As a future doctor of physical therapy, you bear a large burden: you’re responsible for not only healing your patients, but appropriately documenting your diagnosis and treatment as well. However, your PT program likely only places emphasis on one of those responsibilities—and that’s putting you at a severe disadvantage when you graduate. Here’s why your DPT curriculum should include digital documentation:

1. Most clinics don’t use pen and paper.

When you get out of school, your chances of landing a job with a clinic that doesn’t use an EMR are slim-to-none—and you wouldn’t want to work for a practice that’s stuck in the pen-and-paper past, anyway (the dream of the ’90s might be alive in Portland, but it won’t survive in PT). EMR is where it’s at, because it offers:

  • streamlined billing;
  • organized, compliant, and secure documentation;
  • built-in reports and alerts; and
  • the ability to access your records anytime, anywhere, and from any web-enabled device (with web-based systems, anyway).

It’s no wonder that over the last few years, EMR has become an integral part of the PT profession—which is exactly why DPT students should be learning how to use this technology.

2. It gives you a competitive edge

If you’re reading this in class, look to your right. Now, look to your left. Think about all the other DPT students out there at other schools, all working to become skilled PT professionals. Those folks are your direct competition for jobs when you graduate, so you need your resume to stand out. Understanding how to document digitally can help set you apart from other candidates—and help you ramp up more quickly once you land your dream job. A big part of being a successful PT is understanding how to market yourself—to future patients, referring physicians, and employers alike—and that should begin in DPT school.

3. Payers demand it.

As the healthcare industry quickly advances toward pay-for-performance payment models, interoperability—which calls for greater coordination among healthcare providers—will become the rule, not the exception. It would be impossible to organize the standardized and seamless exchange of information without the appropriate means of communication and technology. Thus, pen and paper documentation is bound to go extinct. Plus, with the introduction of ICD-10, billing—and actually getting paid—will become more complicated. To make that process easier, you’ll want to know how to use EMR technology.


To set you up for success as a physical therapy professional, your PT program should train you on all aspects of being a physical therapist—including using EMR to document digitally. If your school doesn’t offer any digital documentation education, take the time to advocate for yourself, your program, and the future of your profession.