04 May Computerizing Your Massage Practice
You stand in the gleaming aisles of the local computer store, staring at the pretty computers with their sleek cases and blinking lights and you feel like the isolated tribesman that has just seen matches for the first time. Then you start to scan down the endless list of technical specifications…. Core i5 processor at 2.6ghz, 1tb hard drive, 8gb RAM, blah, blah, blah. Now comes the price $700 – $1500!
Sound familiar? Buying a computer for your practice can be more grueling than buying a new car. The problem with buying a new computer is that there are so many choices and the technology changes so rapidly that it’s difficult to decide when to jump in and which one to buy. The first misconception is that your first (or next) computer has to be NEW. I’m guessing that your first car wasn’t new but it still got you from here to there for quite a while and the same is true for computers. The biggest difference is that computers lose value much faster than cars and that’s a bonus for you. The most important thing you can do when deciding on a computer is to sit down with a pencil and paper BEFORE you go shopping and write down what you want a computer to do for you. For example, are you going to be doing basic word processing, general accounting, sending & receiving email, and maintaining a client database? Or do you plan to spend hours surfing high-end websites that load huge flash media presentations, downloading the latest 300-megabyte game file and playing it on a network? Either one is fine, but the system you choose should be compatible with your needs. A good, basic computer like a refurbished Dell™ Dual Core, with a 200 gigabyte hard drive and 4 gigabytes of RAM , 19” monitor and a full one-year warranty, can be purchased in many places (including directly from Dell Computer in Austin) for around $100.00 – $150.00. For the average user, this is more than adequate for their needs.
Buying the right software for your practice is important, but not as important as using that software to it’s fullest potential. You will obviously need an operating system (Windows 7 or better for PC’s and OSx or better for Mac), a good anti-virus package (I recommend AVG by grisoft www.grisoft.com or Avast! www.avast.com ), and a decent word processor (Word 2007 or better), and a solid accounting package (QuickBooks is recommended here). A practice management system is a must. Our company developed Massage Office Professional for Windows, but shop around for the best system for your practice (see the article Help Choosing Massage Practice Software). Download or request demo versions from several companies and compare features, ease of use, and price. You’ve made it this far without a package, 4 to 5 weeks of research won’t hurt you. Next, resist buying and loading up your computer with a bunch of cheap, frilly software and “cutesy” applications (Weatherbug, Joke of the Day, etc.). You probably won’t use them much and they just tend to muck up your system. The software mentioned above is really all you should need to run your practice. Microsoft Word comes with tons of pre-designed templates and on-screen help. Just open Word, on the menu bar click “file”, go down to “new” and click. The templates window will open and you can browse through the existing templates. Play with these. They can save a lot of time.