Change is hard, but in an age where technology and innovation rule, it’s also inevitable. And in an increasingly digital world, paper records are quickly falling by the wayside in virtually every industry—rehab therapy included. If you’re still documenting on paper, you might be reluctant—and maybe even a little scared—to make the jump to an electronic medical record (EMR). After all, you’ve been using a paper system for years, and it seems to be working just fine. So what’s all this fuss about going digital? Read on to discover five good reasons why rehab therapists should make the switch to EMR.
1. It’s the way of the future.
Actually, it’s quickly becoming the way of the present. As detailed in this Healthcare IT News article, the federal government has already pumped billions—yes, billions, with a “b”—of dollars into incentivizing electronic records adoption (although unfortunately, rehab therapists are not eligible to receive those incentives). Still, a government investment of that magnitude is a sure sign that EMR will be part of standard healthcare operation in the not-too-distant future, especially as we continue to move toward total interoperability and a true pay-for-performance reimbursement structure.
2. Ever-mounting regulations make it nearly impossible to stay compliant if you’re documenting on paper.
Most EMRs—the good ones, anyway—have built-in compliance safeguards to ensure your notes are always up to snuff, no matter how many new requirements CMS throws your way (cough—functional limitation reporting—cough). And if you choose a cloud-based system—and I strongly recommend that you do—all compliance updates will occur automatically, so you’ll never have to halt operations to install a new version of your EMR software. Plus, in the event of an audit, you can rest easy knowing your records are in tip-top shape.
3. It’s cheaper than paper.
Yes, implementing an EMR requires a bit of an investment. However, modern cloud-based systems are significantly less expensive than their server-based predecessors, and the payoff over time is definitely worth the initial cost because paper records are so expensive to copy, transport, and store. Still not convinced? According to this article, it costs about $8 per year to maintain a paper record, compared to $2 to maintain an electronic record. Multiply that by hundreds of patients, and the case for EMR becomes pretty clear. Plus, with no need to spend precious minutes digging around for patient files, you’ll save in labor costs and free up more time to see patients—a double dose of increased efficiency.
4. It’s easier.
One of the most common misconceptions about EMR is that the learning curve is too steep to overcome—especially for therapists who do not consider themselves particularly tech-savvy. I’m not saying there won’t be an adjustment period or that learning a new system will be totally effortless; all I’m saying is that with the right EMR—and the right training—it will probably be a lot easier than you think. And once you’re no longer scratching your head as you attempt to decode nearly illegible handwriting, I think you’ll agree. And as a bonus, cloud-based EMRs offer the benefit of complete flexibility. Therapists can access patient records using virtually any web-enabled device and can document whenever and wherever they please. Bye-bye, desk chains.
5. It allows you to provide better patient care.
EMRs enhance patient safety by ensuring complete, organized, and secure patient records. In addition to decreasing the incidence of coding errors and misplaced files, electronic systems allow therapists to easily view a patient’s entire history, thus enabling them to make better clinical decisions. EMRs also foster care coordination among different providers and specialists, which is extremely beneficial to patients who see multiple doctors. Additionally, EMRs make it much easier to control access to patient records and to determine who has viewed (and made changes to) a record.
With so many reasons to make the switch to EMR, it’s hard to justify continuing on with the ol’ pen and paper. Old habits die hard, but trust me—once you make EMR your new habit, you’ll be glad you put paper to bed for good.