leads to copious resubmissions/appeals and delays. We are currently switching to a true EDI clearinghouse prior to the mandated Medicare changes.

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