Posted on June 2, 2017

For a private practice, choosing an EHR, a clearinghouse, or a practice management system is no small feat. A wrong choice can mean lost time, lost reputation, frustrated staff, shrinking clientele, lost revenue, and even lawsuits.

Office Ally is a very popular free option providing several different clinic management solutions, but is it the right choice for your practice? We conducted extensive research into OA to deliver this handy guide. It includes a brief introduction to OA products and services, FAQs, and reviews penned by doctors and clinic employees. We’ve also provided dozens of videos for Office Ally training and instruction, plus a handful of good (mostly pay-based) alternatives.

In-Page Navigation

  1. Office Ally Reviews

  2. Office Ally Videos

  3. Office Ally FAQ

  4. Office Ally Services and Definition

  5. Alternatives

What  is Office Ally?


Office Ally is a suite of web-based practice management software solutions. The business started as a clearinghouse for submitting medical claims to insurance companies. Over the years, they’ve added services like an EHR for managing patient medical records, a patient portal where patients can track appointments, records, and lab results, and a general practice management and scheduling app called Practice Mate.

Most of Office Ally’s services are free of charge, fully web-based, and can be canceled at any time, though their EHR 24/7 service costs $29.99 per month. New practices and practices concerned with cost find OA to be an attractive option, though several online reviews complain of too-frequent system downtime and somewhat non-user-friendly operation.

Office Ally Products and Services


Office Ally has four products, centered around their signature clearinghouse. Their other services are a general practice management service called Practice Mate, an electronic health records program called EHR 24/7, and a patient portal called Patient Ally. While these are all are great (mostly free) free options, they’re not generally considered the best solutions on the market.

Clearinghouse (Create/Submit Claims)


This is the centerpiece of Office Ally. It’s a HIPAA compliant clearinghouse that can submit to more than 5,000 payers nationwide. It’s free for clinics and other healthcare providers. Features include:

  • Free online claim creation and entry for CMS 1500, ADA, and UB04 claim forms.
  • Use your own practice software or Office Ally software to create and submit electronic claims.
  • Create detailed summary reports, check patient eligibility, and order labs online.
  • No long-term contract. Free setup, free training.

EHR 24/7 (Health Records)


EHR 24/7 is Office Ally’s electronic health records program. This is their only service that isn’t free, with a cost of $29.95 per month per provider. The service claims to be fully customizable no matter what type of practice you’ve got, though some online reviews say it’s more MD focused and not as well suited to other specialties like psychology. (See our Reviews section below.) Features:

  • Free training and setup.
  • Very affordable way to manage health records.
  • HIPAA compliant.
  • No upgrade fees. Access from anywhere.
  • Customize settings by staff member.
  • Maintain patient charts with full notes and supporting documents.
  • Generate real time reports.
  • Handle dictation, scanning, and prescribing.
  • Integrates with Office Mate.
  • Allows creation of customized SOAP notes guidelines.
  • Enroll here.

Practice Mate (Scheduling, Management)


Practice Mate is Office Ally’s general practice management software. It’s a cloud-based service that provides free, secure scheduling, claims creation, electronic superbills, patient statements, and has full accounting capabilities. Since it’s web-based, it’s available 24/7 wherever there’s internet access. Features:

  • Handle scheduling, claims, accounting, patient billing.
  • Create detailed summary reports.
  • Order labs online.
  • Check patient eligibility online.
  • Handle past due accounts.
  • Enroll here.

Patient Ally (Patient Portal)


This is Office Ally’s patient portal. It lets clinics offer a secure web portal to patients for gathering health info, scheduling appointments, and viewing lab results and health records. There’s also a secure messaging feature. The best feature of Patient Ally is its ability to cut down on waiting room activity by letting patients fill out required forms online, before their visits.

  • Patients can log in to schedule or change appointments, submit and view health records, and get lab results. Cuts down on clinic phone time.
  • Cuts down on redundant paperwork. Makes things a lot easier for patients. Less waiting, less waiting room activity.

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Office Ally FAQs

ehr for doctors

FAQ

Below is a list of Office Ally FAQs, both from their website and from around the web. The list has things like how to sign up, system requirements, contracts, pricing, and cancellation info.

How can I sign up for Office Ally? Fill out their online enrollment form, then print, sign, and fax their BAA to (360) 314-2184

Where is Office Ally’s live chat? Chat with OA online here at their website.

What’s Office Ally’s customer service number? Call Office Ally customer support at (360) 975-7000.

What’s Office Ally’s fax number?  (360) 314-2184

How much does Office Ally cost? Practice Mate, Clearinghouse, and Patient Ally are all free. EHR 24/7 costs $29.99 per month.

Will I have to sign a contract? Office Ally doesn’t require long-term contracts. Some of their services (like EHR 24/7 and Practice Mate) do require a signed user agreement. These contracts outline the basic offering and applicable fees.

How can I cancel Office Ally? To cancel, you have to contact customer service to ask for the cancellation form. You can download user data like medical records for free, or for $39.95 they’ll send all user medical records on a CD.

What’s the best way to learn to use Office Ally? Live demos are best, but they’ve also got a library of 140+ training videos for staff and patients.

What are the system requirements? For EHR 24/7 and Practice Mate, Office Ally requires Windows 7, Vista, or XP running IE 8 or better. For Mac, use OS X with Safari 6 or better. The service requires high-speed internet with either cable, DSL, or a T1 line. You’ll also need enough bandwidth for the number of users in the office.

Is Office Ally secure? Office Ally complies with industry security standards and HIPAA best practices.

Is Office Ally HIPAA compliant? The service is certified as HIPAA compliant.

Does Office Ally crash a lot? Office Ally uses protections like failover, redundant equipment, load balancing, and firewalls to target 24/7 reliability. That said, they do warn of unavoidable periods of downtime. Further, several online customer reviews complain of frequent crashing and system downtime. (See our Reviews section below.)

Will I need a BAA with Office Ally? Yes. You can download their BAA here.

Is Office Ally owned by an insurance company? Office Ally isn’t owned by an insurance company, but it does make most of its money from insurance companies.

Will I need to purchase any software? There’s no need to buy software or pay for upgrades. All OA software is free of charge.

Will I need to have high-speed internet? EHR 24/7 users and Practice Mate users need high speed internet access. Users of Clearinghouse and Patient Ally don’t need it, but it helps.

How can I send claims with Office Ally? Create a claim with your current billing software. Then log into Office Ally and click Upload. Click Select File, choose your file, and click Upload.

Can I use Office Ally with my existing software? Office Ally claims compatibility with almost every practice management system in current use.

Are there other fees? Office Ally is mostly free to use. The EHR 24/7 service costs $29.95 per month. If more than half your monthly claims come from governmental sources like Medicare or Blue Cross/Blue Shield, there’s a $19.95 fee per month. The company makes its income from insurance companies.

What insurance companies can I use with Office Ally? Customers can send electronic submissions to 5,000 payers on the OA payer list, located here.

How do I set up with Medi-Cal, Medicare, or CHAMPUS? Fill out state-specific Office Ally payer enrollment forms here.

Also see our post on all the Quest Diagnostics FAQs in one place here.

Office Ally Reviews

Reviews

We surveyed 100+ online reviews of Office Ally from healthcare pros, doctors, rating agencies, and clinic employees. Our finding is that Office Ally gets mostly positive marks as a free option for clearinghouse, practice management, and patient portal needs, and as a source for pay-based EHR handling. That said, many reviewers and users find the service lacking in terms of system downtime and ease of use. A few mentioned problems customizing OA outside the MD wheelhouse for specialty practices like psychiatry.

Below are the reviews and review sites we referenced for our survey. We’ve included key points mentioned by reviewers.

TameYourPractice review of Office Ally (2012)

  • Good price, bad learning curve.
  • Convoluted. Medical/MD centric, other options save more time and cost.
  • Good clearinghouse but other services not as user-friendly.
  • Good for free, but customer service is lacking. Can take weeks to resolve an issue.
  • Could be streamlined better, but works for the price for startups. User friendly for training new staff.

SoftwareAdvice 4 stars out of 5. (26 reviews, 2016)

  • Free, easy to use, simple billing, but not great support and not great for certain types of practice.
  • Good when you’re starting out in practice. Easy to access from anywhere but site down too often. This slows down billing. Not extremely user friendly to look at patient accounts. Good for basics.
  • Submitting claims easy. Can see everything you need. Cuts down time on phone with insurance companies. Some downtime. Could be more user friendly.
  • Inexpensive, but crashes too often, sometimes for long periods. There are better options (see Alternatives section below for details).

ValuePenguin calls Office Ally good for a low cost option when just starting out in practice, but there are better paid options available.

Clearinghouses.org gives Office Ally a low 1 star rating. (14 reviews, 2017)

  • Low cost.
  • System down too often.
  • Complaints of lost claims.

SearchHealthIT calls Office Ally a great buy. (2010)

Amazingcharts.com rates Office Ally largely positive as a great free option based on dozens of good customer reviews. (2009)

BBB A+ rating based on a low volume of customer complaints, with most resolved quickly.

AmericanEHR.com rates Office Ally largely positive based on 22 doctor reviews.

  • Free, not a bad service.
  • Doesn’t eliminate enough of the workload and can be painful to use.

Alternatives to Office Ally


Below, several mostly paid Office Ally alternatives provide a more robust set of practice management solutions for the thriving private practice.

EMR Alternatives to Office Ally

For EMR needs, look into the five top services below. Note that though these all started out as EMR/EHR solutions, several have added other services like Revenue Cycle Management or Population Health Management.

eClincalWorks’ mission is to eliminate paper from doctor’s offices and streamline connections with pharmacies, labs, and supply chain. As a full-fledged Office Ally alternative, they provide services for EHR, Revenue Cycle Management, Patient Engagement, and Population Health Management.

McKesson is known as a medical supply company, but they also deliver a comprehensive healthcare IT package and suite of management tools similar to Office Ally’s. Prices start at $1 per month per user.

Cerner supports healthcare practices with award-winning EHR solutions for real-time, patient-focused information, provided securely and via the cloud. Prices start around $250 per month.

Allscripts provides web-based solutions for EHR management, Population Health Management, Revenue Cycle Management, and Precision Medicine. This Office Ally competitor costs a fairly pricey $700+ per month.

AthenaHealth is a tool for EHR, Billing, Patient Engagement, and Population Health. Their focus is on earning more for the private practitioner.

Clearinghouse Office Ally Alternatives


The five top-rated medical clearinghouses below compete directly with Office Ally. While they all started out strictly as clearinghouses, they’ve added services like EHR or Revenue Cycle Management.

Navicure was a clearinghouse first, but like Office Ally and the EHR-centric options listed above, they’ve also added Revenue Cycle Management and billing to their repertoire. Prices start at $79 per month.

Apex EDI is an alternative to Office Ally’s medical claims processing and clearinghouse service. Their Apex EDI electronic claims submission product aims to save time and money for private practices. They claim a 5-12 day payment cycle.

Claim MD is a clearinghouse that lets MD practices submit 1500 and UB claims from any medical billing system. It’s web-based, so there’s no software installation required. $99.95/mo.

PracticeSuite is a free alternative to Office Ally’s clearinghouse service that has branched out into EHR, Scheduling, Billing, and a Patient Portal. They currently serve more than 41,000 medical professionals and claim 99.1% customer retention. They’ve got an expanded edition that costs $95 a month for easy scalability as your business grows.

ZirMed handles Revenue Cycle Management, Claims Management, Population Health Management, and Patient Access. Their prices start at a sky-high $1,500 per month.

Office Ally Tutorials and Resources


The best way to learn how to use Office Ally (and whether it’s the right fit for your business) is to schedule a free live demo. That said, they’ve got an excellent suite of training videos to get staff, patients, and practices up to speed fast.

Office Ally Training Videos

Office Ally shares over 140 training videos for different products, services, and features. We’ve collected a full list below.

Service Center (9 videos). These videos include a short overall demo of Office Ally’s products and services, plus how to handle SFTP uploads, file claims, manage inventory reporting, and more.

Practice Mate (40 videos). This video library covers tutorials for Office Ally patient visit reports, claims creation, billing, accounting, inventory reports, appointment settings and preferences, checking patients in, and more.

EHR 24/7 (50 videos). This library of Office Ally tutorials contains a basic 1 hour EHR training, plus instruction for how to create and manage progress notes, handle lab results, patient documents, vital signs, patient alerts, immunization records, chart info, and blood sugar logs. There are also training videos for lab and radiology order lists, medication lists, uploading documents, transcription notes, nurse notes, appointment options, and several other topics.

Patient Ally (4 videos). This section contains a welcome video to orient patients to the Patient Ally portal. There are also staff training videos for bill pay, intake documents, and how to enroll patients with Office Ally.

Office Ally Services (4 videos). These trainings cover appointment reminders, prescriptions, TSI collections, and patient statement delivery.

Third Party Office Ally Training Videos

In addition to the selections above, Office Ally users may find the training videos below helpful.

Uploading Claims to Office Ally with DELPHI/PBS. (11 min) Walks the viewer through the creation and processing of 7 claims. Well presented with screen view. 11 min.

Full Office Ally EHR Training Demo (1 h 20 min) Very well-presented video with somewhat quiet audio. Great and comprehensive tutorial. Gives lots of different scenarios and walkthroughs.

Office Ally Intro. (2 min) Quick intro for how to use Office Ally. Great material, relatively recent video, but somewhat poor visual with fisheye effect.

Office Ally: Patient Ally. (4 min) Seven-year-old video explains the benefits of patient ally. Shows how it handles appointments and pre-enrollment online. Demonstrates how the service can create less work for staff and cut down on phone calls. Shows how patients can submit documents such as immunization sheets.

Looking for more healthcare videos? Check out our post here on the 31 best hip replacement surgery videos on the web.

Conclusion

Office Ally is a good, free option for EHS, clearinghouse, patient portal, and practice management solutions for the small and growing practice. Some user-reported problems with system downtime and non-user-friendliness keep this from being a full, robust system for large or thriving clinics. The full breakdown of the service above provides a good intro to products, FAQs, reviews, alternatives, video tutorials, and other resources to help the healthcare pro make the best informed decision.

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