How to Take Back Control Over Your (Windows) Business with a Mac!

Say you’re responsible for making money to pay the bills (i.e., the bread winner). Say you use technology to help you achieve your goals (see prior statement). What happens if the entrenched technology (Windows PC) you use doesn’t allow you to achieve the goals you’ve set because that technology has now become too limiting, inefficient and obsolete? Do you (A) continue business as usual hoping people decide to pay you a premium for you just being “you”, (B) take the proverbial “leap of faith” and trash your current software/platform for the latest and greatest out there and in the same breath lose all the information, data, contacts, etc. that you spent years cultivating, hoping that it all will work out in the end or (C) take my approach by leveraging the very best software and services out there to give you back the ability to control your business—to not be at the mercy of bloated “do nothing for me anymore but extort my monthly subscription support fees” and keep all your important information while giving you an advanced and efficient system that works for you? As electronic medical and dental records becomes more prevalent and eventually will become mandatory, these issues are vitally important to you today.

The above scenario was exactly what I was up against when my PC work server crashed two years ago.

You see, the very essence of my practice relies upon technology as patient records are electronic and the radiograph system is all digital.

My growing resentment toward the old Windows-based practice management software I was using, Windent, which was grossly outdated with no sign of update, and the manner in which my “support team” handled this particularly critical crisis, all contributed to and eventually prompted my defection to the Mac.

It was the feeling of helplessness in the face of this calamity that threatened my ability to serve my patients and provide for my family that finally allowed me to overcome my fear of change. Elated that I had made the switch, I have not looked back since!

A migration strategy for your practice or business may one day be warranted or mandated. No matter what type of business you have, you need to make sure the transition is smooth and painless and at the same time ensure minimal impact on the normal flow of your business.

Anytime you switch to a different software program or computing platform, the question of transferring your data arises. Companies that specialize in transferring data can charge you a premium to port your old information to your new platform.

However, they may not necessarily be able to guarantee that all your data will be moved and the ported data may not be able to be accessed properly through your new application.

I’ll let you in on a little secret—I didn’t hire any company or service to port my old data into my new practice management software. The answer for me was virtualization.

Let me explain:

Most of the patients I see usually don’t need to come to my office more than three times except in certain circumstances, which mostly depends on the type of procedure I have performed for them. I also am an insurance provider and as such I am sometimes obligated to wait 30-120 days, or even longer at times, for reimbursement.

I was using my old practice management software, Windent, to manage all the financial issues for the patients already in that system. New patient information went into MacPractice on my new Mac system. Within six months, the few remaining Windent patients with either ongoing billing issues or clinical follow up appointments were all manually ported by my staff into MacPractice.

As you are aware, in most states, medical and/or dental records must be made accessible to your patients or their respective licensing boards for years after you’ve discharged the patient from your practice. So continued access to the old software and data for an additional seven years, at least, needed to be a high priority for me.

Leaving the information on a PC that wasn’t going to be used often would make accessing and retrieving old records an exercise in Russian roulette. 

So what solution worked for me?

I installed Parallels 3.0 (now upgraded to 4.0) on my Mac because the radiograph system that was already installed in my office would only run on Windows XP. I installed the appropriate software in parallels and didn’t have to invest in new radiology hardware.

At the same time I ported my old practice management software and corresponding database into another virtual machine on my Mac from the Windows PC that it was on. Whenever the older records need to be accessed, the appropriate Windows virtual machine is booted up on my Mac and it is backed up along with all my current patient information.

The genius of this system is that any office that wants to switch computers or platforms can leverage virtualization to better serve your patients or clients and not have to compromise technological advancement for comfort and security and at a low price ($79.99).

My recommendation is that when your hardware looks like it needs to be replaced due to obsolescence or damage, look into buying or leasing Apple Macs. You’ll be able to run your Windows software on them with virtualization through Parallels 4.0 or VMware Fusion 2.0.

If you look at comparable hardware specifications you will not see much of a price difference, those computers will serve you longer than the PCs you currently use due to Apple’s high quality builds and you’ll save yourself a significant amount of money in IT support as the numerous problems plaguing your current system either won’t occur with Apple Macs or you will find that you will be able to handle most if not all of the urgent and emergent IT problems that arise.

Having said that, hardware is only part of the picture and to be truly free of the IT nightmares, malware and spyware, you will want to use native Mac OS X software to run your practice. MacPractice is what I use; it works well and is easy to use, which is important to ensure proper and timely training for your staff.

The nice thing about MacPractice is that they constantly update their software to leverage all the new technologies that Apple makes available to them through Mac OS X Leopard and iPhone OS and they will continue to take advantage of the new technologies that are forthcoming in Mac OS X’s next update, Snow Leopard and iPhone OS 3.0.

So don’t let the fear of progress and change deter you from doing the right thing for your practice or business. Virtualization can provide an elegant solution if all your old information can’t be ported or just tossed away.

In this tough economy, now is the time to reinvest in your business because once everything picks up, you’ll come up on top!

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