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How to Use Your EMR to Build Better Patient Relationships

There’s some old-school thinking floating around out there decrying electronic medical records (EMRs) because they supposedly prohibit clinicians from fully engaging with their patients. We say that’s just poppycock. Sure, lackluster PTs may shirk opportunities for quality face time with their patients in favor of not-so-quality face time with their computer screens, but the great PTs don’t let technology—especially incredibly helpful technology that patients actually want their healthcare practitioners to use—get in the way of developing exceptional relationships. In fact, great therapists use their EMR to build better patient relationships. Here’s how you can do the same:

Get Comfortable With Your EMR

In the words of WebPT Marketplace Director Brian Kunich, DPT, “You can’t pay attention to the patient if you don’t know where the information goes.” However, after you spend some time getting comfortable with your EMR—and understanding what information goes where—using it will become second nature, and you’ll be able to “spend more energy concentrating on the patient than on what or where you’re typing.”

Customize Your EMR

Tailoring your EMR to fit your clinic’s needs will ensure you can document smoother, faster, and with a lot less typing. If your EMR comes with smart text, turn it on and start entering common phrases and goals as presets, so you can cut down on the time you spend retyping the same information over and over again. This will free you up to devote more time to treating—and interacting with—your patients. Additionally, if your EMR allows you to create custom initial evaluation profiles, do it—and use them. That way, if—for example—you’re finding yourself entering the same information into two separate fields, you can remove one of them. And that means you won’t waste time—or energy—tabbing through extraneous fields.

Use the Right Technology

In addition to choosing the right EMR, you should choose the right technology—desktop, laptop, or tablet—on which to document. First, determine which technologies are compatible with your EMR. Then, determine which ones you actually enjoy using in your clinic. If possible, provide multiple technology options to your staff so that everyone always has a choice. After all, when your team members are comfortable using the technology you provide them, it’ll be easier for them to use it in a way that ensures patients are comfortable, too.

Work Your PROMs

According to this Commonwealth Fund article, patient-reported measures (PROMs) “attempt to capture whether the services provided actually improved patients’ health and sense of well-being.” These tools measure the aspects of improvement that matter to patients—including overall health, pain and fatigue levels, ability to complete certain functional tasks, and mood. In the same article, Mary Barton, MD, MPP—who serves as the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s vice president for performance measurement—says, “These are things that matter to patients: Do I feel better? Can my mom go up the stairs after hip surgery?”

In this post, I explained that asking patients questions about how they feel—and then showing that you’re interested in their answers—can enhance the patient-provider relationship. Plus, this type of engagement empowers patients to take an active role in their treatment. So, if your EMR provides integrated outcomes tracking, you can use PROM survey completion and score entry to further engage your patient in his or her care.

Instead of mutely entering patient data into your system—or waiting until the patient leaves to do it—involve the patient in the process by discussing his or her answers as you enter them into the system. You also can use this opportunity to discuss how your patients are progressing towards their goals as a result of your therapeutic intervention. After all, you’ll have the data to back it all up right there at your fingertips.

Change Your Mind

If you think you can’t manage EMR documentation and the patient relationship at the same time, think again. WebPT’s in-house counsel and compliance officer Veda Collmer, OTR, knows first-hand that excellent data collection and patient care are both possible—at the same time. As an attorney, she also knows that failing to produce defensible documentation that accurately and completely describes patient progress and therapist intervention can land even the best practitioners in a world of trouble. As Collmer advises in this post, your documentation “is a legal document,” which is why “it’s so critical that you have the most accurate documentation.” And you can’t do that with a subpar EMR or—worse yet—paper and pen.


There’s no excuse for poor patient relationships—or documentation, for that matter. These strategies—plus the right physical therapy EMR—will ensure your documentation is defensible and your patients are happy.

How an EMR Can Help with Physical Therapy Billing

Do you frequently find yourself facing claim denials and payment delays in your physical therapy clinic? Well, you’re not alone. With so many rules and regulatory changes, billing for physical therapy isn’t easy—but it doesn’t have to be a total challenge, either. When you use an integrated EMR and billing system, you can bid “adieu” to these three common billing blunders:

Ciao, Coding Errors

Okay, so you probably won’t get rid of all coding errors—your billers are still human, after all—but a great EMR can dramatically reduce those human errors, thereby greatly improving your claim accuracy. According to this cost-benefit analysis published in the American Journal of Medicine, an EMR is better able to capture charges and can “decrease [billing] errors by 78%.”

Plus, cloud-based EMRs are regularly updated to keep you compliant with all the latest regulatory changes (anyone remember ICD-10?). While that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be familiar with those changes, it does relieve pressure from you and your staff. Plus, it ensures your claims won’t get denied simply for failing to meet a new requirement.

Bye, Bye, Double Data-Entry

An EMR that’s integrated with your billing system isn’t just accurate; it’s efficient, too. reports that using an EMR reduces the time and resources needed for manual charge entry. Right now, you and your staff likely spend way too much valuable time manually entering data into your billing system. That’s a waste of your limited resources. Instead, choose an EMR that allows all your billing data to flow directly from your EMR to your billing software, so you can scrub and submit your claims with greater ease.

Auf Wiedersehen, Slow Cash Flow

The time between saying “aloha” to your claims and, uh, also “aloha” to your payments should be minimal. This analysis of electronic health record systems found that using one of these systems can improve cash flow by:  

  • eliminating billing errors or inaccurate coding
  • reducing outstanding days in accounts receivable and lost or disallowable charges
  • sending automatic reminders to providers and patients about routine health visits

But without an EMR to speed up the process and reduce the above-mentioned errors, you’re stuck floating along at the rate of snail mail. Don’t settle for slow payments. Get an EMR that can offer you complete documentation profiles, built-in prompts to help keep you compliant, and tools and tips to ensure accurate and complete coding.


An EMR designed for physical therapists can help terminate your billing troubles (but don’t discount the importance of having the right billers on your team). When you find the right EMR for your practice, get ready to say “hasta la vista” to your billing headaches and “hello” to improved billing processes.

Dishing on Big Data: Information Exchange and the Future of Health Care

When it comes to life in the modern world, data reigns supreme. Whether you care to admit it—or even think about it—the fact is, you cannot escape the influence of data. And in some cases, that’s a good thing. No, I’m not talking about the discount offer for your favorite restaurant that suddenly appears on your Facebook news feed just minutes after you’ve perused the menu online—though that’s definitely a data benefit, too. In this article, though, I want to focus on the benefits of big data with respect to health care—in terms of cost, quality, and efficiency.

If you’re a healthcare provider, there’s a good chance you’re already helping lay the foundation for a very bright—and data-driven—healthcare future. That’s because the government and other healthcare stakeholders already have implemented a variety of programs and systems—like PQRS and ICD-10—aimed at promoting quality data collection. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. As the US continues to make strides toward achieving the healthcare “triple aim”—that is, the nationwide push toward better access, lower cost, and improved accountability in health care—providers can expect data to step into an even bigger role in the delivery of, and payment for, their services.

Of course, you can’t have a conversation about data without mentioning technology. To return to the food theme, if data is the basket full of raw ingredients, then technology is the oven that turns those ingredients into something useful (and delicious). And that’s where EMR comes into the picture—er, kitchen. Because in today’s healthcare landscape, EMR isn’t just a tool for documentation; it’s a means of participating in—and benefitting from—the collective effort to amass meaningful information that has the potential to:

  • foster evidence-based practice;
  • improve patient outcomes; and
  • uncover trends—both globally and regionally—that influence the efficacy of care.

But, for those things to happen, providers cannot use their EMR systems in isolation. More importantly, EMRs cannot be designed solely for isolated use. To stay relevant in a value-driven healthcare system, EMRs must allow for interoperability—that is, the ability for different systems and organizations to exchange information, and thus, work together for an overarching purpose. In a healthcare context, this means successful, seamless data transmission across all healthcare platforms. This allows a patient’s entire care team to have access to up-to-date information about the patient and his or her treatment progress—making care delivery much more efficient and effective. It has the potential to take care quality to a whole new level—not to mention reinforce physical therapy’s place on the overall care continuum.

So, if interoperability isn’t on your EMR vendor’s roadmap—or even its radar—then it might be time to explore other options. That said, the US, as a country, still has a few significant hurdles to overcome in the road to total interoperability. As this article explains, the architecture that currently exists is laden with “trouble spots” that lead to “errors, omissions, and variability that are impeding data exchange.” Even more concerning, though, are the barriers created by current laws—or lack thereof—that prevent this type of information exchange from happening at all. While most of those laws are designed with privacy and security in mind, they—like technology—must evolve to align with changing care delivery models and payment structures.


In a perfect world, all healthcare stakeholders would have access to all of the information relevant to their various functions—from plan of care development to payment for services rendered. Getting to that “heathcare utopia” will take time; after all, Rome—like interoperability—wasn’t built in a day. Still, it’s important that physical therapists—and all other types of providers—prepare themselves for a world in which data is the main ingredient in the recipe for creating a stronger, healthier society.

4 Reasons You Should Use an EMR for Practice Management

When you think about your EMR, documentation might be the first thing that comes to mind. And while defensible documentation is crucial—and should be the main component of your EMR—there are other perks your software vendor can offer you. One of the most efficient, cost-effective options available through your EMR is a practice management suite. Think you already have your processes on lock? Even if you do, you can further streamline your business when you take advantage of all of the benefits your software offers.

As this InformationWeek article explains, “Ideally, EHR and practice management systems work together so that patient registrations become patient health records, and the diagnosis recorded into the EHR turns into a properly coded insurance claim.” Sounds pretty slick, right? If you aren’t convinced yet, here are five mission-critical practice management functions made oh-so-simple with an EMR:

1. Capture Patient Demographics

When a patient enters your clinic, you’ve likely gathered all of his or her demographics before the appointment. You’ve got names, numbers, insurance information, and addresses. But, where do you store it all? Are you leaving PHI in paper files on your front desk or in a filing cabinet—thus putting your practice at risk for a HIPAA violation?

The best way to collect—and store—patient demographics is by entering this information into your secure EMR. Your EMR should provide a patient intake form option. That way, you can be sure you’ve collected all the relevant information, confirmed that it’s up to date, and stored all of it in a secure, cloud-based system. And if you ever need to access any patient info, it’s just a few clicks away. No more digging through stacks of paper—or shuffling through filing cabinets—to locate your patient data.

2. Schedule Appointments

Just like those stacks of files, your appointment book shouldn’t be left to the whims the paper gods—and at risk for HIPAA violations, natural disasters, or misplacement. With the right EMR, you can easily schedule patients, color-code their appointments, manage multiple schedules, and even send automatic appointment reminders. You’ll save time and money when you let your EMR help you decrease no-shows through a seamless scheduling system.

3. Maintain Payer List

With an EMR, you can easily assign the appropriate payers to each of your patients, and it’s simple to keep a comprehensive list that’s available for updating at any moment. Plus, your EMR should offer documentation safeguards based on your payer list. For example, your Medicare patients should trigger certain documentation alerts. With the right EMR, you can control all of this within your payer settings.

4. Generate Reports

Your EMR contains a wealth of information, and when paired with your documentation, you can generate and analyze a number of metrics through easy-to-run reports. With a good EMR in place, you can track no-shows, provider productivity, completed documentation, and even PQRS progress. Running these reports regularly will give you true insight into your business.

5. Submit Clean Claims

The first step to submitting clean claims is creating clean documentation. Your EMR should already have that down pat. But, does your EMR automatically generate CPT codes that flow into your billing software or to your billing service? If not, it absolutely should. Dr. Heidi Jannenga explains in this article that using “a medical billing software or service that is integrated with your EMR means that demographic and billing data will be seamlessly transmitted from your documentation system to your billing company.” The more you can automate processes through your EMR, the more time—and effort—you can save doing routine tasks. And that, ultimately, allows you to spend more time doing what you love: helping patients.


If you’re looking to improve your processes, look no further than your EMR’s practice management system. As this article simply states, “79% of providers report that with an EHR, their practice functions more efficiently.” Are you taking advantage of everything your EMR has to offer?

EMR Can Help with the ICD-10 Switch; Here’s How

Love it, or hate it? Tired of reading about it, or just beginning to delve into all of the details? Regardless of which of these phrases most closely describes your relationship with ICD-10, there several things you can do to make this transition a smooth one. One of the most effective? Using an EMR. If you’re already using a system, great; now’s the perfect time to evaluate whether it offers everything you need to be successful with ICD-10 adoption. “Because of ICD-10’s complex code structures, implementing associated changes in electronic health records, billing systems, reporting packages and other decision-making and analytical systems will require either major upgrades of multiple systems or outright replacement of older systems,” says this HealthIT article. So, as we move toward and beyond October 1, the necessity of making these changes is inevitable. Here are some ways that an EMR will help you with the ICD-10 switch:


Do you love thumbing through hundreds of pages of codes? I know that I don’t enjoy spending extra time on tasks I could complete more efficiently—and accurately—using the proper tools. When you use an EMR, you’ll save yourself the papercuts and the time it takes to find the most accurate diagnosis code in a 10-pound book. However, while coding by the book might be inefficient, a code book can act as a useful guide, and it may offer additional information about the ICD-10 codes specific to your your area of practice. That said, usefulness doesn’t always equate to efficiency. To boost your productivity, look for an EMR that offers an easy-to-use ICD-10 tool and plenty of free customer service to help you navigate the new functionality.


Working more efficiently doesn’t count for much if you sacrifice accuracy for speed. And when it comes to ICD-10, the proof is in the accuracy pudding, which means you need to whip up some accurate codes—quickly and without much time to “chill” for the best results. So, instant accuracy pudding it is: you can use your EMR’s functionality to help you quickly narrow down all of your coding options. Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll want to make sure you have clean documentation to back up the medical necessity of treatment.

So, if your EMR does not support clean and accurate documentation in addition to offering an intelligent ICD-10 tool, it might be time to make a change. As this Government Health IT article points out, “With the introduction of ICD-10, EHRs must also be capable of producing documentation with a high degree of specificity and ideally offer the appropriate codes.” Even when you have the help of an EMR for coding and documentation, you’ll still need to use your clinical judgement. But, with the help of an intelligent code picker, you’ll have an easier time sifting through all 68,000 codes to find the precise ones you need.


The transition to ICD-10 has the potential to provide better data for evaluating and improving the quality of patient care; interoperability aims to achieve those same goals. And—you guessed it—an EMR can help connect these two pieces of the patient care puzzle. As this HIMSS article explains: “In the larger context, ICD-10 is not a competing initiative but an enabler for the EHR adoption to help build the data infrastructure needed for a nationwide healthcare system where clinicians, hospitals, laboratories and pharmacies can share patient information electronically, in a secure way.”


Like it or hate it, to face ICD-10 with efficiency, accuracy, and interoperability, you’ve got to adopt—or evaluate and change—your EMR.

Why Customer Service is a Physical Therapy EMR Must-Have

When you think about customer service, what comes to mind? Maybe you recall a situation when a business or employee went the extra mile to surprise you with an unexpected level of kindness. Or perhaps you immediately think back to a time when poor customer service—or lack of service altogether—left a bad taste in your mouth. Whether your experience was a positive one—or not—it certainly altered your perception of the business, leaving you either delighted or totally disappointed. And although you might typically think of customer service in the context of shopping, dining out, or going to the doctor, it’s also crucial that you consider this factor as you look for an EMR.

The Significance of Service

Chances are that one of the main reasons you’re shopping for an EMR is to improve your clinic’s workflow: you’re looking for something to make your processes more efficient. That said, one of the best ways you can improve efficiency is by working with an EMR that offers superior—and totally free—customer service and support. Why? Because a great support team can help tremendously throughout your lifetime as a user, helping you improve your workflow, troubleshoot problems, and optimize your use of the EMR. That’s why—when shopping for an EMR—customer service and support should be at the top of your must-have features list. As this document states, the “vendor must have reputation for exceptional customer service and support.” When you have a question about the software, you should be able to find an answer—and quickly. Furthermore, the vendor should offer online tools for self-education in tandem with efficient and friendly phone support.

The Freedom of Free Support

Clearly, it’s in your best interest to enlist an EMR that offers customer service. However, I’d strongly urge you not to pursue a software that charges for customer service. Not only could this get expensive, but it also reflects poorly on the vendor you’re evaluating. As this Fresh Desk article explains, “Most businesses end up making the cardinal mistake of assuming they are indispensable.” Remember, if you’re having difficulty with your software’s customer service, you absolutely can look elsewhere. The best EMRs are the ones that offer free customer service for the lifetime of your tenure as a user. Even better: Your “lifetime” should be flexible—with month-to-month contracts instead of long-term commitments.

If you ever have a question about a function or a feature, it’s crucial you have the ability to ask it at any point during your time using the software. You also should be aware that although some EMR vendors might say they offer free support, they might also put in the fine print that you only have access to it for a limited amount of time. If this is the case, once your time is up, you have to bear the financial burden of paying for every call and/or email just so you get the help you need to properly use the system.

The Examination of an EMR

In the words of this Dominion Systems article, “Even the best software companies need a solid backbone of customer service…” That means, even if you love the functionality of a software (even more so than the customer service), if the support is expensive—or doesn’t exist—you’re going to find yourself shopping for another system sooner rather than later. No matter how great the functionality is, you or your staff will need guidance at some point. That being said, the process of shopping for an EMR requires research and careful review of everything from functionality and workflow to customer testimonials and feedback. Conducting a quick Internet search on your vendor should give you some insight into this information. However, in addition to searching the web, you’ll need to ask your potential vendor the following questions to get a pulse on the customer service situation:

  • Does the vendor offer support?
  • If so, is customer support free?
  • Does the vendor have live support reps?
  • Where is the support team located? (If it’s outside of the US, you may find it difficult to get a hold of a representative during typical business hours.)
  • Does the free support have a time or interaction limit?
  • Are there free online educational resources?
  • Is there a community where you can submit product feedback?
  • How does the vendor respond to customer suggestions?


All of that being said, your EMR vendor should pride itself on offering amazing—and amazingly free—customer service and support. If yours doesn’t, then it might be time to look for a new vendor.

How an EMR Can Work Miracles for Your Billing Process

Physical therapy billing is a process that begins well before your patients even enter your clinic. If your process is efficient, your bottom line likely will grow as a result of your efforts. However, if your process isn’t streamlined, you might find yourself regularly dealing with claim denials and reimbursement delays. And when it comes to process efficiency, there are few factors more influential than your software. I’m talking about your physical therapy EMR. Because with the right EMR in place, your billing process can miraculously transform from a pain-in-your-rear-end into a revenue-boosting machine. Here’s how:

Decreased Errors

Human error is inevitable. Why? Because we’re only, well, human. In general, making a mistake affords you the opportunity to learn a lesson and grow from the experience. But when it comes to coding mistakes, the lessons you learn will cost you—big time—in the form of claim denials. However, there is something you can do. With the right EMR in place—one with top-notch functionality—you can minimize coding errors. According to this study, using an EMR can increase revenue with a “better capture of charges, and decreased billing errors.” The same study goes on to reveal that “computerizing the encounter form could decrease these [billing] errors by 78%.”

Knowing the ins and outs of coding is complicated—even with highly-skilled coders and billers on staff. And as a PT, it’s incredibly challenging to mentally retain all of the information required to accurately code—especially with regulatory requirements that are constantly shifting. Having a system in place with a comprehensive code database is crucial for coding accuracy (say goodbye to cheat sheets). Clinical judgement has always been a crucial part of the coding process, but with ICD-10 right around the corner, the ability to code to the highest level of specificity is even more important. After all, if you don’t select the most specific code possible, you risk claim denials. But with the help of an EMR, coding correctly shouldn’t be rocket science.

Increased Efficiency

Take a few moments to consider the number of hours your staff spends entering charges from super bills into a billing system. What if you could eliminate all of that extra manual data entry? You can. When you work with an EMR vendor that’s integrated with your ideal billing solution, you eliminate all double entry. Your data flows seamlessly from your EMR into your billing software. From here, you can electronically scrub claims and submit them without missing a beat. And that frees up your billing staff to work on resolving other billing issues instead of toiling away at unnecessary data entry. As HealthIT.Gov explains, an EMR reduces the “time and resources needed for manual charge entry resulting in more accurate billing and reduction in lost charges.” Who doesn’t love a reduction in lost charges?

Improved Cash-Flow

The right EMR will help you code efficiently and accurately with the help of comprehensive documentation profiles. The system should prompt you to comply with all compliance requirements as well as provide tools for more accurate coding (e.g., 8-minute rule guidance, modifier options, and a comprehensive ICD-10 tool). What does accuracy mean in terms of cash-flow? Everything. When your documentation supports accurate coding, you have the best chance of getting paid—fast.

An electronic system will help you quickly determine what code is appropriate and accurate for that treatment. What’s more? When you submit a clean claim with accurate codes—the first time—that claim is paid quickly, which means you don’t have to deal with the hassle of going back through attending documents and resubmitting corrected codes. This NCBI study further illustrates this point: “With an EHR system, many billing errors or inaccurate coding may be eliminated, which will potentially increase a provider’s cash flow and enhance revenue.”


If your practice could use a helping hand with your billing process, it might be time to re-evaluate your EMR. With the right system in place, you can streamline your workflow, increase your revenue, and clean up your claims for better billing results. And it doesn’t take magic—just some help from an EMR system that has your back.

Speak and Spell: Sounding Out Common Healthcare Jargon

Imagine: It’s 1985 and you’re fresh out of batteries. And that—unfortunately—means your spelling mentor (housed in bright red plastic) is out of commission for the night. It looks like you’ll be going to bed early—and without the familiar, robotic voice of Speak & Spell to coax you into dreamland. Okay, so you’re probably wondering what an old-school children’s toy has to do with you—or this post. Well, that’s a great question, and the answer lies in the alphabet soup that makes up the modern glossary of healthcare jargon. As a PT, you’re bombarded with new terms that pop up left and right. In fact, with so many new vocab words and acronyms, you might not feel much different than you did as a child in our hypothetical ’80s drama—ready to call it a night. But luckily for you, the human mind doesn’t require batteries (yet) and you won’t have to go to bed early if you can’t make it through this list. With that being said, let’s get to sounding out a few of the most common healthcare jargon terms:

EHR: Electronic health record

Electronic health records (EHRs) are digital records that focus on the overall health of the patient. These systems typically include the patient records, notes, and other medical information that’s easily accessible across multiple specialties and healthcare organizations.

EMR: Electronic medical record

EHR and EMR might seem like interchangeable terms. However, the two are distinctly different. An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital version of paper documentation. These records typically contain data that can be easily tracked and accessed within a practice. However, they’re not typically designed to integrate with systems in other settings (e.g., labs and specialty medical offices).

FLR: Functional limitation reporting

Floor? Flower? But, without the letters o, w, and e? Well, not quite. Functional limitation reporting (FLR) doesn’t really sound like any of those words. However, it does sound like The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will continue looking for new ways to inform the development rehab therapy payment structures—and FLR is part of these attempts. To satisfy FLR requirements, all eligible Medicare providers must report on their Medicare patients’ functional limitations to objectively demonstrate the connection between rehab therapy and patient progress.

HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996

HIPAA sounds a lot like the word hippo. But this law doesn’t spend its time snoozing underwater. Rather, it serves to maintain privacy policy standards in order to protect patients’ sensitive health information per the Privacy Rule. This rule impacts how “covered entities” (e.g., healthcare providers, clearinghouses, health plans, and business associates) handle protected health information (see PHI below).

PHI: Protected health information

“And I’m PHI, PHI falling.” Uh, not quite. Protected health information (PHI) is any health information—in any form—that could individually identify a patient. Typically, PHI refers to patient demographics, but it also includes a variety of other data points that healthcare professionals collect.

PQRS: Physician Quality Reporting System

You might find yourself (or the nearest five-year-old) reciting PQRS as you sing through the alphabet. Or, if you treat Medicare patients, you might find yourself cursing these four letters. PQRS is a CMS system that encourages eligible professionals and group practices to provide measurable data on their quality of care by reporting on a series of measures. As of 2015, practices that do not meet the standards for satisfactory reporting will incur a penalty that will negatively impact reimbursements rates in 2017. Fun, right?

As it turn out, you don’t actually need those glowing green letters to decode the latest healthcare jargon.

EMR Compliance + Clinic Compliance = Complete HIPAA Compliance

Got EMR? Great! But don’t assume that means you’ve got total compliance. Your EMR company has (or should have) compliance safeguards to ensure that their systems are secure, but your EMR is just one part of the compliance equation. To truly keep your clinic’s protected health information (PHI) secure, you must account for all the variables, like access to your facility, workstations, and devices as well as staff training on proper procedure.

According to the new HIPAA Security Rule, covered entities are obligated to “maintain reasonable and appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards for protecting e-PHI.” If you are a covered entity—i.e, a “health care provider who transmits health information in electronic form in connection with a transaction for which the Secretary of HHS has adopted standards under HIPAA”—then you must:

  • Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all PHI they create, receive, maintain, or transmit.
  • Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats to the security or integrity of the information.
  • Protect against reasonably anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures.
  • Ensure workforce compliance.

While you know that ensuring compliance is mandatory, tackling the HIPAA security requirements can seem a bit overwhelming and time-consuming. Where do you start? Well, let’s break it down. A recent article from Healthcare IT News outlines some of steps you should take to keep your clinic compliant, including:

  • Learn the ins and outs of your EMR’s security features, then ensure they are properly configured and enabled.
  • Establish—and routinely evaluate—your policies, procedures, audit trails, and security measures to ensure total compliance with HIPAA requirements.
  • Designate a HIPAA compliance officer at your clinic.
  • Clearly communicate each staff members’ HIPAA compliance responsibilities.
  • Restrict PHI access (through user authentication or encryption) to only those whose individual’s job roles and/or responsibilities require it.
  • Conduct an annual HIPAA security risk analysis.
  • Mitigate and address security risks—like deficient security, lack of administrative and physical controls, and easy access to workstations or systems where you keep PHI.

Relying exclusively on your EMR to keep your PHI secure doesn’t add up to complete clinic compliance. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to protect all your patient data. To mitigate your risk for HIPAA violations, you must create your own physical, technical, and administrative safeguards.

4 Tips for Switching EMR Systems

If you’ve made the switch from paper documentation to an EMR system, there’s no doubt you’ve already invested time, money, and hard work into implementing it. If this is the case, but you’ve found yourself trapped by an EMR that doesn’t work for your clinic, it doesn’t mean you have to stick it out forever; in fact, you shouldn’t. As a business owner, it can be difficult to stomach the idea of changing EMRs—especially when you have dozens of therapists, multiple locations, and hundreds of patients to consider. But if your EMR is causing you more pain than it’s worth, then it might be time to make the switch to a system that works better for your clinic. And if you do it right, implementing a new EMR system doesn’t have to be a huge imposition. Just consider these tips for a smoother EMR transition:

1.) Define Workflow

If you’re planning to switch EMR systems, revisiting your business strategy is probably a no-brainer. But something to consider (beyond number crunching) is the crucial step of defining—and possibly redesigning—your clinical workflow. It’s important that your staff understands how the new EMR functionality can help improve everyday operations. HealthIT.Gov further stresses the importance of this process: “Workflow redesign can help your organization:

  • Maximize efficiencies

  • Enhance health care quality and safety

  • Remove chaos from your current workflow

  • Improve care coordination

Simply put, workflow redesign is important because it helps you get the most value from EHR implementation.”

As you define—and redesign—your processes, you’ll discover your current system’s weaknesses. Additionally, you’ll be armed with a concrete list of ways a new system can improve your workflow. As you go through demonstrations for various EMRs, refer to this list and see which vendor checks off most (if not all) of your requirements.  

2.) Develop Leadership

Switching EMRs can be a lengthy process, and having leaders in place to help bear the burden is a solid first step toward success. However, during this transition, it’s crucial that your leaders are not only in place, but also prepared to tackle change. As Glenn Llopis explains in this Forbes article, “If leaders don’t feel comfortable with renewal and reinvention, they will begin to lose their impact and influence quickly. Change is the new normal for leadership success and all leaders must accept this fact.”

If your leaders have trouble communicating during times of change, talk them through challenging situations and offer any leadership training resources you have at your disposal—whether that’s a book or simply a candid conversation. Additionally, be open and honest in your own communication. The last thing you need during a transitional period is a game of EMR telephone. With strong leaders at the helm, your staff has a better chance at sailing smoothly through system-changing tides.

3.) Determine Champions

In addition to ensuring your leaders are prepared to communicate and support your staff through the business changes that lie ahead, you’ll need to designate champions within your clinics. A champion is a knowledgeable staff member who’s tech-savvy, respected amongst his or her colleagues, and totally on board with your plan to change systems. On the subject of technology adoption champions, Harvard Business Review urges employers to “Devise a program to nurture your digital champions, as they are key to transformation success and will most likely be your organization’s future digital leaders.”

Once you’ve chosen your champions, give them decision-making power and define the time commitment you expect from them. As you work through scheduling, keep your timelines realistic and have your clinic leaders carve out dedicated times for champions to be involved in strategic planning. The ultimate goal is to nurture your employees without taking away too much time from what matters most—treating patients.

4.) Dedicate Time

Slow and steady wins the race, right? This old cliché might be cheesy, but it’s spot-on in illustrating the importance of taking your time—especially when it comes to technology adoption. Before you resume your everyday operations with a new system in place, you’ll want dedicated, uninterrupted training time. Also, depending on your staff’s proficiency, it might be beneficial to schedule small breaks between patients to allow therapists more time for documentation—at least initially. This way, the therapists learn how to document on the spot without waiting until the end of the day to complete all their notes.

As you consider different vendors, look for a web-based and compliant EMR that has onsite training. This allows your staff the opportunity to use the software in a realistic setting with the guidance of a knowledgeable representative. In addition to onsite training, you’ll also want to look for a system that offers free customer service and additional on-demand online training (on-demand resources are especially helpful when one of your staff members needs a short refresher or you need to train a new employee). Even better? Find an EMR that offers all of the aforementioned options as well as an online training system that includes tests and quizzes for benchmarking employee progress.

As a business owner, it’s up to you to set the expectation for technology adoption in your clinics. Making the switch to a new EMR is far from impossible, and if you keep the above tips in mind, you’re likely to get through the process headache-free.