Beaverlog Tips:  Volume 41 - March 20, 2008

Add Memory for Faster Statements

We recently added memory to a couple of our older computers. One of these computers was in technical support and Joel reported that suddenly, patient statements that used to take twenty minutes to run, now completed in about three minutes. We shouldn't have been surprised by this but we were and our surprise resulted in this tip.

So why does adding memory make things run faster? Windows manages memory very efficiently and when it determines that it's running out of available memory, it uses some of your hard disk as "virtual" memory, moving data back and forth between actual memory (called RAM for Random Access Memory) and your hard disk. While this works quite well, it is not fast. Hard disk access is orders of magnitude slower than accessing RAM.

That brings us back to Patient Statements in The THERAPIST. In order to create statements, the program has to read an extremely large amount of data from many different data files. When it has to read the same records multiple times, it saves the records the first time they are read to memory structures in RAM. Next time they are needed, they are already in fast memory. It's fast, elegant, and just plain cool. However, when the computer is using a lot of memory, either for The THERAPIST or the many other programs you have running (whether you know it or not), Windows happily moves these memory structures out of fast RAM and onto slow hard disk storage. Thus all the elegant efficiencies we build into the program are for naught.

The simple solution to this dilemma is to add more RAM. Of course, that raises a couple of other questions, and you have to find the answers before you can implement this so-called simple solution.

The first thing you want to do is find out how much memory you already have. That's easy, just open up My Computer or Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer). Then right-click on My Computer on the left side of the screen and select "Properties" from the popup menu. Somewhere on the Properties screen it should tell you how much RAM you have in your computer. On mine, it's in the lower right corner of the screen on the General tab.

Next look at your computer's manual (you did save that manual, didn't you?) to see how many memory slots you have, what the maximum memory capacity is, and what kind of memory it uses. You may have to open the box to see how many slots are filled because memory, like coins, comes in several denominations and the total can be made up of a variety of combinations. Fortunately for us, we had the original orders and packing slips so we knew the original configuration so we didn't have to open up the computers to find out. (Okay, okay, we're a bit OCD about saving things.)

Once you know how much memory you have and how high you can go, it's time to find out what it will cost. Prices for different kinds of memory assemblies vary greatly but the prices for a given type of memory aren't much different from vendor to vendor. First though, you have to determine exactly what kind of memory your computer needs. Buying the right memory for your computer is important, the wong kind either won't physically fit or will not work. The manual might help you with this but there's an easier way. We went to the web (we used www.buy.com but the same service is available elsewhere) and found that you simply select your computer manufacturer and model and they will show you the right memory module.

We got the maximum memory the computer would hold and went from 512MB to 1GB. That's a really good idea when you consider the benefits we received and the relatively small costs.

Conclusion

For about $30 and twenty minutes of our time (including ordering), we doubled the computer's memory and gained a disproportionate increase in performance. As said in disclaimers everywhere, your results may vary.

 

Free Support Call

We are still interested in finding out about how and where our customers are submitting electronic insurance claims. If we haven't heard from you yet, the offer is still available to get one free technical support call or $30 in Beaver Bucks you can use like cash to purchase support, upgrades, or additional features. Just tell us what format you are using (X12, NSF, or CMS-1500 Print Image) and what payers and/or clearinghouses you are using.

Send your list, big or small, to support@beaverlog.com and please include your customer number. Oh, and please indicate whether you want the Beaver Bucks or the free support call.