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Source: Improvity Medical Date: 11/2005

Patient Power

Plano doctors and researchers have joined forces to cure a nagging malady: Medical billing and scheduling

Frustration favors both sides of the waiting room, as doctors juggle packed calendars and patients wait days -- even weeks -- for appointment openings.

That's expected to change, thanks to new technology.

"We believe Plano is the ideal testing ground," said Peter Voutov, chief technology officer for Improvity Medical LLC.

The Plano firm develops software that frees doctors from cumbersome paperwork and administrative worries. And its newest innovation stands alone.

"Ours is different," said Voutov, referring to Improvity Medical.

And he may be right.

While hospitals have enjoyed scheduling software for years, smaller clinics have made do with less expensive systems.

Improvity Medical's latest product is still in its formative stage, but a handful of Plano physicians are testing Improvity Medical in their daily practice. The Web application allows patients to manage their medical accounts without wading through voice menus or awaiting callbacks from overworked nurses.

In short, it empowers patients to handle their own affairs.

"That makes the system different because you can interact with the practice," said Voutov, whose firm gained its footing last year. That's when Plano and San Diego researchers developed medical software that provides physicians and patients affordable, understandable solutions for managing clinical and patient information.

The newly introduced product supplements Practice Manager, the firm's practice-management system, which frees doctors offices from administrative paperwork.

What makes the latest offering unique is its patient component. No longer must they wait for the next available operator or feel uneasy about the payment process. Instead, they can manage their own accounts without leaving the living room.

By logging onto the Internet, patients can schedule appointments, pay bills and review their medical records. Appointments are immediately reserved on a physician's schedule, with an automated confirmation sent to the patient.

Hospitals have enjoyed similar amenities for years. With a few keystrokes, doctors and nurses access patient records and manage accounts. But those systems cost between $30,000 and $100,000, with management and maintenance boosting the tally by up to $50,000 annually.

Privately held Improvity Medical hopes to free users from such complications by hosting the service on a central server.

When the pilot phase ends, more physicians are expected to sign up, with up to 100 anticipated by year's end.

"We believe Plano physicians are good and on the forefront," said Voutov, as to why the Collin County docs were selected before those in other markets.

As computer users become more comfortable with interactive Web sites, Voutov believes the medical realm stands to benefit. "We automate the process and give more freedom to the patient. We handle everything."