Three Reasons You’ll Wish You Used an EMR When You Get Audited

Even the word “audit” sounds awful. Think about it. Did you get goose bumps, feel a looming dark presence in the room, or shudder slightly? You’re not alone; I did too. So how do you quell that nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach when you contemplate an audit? It’s simple: you make sure your practice is audit-proof. Not that you can ever prevent an audit from occurring, but you can certainly take steps to ensure that when one does occur, there’s no skin off your back. For example, if you were concerned about a potential IRS audit, you’d hire a tax expert to make sure your business practices and returns aligned exactly with the letter of the law. And if you’re concerned about a potential Medicare audit—which you should be—you’ll implement an EMR to make sure that your documentation is perfectly defensible. Today, let’s dive deeper into why an EMR will be your very best friend in the case of an audit.

Here are three reasons you’ll wish you used an EMR when you get audited:

1. Mistakes happen—and you’re liable for them

We all make mistakes—and most of the time they’re nothing to worry about. I mean, you can fix just about anything. Unfortunately, though, that’s not the case in an audit. Mistakes—even ones as simple as inverting numbers on a claim sheet or forgetting a step in functional limitation reporting—can cost you big time. Just one red flag can trigger a cascading audit that turns into an entire upheaval of your clinic—the effects of which can range from being a serious pain in the you-know-what and costing you valuable time that you could have spent treating patients to reimbursement denials, penalties, and fines that could add up to serious financial complications and even bankruptcy.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With an EMR, it’s impossible to forget anything because the application has built-in alerts to prevent you from finalizing your notes until they’re picture perfect. Plus, double data entry will be a thing of the past—as will worrying about inverting numbers. You see, your EMR can seamlessly transfer everything you enter into your documentation directly onto your claim sheet. Say goodbye to human error and hello to EMR certainty.

2. “I didn’t know” is no excuse

On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you know everything there is to know about the 8-minute rule, PQRS, functional limitation reporting, and the therapy cap? Unless you answered 11—and you’ve got plenty of spare time to stay up to date on the almost minute-by-minute changes made to these Medicare regulations—there’s a huge possibility that you’re going to miss something. And Medicare doesn’t care why. They don’t care that you’re busy treating patients, running your practice, and doing the best you can—they expect you to comply, no matter what. Miss a piece of any of these requirements and there’ll be hell—I mean penalties—to pay.

Holding all that responsibility is unrealistic. Instead, put some of it on your EMR. The people working behind the scenes of your EMR will stay up on all the nit-picky little things that go into being fully Medicare compliant so you don’t have to. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can bury your head in the sand and stop paying attention to new legislation and regulations. It just means that you have some serious help. Help that—when you get audited—will be a huge lifesaver. Just make sure you choose a web-based EMR—one that’s agile enough to constantly roll out new upgrades incorporating these uber-frequent changes as they happen. At this pace, a server-based EMR will be outdated two minutes after you buy it.

3. Not being able to find or read your notes is very, very bad

Take a few minutes to survey the mess that is your office filing cabinet. Now, go back to 2007 and pull a patient record. Can you read your notes? Are they faded or penned in chicken-scratch shorthand? Could someone else—like a cranky Medicare auditor—read and understand your writing? Would they agree that your plan of care was medically necessary? Did you do a good job justifying it? Do you even still have all your records for 2007? Suppose Medicare asked you to submit information on patient Sally Joe from her visit to your clinic on March 9, 2007. How quickly could you find the information they were requesting? Is her record complete? Are you sure? Would you bet your clinic on it?

Simply writing this blog post gives me massive amounts of anxiety, so I can only imagine how anxious you’re feeling reading it. The good news is that this process can be—are you ready for it?—easy with an EMR—and that means a lot less gray hair. You see, every note you submit is complete, defensible, and—best of all—legible. Plus, you can access any record for any patient from any date of service with just a few quick keystrokes. In other words, everything is organized. And everything will be perfectly preserved for at least the minimum seven years required by law. Did you just breathe a sigh of relief? Me too.

Now, can your clinic really stand to face an audit without an EMR? I didn’t think so. It’s time to start seriously considering what an electronic medical record will do for you—and your sanity—before it’s too late.


The Future of Electronic Medical Record Management (Part 2)

[If you’ve already read Part 1, jump to the next section below.] The year is 2013, and although we don’t have the technological advancements of say, The Jetsons, we certainly have come a long way. In the last decade, smartphones became omnipresent, Google became a verb, and social networking changed the way we interact with one another. Never before have we had access to so much information—literally—at our fingertips. And although there’s no question that we as a society take full advantage of the newest and neatest technological advances to make our personal lives easier, we don’t always do the same when it comes to our professional ones.

Want an example? When was the last time you hand-wrote three pages of anything in your personal life? I’m guessing—unless it was a sentimental letter in which you chose handwriting to make it more personal—it’s probably been awhile. When was the last time you hand wrote three pages worth of paper charts? Today? This morning? Every day, every hour, every patient visit? Unless your intention is sentimentality here, too, that doesn’t make much sense—especially when you consider that there has been just as much advancement in the world of electronic medical record (EMR) systems as other techy tools. And that’s not going to stop.

Over three consecutive posts, we’re going to share with you what the experts are saying about the future of electronic medical record management. Here is Part 2 (click here to read Part 1):

Server-Based, Schmerver-Based: It’s Time to Jump on the Cloud

Today, there are two types of EMR delivery methods: server-based and cloud-based. But that won’t always be the case. In an article about the future of healthcare technology, Dr. Ira Kirschenbaum writes that cloud-based EMRs soon will be the “only logical choice.” In fact, he predicts that server-based ones “will go the way of the eight-track cassette and VHS tape: rapid and permanent extinction.” Additionally, Albert Santalo, CEO of CareCloud, a cloud-based EHR for physicians, referred to server-based systems as the “walking dead” in a 2012 Forbes article. He went on to call his company’s attempt to garner more of the market “a fight among dinosaurs.”

So why are cloud-based systems far outshining server-based ones? According to Microsoft, there are seven reasons why cloud computing will benefit your business, namely:

1. Improve employee productivity.

Cloud-based systems offer the flexibility for users to document and access data anywhere, anytime, which means they can get things done regardless of whether they’re physically at the office.

2. Reduce upfront costs.

With cloud-based systems, there’s no need to buy expensive bulky hardware or servers—or pay to maintain them. Instead, a “cloud-based subscription model allows small businesses to easily increase or decrease their use of cloud services according to their needs.”

3. Boost collaboration.

Providers can work together on the same files, communicating directly within the application, which makes it easier to work together and share ideas.

4. Increase business resiliency.

According to Microsoft, “numerous studies have shown that more than 50% of small businesses will go out of business within a year of a major data loss.” But you don’t have to worry about that if you’re storing your data in the cloud. If you lose your laptop or—knock on wood—your office, you can be back to work whenever you’re ready to be.

5. Make life easier.

Getting started with a cloud-based system is a breeze. Because there’s no need to install new hardware, upload new software, or train a whole new IT staff, you’re up and running with your new system in a snap.

6. Ensure accessibility.

Bouncing between more than one clinic? No worries. With a cloud-based system, users can access their information anywhere, anytime, from any Internet-enabled device. That means you can log in from your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet—regardless of whether it’s a Mac or PC.

7. Secure your data.

There’s nothing more important than your patient data—so keeping it all in one place in a server under your desk makes about as much as sense as keeping it under your mattress. Instead, let the experts keep your data secure in a top-tier data storage center, complete with backup fail-safes and redundancies. This way, even in the case of a national disaster, your data will stay safe and sound.

8. Keep you compliant.

As we discussed above, with all the recent changes in Medicare reporting regulations and HIPAA privacy requirements—not to mention the upcoming ICD-10 implementation—you need an agile system that can keep up. With a cloud-based EMR, you’ll receive automatic updates quickly, securely, and automatically, so you always have the latest in compliance tools at your fingertips. Server-based systems can’t touch any of that.

Check back here tomorrow for Part 3. And as always, leave us your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.


Ensuring a Smooth Transition: Five Things Your EMR Just Has to Have

You’re a smart business owner—and as all smart business owners do, you’re weighing the pros and cons of adopting a physical therapy EMR for your practice. Let’s take a look at your lists. I bet by now you’ve got a whole score of pros built up—like how EMR saves time and money, ensures Medicare compliance, integrates your documentation with your scheduling and billing so you can maximize patient visits and get paid, and so on. But maybe in the course of your pro-con list-making, you stumbled across a potential con: the challenge of transitioning to an EMR—the “EMR learning curve,” if you will. And that’s a real thing—a real thing that could be absolutely detrimental to your clinic’s productivity. But only if you choose the wrong EMR. So how do you choose the right one and ensure that your clinic has a smooth transition? It’s simple, really. Look for one that offers these five things:

  1. A complimentary online demonstration in which your entire team can participate

    Let’s face it: one of the keys to ensuring a smooth transition to EMR is having everyone on board with the decision. After all, change can be scary. So what’s the best way to get buy-in? Give your team a chance to tour the system, ask questions, and voice objections. An online demo is the perfect opportunity to accomplish this. That way, someone who knows the ins and outs of the EMR will be able to provide you all with the answers you’re looking for—and demonstrate the system’s worth right off the bat.

  2. The best darn training program either side of the Mississippi

    An online demonstration is awesome, but an EMR can seem like a totally different beast when it’s your turn to take the reins. So make sure there’s a sizable training step in between. Look for an EMR that provides full training to the whole team so that you all feel completely comfortable navigating the system from the minute you get your login credentials. Just make sure that “full training” doesn’t mean weeklong training. That’s only going to interrupt your treatment schedule, bringing down your productivity and your bottom line. Instead, look for an EMR that offers a complete training session in one to two hours and includes time for you and your staff to practice.

  3. Free, unlimited, lifetime support as well as handy-dandy user guides and how-to videos

    You should never have to pay to ask questions—ever. So look for an EMR that’s going to be there with answers, when you need them, in the format that you want them—for every question, every time. Even better, look for an EMR that values your opinion enough to ask you how you think the application could be better.

  4. An EMR tailored to the needs of rehab therapists

    Having to create Band-Aid fixes and duct tape workarounds to make a non-therapy specific EMR work for your clinic can make the transition terrifying. Instead, choose an EMR that is tailored to your workflow, and the transition will feel that much more natural. Plus, with a rehab-therapy specific EMR, you’ll always have the features and tools that are relevant and timely for your practice—for example, integrated PQRS and functional limitation reporting functionality.

  5. No contracts—zip, zero, zilch

    Don’t get trapped in a long-term EMR contract with a company that forgets about you, because, well, you’re stuck with them. Instead, choose an EMR company that gives you the power to walk away and thus, works to win your business even after the sale is closed. This alone will ensure that you receive the best product, customer service, and resources. You can’t do better than that!

    Choose a system that provides you with everything on this list, and you’ll have a super smooth transition to EMR. Go ahead and add that to your list of pros right now.


The Future of Electronic Medical Record Management (Part 1)

The year is 2013, and although we don’t have the technological advancements of say, The Jetsons, we certainly have come a long way. In the last decade, smartphones became omnipresent, Google became a verb, and social networking changed the way we interact with one another. Never before have we had access to so much information—literally—at our fingertips. And although there’s no question that we as a society take full advantage of the newest and neatest technological advances to make our personal lives easier, we don’t always do the same when it comes to our professional ones.

Want an example? When was the last time you hand-wrote three pages of anything in your personal life? I’m guessing—unless it was a sentimental letter in which you chose handwriting to make it more personal—it’s probably been awhile. When was the last time you hand wrote three pages worth of paper charts? Today? This morning? Every day, every hour, every patient visit? Unless your intention is sentimentality here, too, that doesn’t make much sense—especially when you consider that there has been just as much advancement in the world of electronic medical record (EMR) systems as other techy tools. And that’s not going to stop.

Over the next three posts, we’re going to share with you what the experts are saying about the future of electronic medical record management. Here is Part 1:

We’re not in Kansas anymore; welcome to the land of OZ—er, EMR.

Well, you might be in the Sunflower State, but things certainly have changed, both in terms of provider adoption and patients’ expectations of EMR. And there’s no clicking your ruby slippers to go home—I mean, back to the world of paper record keeping. In 2008, only 9% of hospitals and 17% of physicians used electronic medical records; the vast majority still hand-wrote paper charts. Today, more than 50% of physician offices and 80% of hospitals that contract with Medicare or Medicaid will adopt EMR by the end of this year. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says: “We have reached a tipping point in adoption of electronic health records…[These systems] are critical to modernizing our health care system.”

But the benefits of EMR—and the increase in adoption—go well beyond physicians’ offices and hospitals. In fact, in recent years, physical therapist (PT) adoption has increased significantly, too. Although PTs aren’t eligible for the incentives that have helped physicians and hospitals make the switch, there are still many reasons to go digital, in addition to simply keeping up with the rest of the healthcare industry and the competition. A 2006 article published in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association found that electronic record adoption benefits include “improved reporting, operational efficiency, interdepartmental communication, data accuracy, and capability for future research.” And that was five years ago. Today, benefits also include staying up to date on the latest in Medicare and HIPAA compliance requirements as well as saving money on file storage and space, paper, charts, ink, toner, and extra staff.

As patients become more technologically savvy, they’re quickly expecting the same from their providers—with some even deciding who to seek care from based on the provider’s ability to offer technological “perks.” According to a recent Accenture survey, among other web-based methods of accessing their protected health information, patients want digital reminders for preventive or follow-up care and the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online. A 2012 national report titled, “Making It Meaningful: How Consumers Value and Trust Health IT” found that 80 to 97% of patients saw the benefit of electronic medical records. Additionally, 73% of patients whose current physician keeps electronic records say that EMRs have a very or somewhat positive impact on the overall quality of the health care services they receive, whereas only 26% of patients whose primary physician documents on paper felt that paper equated to improved quality of care. In terms of patient privacy, both groups believe that there’s value in electronic record management.

One article summarizing the survey also points out that electronic documentation is a huge time-saver for patients (and office staff) because they no longer need to manually complete paperwork and forms at every visit. Rather, if the provider uses an electronic system, patients need only to complete their forms at the initial visit. Then, every visit thereafter, your staff can review what’s in the system and ask for updates. Plus, some EMRs offer an embeddable online patient intake form so patients can complete their paperwork directly from your website before they even get to the office.

Just think: What revenue-generating activities could your front office staff do with some extra time? Then, check back here tomorrow for Part 2. And as always, leave us your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.


10 Warning Signs Your Clinic Needs EMR Now

You’ve been toying with the idea of an EMR for a while now, and maybe you’re still trying to figure out if making the transition is really the right decision for your clinic. To help, we’ve put together this list of ten warning signs that your clinic needs an EMR now:

  1. You’re drowning in paper.
  2. Are you swimming in a quagmire of paper chart quicksand? Is your office overflowing with rows upon rows of filing cabinets all jam-packed with loose, dog-eared, and illegible handwritten notes? If you were audited today, would you be able to easily find the notes you made to justify that your services were medically necessary on Sally Joe back in ‘06? If you answered no to any of these questions, you’re officially drowning in paper. Cut the clutter. Free your space. Demand organization. An EMR will allow you to electronically document, store, and access all of your precious patient information safely and securely. This way, everything you need will be at the tips of your fingers for years to come. And the best part? It will always be legible.

  3. You’re losing money on missed appointments and cancellations.
  4. Take a moment to think about how much each missed appointment and cancellation costs your clinic. Now think about how quickly that adds up! With an EMR, you’ll have access to electronic scheduling tools integrated with your documentation, so scheduling will be a breeze. Then, just a few days before your patient’s next scheduled appointment, you’ll be able to send an email, text, or phone call reminder automatically. Simply reminding patients that they have an appointment scheduled can significantly reduce no shows. And just one recouped patient visit per month could cover the cost of your EMR.

  5. You’re spending too many late nights finishing your notes.
  6. You got into therapy to help people. But instead, you’re spending most of your days—and nights—completing cumbersome paper documentation. Where’s the fun in that? And don’t forget about the dreaded writer’s cramp! Get back to what really matters—your patients—and ditch the pen and paper. With an EMR, you’ll have all your SOAP notes perfectly organized to fit your workflow. And, with just a few simple clicks, you can expand or collapse sections, create custom evaluation profiles, and finalize your notes. Plus, with an EMR, you can access your documentation safely and securely from any web-enabled device. So, if you choose to document outside of the office, you can—and you’ll still be fully HIPAA compliant. Talk about freedom.

  7. You’re tracking important clinic data manually—or not at all.
  8. How many patients are you seeing on average each day? What about the other therapists in your clinic? Do you know how many patients simply dropped off your radar? Or how close your Medicare patients are to hitting the therapy cap? If you can’t answer these questions without pulling out your TI-89, you’re not totally in the know about what’s going on in your clinic—and that can be a serious issue. Stay current on all things relevant to your clinic with an EMR’s integrated reporting functionality. You see, an EMR uses the data you’re already providing during documentation and scheduling to generate all the relevant reports you could ever want, including how productive each staff member is; how many inactive patients you should contact to bring back to therapy; and how close each Medicare patient is to reaching the therapy cap. This built-in reporting functionality will also alert you if one of your patient records is missing important information or if you forgot to complete a piece of required documentation.

  9. You’re spending a bundle on dictation services.
  10. One of the largest expenses many clinics face is the cost of sending out dictation for transcription. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. Adopt EMR, and you can use a free dictation application—Dragon, for example—to complete any free-form section of your notes. It’s the best of both worlds—for those who feel most comfortable dictating and for those who prefer typing. Just think of what you could do to improve your clinic with the money you used to spend on dictation!

  11. You’re overwhelmed by the recent changes in documentation regulations.
  12. We don’t blame you. Between PQRS, the therapy cap, MPPR, and functional limitation reporting, there’s a whole lot to know if you’re treating Medicare beneficiaries and you want to get paid. Don’t worry, though. With an EMR, compliance is easy because you won’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. Just make a few more selections during your normal documentation, and the system will compile—and often submit—all that’s required to CMS. Plus, the best EMRs also offer a ton of great educational content so that you have all the information you need to feel confident about existing and upcoming requirements.

  13. You’re pretty sure you misplaced at least one patient record in the last seven years.
  14. It’s bound to happen—especially if you’re lugging stacks of paper charts to and from the office—but it’s definitely not okay. A HIPAA breach can cost you and your clinic big time—not to mention ruin the trusted patient-provider relationship. So what’s the best way to avoid a breach? Stop paper charting and start using an EMR—specifically, one that offers unique password protected entry and stores your patient’s protected health information safely and securely in the cloud.

  15. You’re not attracting top-tier talent.
  16. You’re looking to hire—and not just anybody. You want to bring on the best and brightest from the new generation of rehab therapists. But for some reason they don’t seem interested in working for you. Maybe that’s because this new generation is one of the digital age, and chances are they’ve spent at least one graduate-level course learning to document with EMR. The idea of going back to paper charting probably feels like going back to the days before smartphones and the Internet—not a happy thought. Plus, many appreciate paperless clinics—for going digital and green. Don’t resist change; embrace it. It will be good for attracting talent and patients alike.

  17. You’re missing out on opportunities to increase referrals.
  18. Do you know who your top referrers are? What about the ones who maybe need a reminder about your awesome services? If not, you’re missing out on generating a ton of new business. With an EMR, you’ll be able to track referring physicians so you can see who’s doing a fantastic job of promoting your clinic and who needs a little more attention. Plus, with an EMR, you’ll be able to brand your notes with your clinic’s logo so anything you send to a referring physician will demonstrate your professionalism and keep you top of mind. It’s marketing built right in.

  19. You’re falling behind your competitors.
  20. The leading EMR on the market right now has more than 21,000 customers and 5,000 therapy clinics. If you’re not already an EMR user, you’re falling behind your competitors who are. After all, the right EMR helps therapists save time and money, allowing them to be better in business. So don’t let your competitors pass you by.

    If any of these warning signs feel a bit too familiar, it’s time to do more than just toy with the idea of an EMR; it’s time to start demoing, today.