Why You Shouldn’t Stick It Out with Your Software

Are you unhappy with your current EMR? If so, you’re not alone. Every year, thousands of rehab therapy professionals suffer through clunky documentation processes, delayed reimbursements, and manual—which means time- and resource-consuming—updates (cue saccharine Sarah McLachlan song). But it doesn’t have to be like that. For as little as a few dollars a day, you can rescue a rehab therapy professional from the cruelty of antiquated and dysfunctional EMRs.

Okay, so maybe the current EMR market doesn’t quite call for an ASPCA-esque commercial, but for rehab therapy professionals who deal with ill-designed EMRs every day, the struggle is very real. According to a 2013 report from Orem, Utah-based research firm KLAS, private practice providers “are leaving their vendors at an unprecedented rate as EMR solutions fail to meet rising expectations in small physician practices.” The report found that providers are experiencing bad service, product gaps, poor usability, and other limitations that come in like a wrecking ball and destroy clinic productivity, employee satisfaction, and revenue.

If you’re a professional grappling with EMR dissatisfaction, your current system’s résumé probably reads like this:

  • server-based
  • designed for physicians
  • charges per chart or visit
  • lacks free training and support

While those aren’t the only reasons for switching, they are four of the biggest EMR pitfalls—and the cause of many a headache for rehab therapy professional everywhere. If you think you can’t ditch that crappy EMR because it’s too difficult or too expensive to switch, you’re wrong. In fact, staying with an EMR that doesn’t work for you could end up costing you more. Here’s how:

Weighty Consequences

Server-based EMRs are obese clunkers full of ancient technology. In the age of all things mobile, you deserve an EMR you can take with you—anywhere, anytime—but you can’t exactly fit a server in your pocket. Server-based systems take up a large chunk of space—and take a large chunk out of your wallet. If you’ve had your EMR for years, you’ve already written off the cost, so having to shell out for a new system—especially a web-based system, which comes with a low initial investment—shouldn’t be too much of a concern. However, if you’ve recently adopted a server-based EMR, I can understand your hesitation to switch—but think about how much that system is costing you in time and productivity.

If you have a server-based system, the responsibility of securing your patients’ protected health information (PHI) and performing all the upgrades is solely on your shoulders—and that’s no easy task, especially if you aren’t technologically inclined (you may even have to hire IT staff to maintain your system, which makes server-based systems even pricier). Plus, if you miss an update, your system immediately becomes out-of-date, putting you at risk for non-compliance—and considering the speed at which regulations change, that could end up being very costly (I’m talking penalties, fees, rejected claims, and audits). Web-based systems, on the other hand, offer you the security, accessibility, compliance, and data management you need.

Weak Flow

You wouldn’t stay in a relationship with a person who didn’t “get you,” right? So why stay with an EMR that doesn’t understand you, your industry, or your workflow? EMRs designed for physicians—not physical therapists—tend to offer workflows that don’t make sense for your needs, forcing you to spend far too much of your precious time trying to mold the system to fit a PT’s workflow. Wouldn’t you rather get back to treating patients instead of working around problems that shouldn’t even be there? If your EMR lacks key features like built-in functional limitation reporting, 8-minute rule monitoring, and therapy cap tracking, you need to switch to one that cares as much about your practice as you do.

$pendy $upport

If your EMR doesn’t offer you free training and support, you’re going to wind up spending way more than the sticker price to successfully implement and operate your new system (if that’s even possible to begin with). You’re already paying for the software; if you need help along the way, you shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for that, too. Straightforward, flexible, and free phone support and training—from the get-go—should be part of the package, and any EMR company worth its salt will agree with me on that point.

And speaking of unnecessary fees: Does your EMR charge you per chart or per visit? Well, it shouldn’t, because that means you’re penalized for expanding your business. Who wants to be punished for success? (Psst: the answer is no one). When you make the switch, be sure to choose an EMR that charges per user and offers a subscription model. Oh, and one more thing: Beware of “Jack-of-All-Trades” software companies that give away certain aspects of their software (e.g., their documentation or scheduling platforms) in an effort to lock you into their more lucrative components (e.g., revenue cycle management).

 

If you’re having documentation problems, I feel for you. Because even if you have 99 other problems at your clinic, your EMR shouldn’t be one of them. It’s simply not worth holding onto a system that doesn’t function or follow through on promises. And right now—fewer than seven months away from the mandatory transition to ICD-10—may just be the best time to switch if your current EMR vendor isn’t prepared for the transition.

To help you achieve greatness in practice, you need an EMR that is accountable, efficient, cost-effective, accessible, secure, and most importantly, compliant. Trust me, you’re not going to get that with anything but a truly web-based EMR designed with the PT in mind. Don’t settle for less than what you need—and deserve.


5 PT Industry Predictions for 2015

I’m no fortune teller; I don’t have a crystal ball, and I can’t see into the future. But like a good sports analyst or meteorologist, I can make some educated hypotheses. And while I definitely couldn’t tell you who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month—or what the weather will be like at kick-off—I’m pretty confident about these five predictions of the topics and trends that will have the biggest impact on the physical therapy community in 2015:

1. Outcomes

The healthcare industry is changing, and in the never-ending quest to control costs while simultaneously elevating the quality of care patients receive, outcomes have emerged as a vital component of the pay-for-performance reimbursement models many payers are embracing.

For physical therapists, outcomes have traditionally provided a mechanism for staying ahead of the game—for gaining a competitive edge in insurance contract negotiations and referral marketing efforts. As we enter 2015, however, outcomes are fast becoming necessary to merely stay in the game. To truly capitalize on our strengths—and own our roles—as healthcare providers in the current medical landscape, PTs must be able to objectively demonstrate the effectiveness of their care.

You all know how amazing you are; you witness incredible outcomes in your clinics every day. But physicians and insurance companies can’t see those results firsthand; they can’t experience the human impact of what you do. What they can see, though, are the numbers representing those results, and in our increasingly data-driven society, that information holds a lot of weight. Additionally, outcomes tracking allows practices to assess clinical team performance through benchmarking. Practice owners and directors can then use that data to make informed business decisions, enabling them to better manage their therapists and their practices as a whole. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

2. Consolidation

The therapy industry has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. Back when I first started practicing—almost 20 years ago—it was all about the big dogs. Then the economy did a 180, and things started breaking up. At that point, independent private practice clinics stepped into the spotlight, which did wonders in the patient care department. But now, with ever-increasing regulations and declining reimbursements, consolidation is making a comeback. Faced with shrinking profit margins—but not wanting to close their doors for good—many clinic owners are considering joining forces with larger practices that have the business resources necessary to contend with the market forces working against them. And while, according to this report from Harris Williams & Co., smaller, independently-owned practices still account for about 45% of the physical therapy market, many of those businesses are having a tough time expanding “outside of their local footprint due to underdeveloped referral sources and infrastructure.”

So, while I think we’re probably going to see a swing back to a less-fragmented landscape—a return of the big dogs, if you will—I also believe that this time around, things will be a lot different. Why? Well, most importantly, the people at the helm of these large practices are PTs—rather than hired CEO guns. So unlike the private equity-owned, HMO-driven mega-corporations of the past, these owners don’t see patients as just dollar signs. In 2015, I foresee a lot of PT businesses partnering, consolidating, buying in, and taking on private equity funding. And all of that means that influential, business-minded PTs—specifically, some key heavy-hitters in our industry—will maintain the power.

In my book, change is inevitable, and we here at WebPT support industry changes —so long as PTs have the final say over what happens in our profession, and so long as those in this industry make decisions that increase our clout, respect, and autonomy within the healthcare community.

3. ICD-10

Try as they might, ICD-10 resistors aren’t gaining any ground in their efforts to further delay the implementation of these diagnosis codes. And while we may see some additional efforts to put off the inevitable—particularly in conjunction with the SGR fix legislation that likely will come around (again) in March—I truly believe that the switch to ICD-10 will occur October 1, 2015. What does that mean for you and your practice? If you haven’t already started preparing for the transition, then now’s the time to get going. I recommend checking out the resources on ICD10forPT.com. There’s a good deal that goes into getting ICD-10-ready, from learning the new code structure and ensuring the readiness of your vendors to evaluating your staffing needs and preparing for reimbursement delays.

4. EMR Switches

According to Robocop, Back to the Future 2, and The 6th Day, the year 2015 was supposed to feature cyborg police officers, hoverboards, and successful human cloning. Disappointingly, many of us in the healthcare industry instead will start this year with a strong desire to turn our backs on technology—and throw our computers out the window. Why? Well, the majority of our industry has switched from paper charting to EMR documentation, and while we certainly aren’t living in a Robocop-esque dystopian society, many PTs’ EMRs make them feel like they are. That’s why I envision 2015 to be the year of EMR-switching. Ultimately, there’s no reason for any PT to stay stuck in time with his or her lemon of an EMR, because believe it or not, there actually are great EMR systems out there—and there’s nothing fictitious about that science. And in 2015, PTs will go out and find them.

5. The Rise of the Patient

Back in the old days, getting more patients meant you had to get more physician referrals. And while doctors are still an important source of new business for physical therapists, patients are increasingly taking their health into their own hands. Because in this day and age, researching symptoms and vetting treatment options is as easy as hitting your Enter key. With that kind of power, patients no longer have to consult with their primary care providers to learn how physical therapy can help them. And with direct access to therapy services rapidly shifting from being the exception to being the rule—thanks to legislation passed last year, some form of direct access to physical therapy now exists in all 50 states—I predict that in 2015, we will really start to see a deviation from the traditional patient path to PT.

As physical therapists, we’re all about progress—and based on my predictions for 2015, we’re going to see plenty of progress in our industry over the next 12 months. Of course, there will be plenty of challenges, too. But although we might have to break a few tackles, if we keep playing tough—if we can we continue to move the ball down the field—we’ll score some major points this year.