Spend enough time scrolling through Facebook, perusing magazine headlines in the grocery store checkout line, or catching snippets of daytime television in the waiting room, and you’re bound to get a healthy dose of gossip. Typically, we assume that the grapevine babble stops with Miley Cyrus just being Miley or politicians getting caught doing smarmy things. In reality, though, rumors swirl everywhere—even within the healthcare industry. Take web-based EMR for example. Do you know the myths from the truth?
Myth: The Internet’s not secure enough to keep my important data safe.
Truth: With so much at stake, data security should be one of your top priorities—but don’t write off the Internet just yet. As Power Your Practice points out, web-based EMR systems “store data in high-level storage centers with bank-level security and a minimum of 128-bit encryption methods, per HIPAA’s standards.” Consider WebPT: We store data at IO Data Center, a Tier III-Certified facility that provides multiple layers of access control, including a defensible perimeter, video surveillance, and round-the-clock security guards.
Paper storage certainly doesn’t offer that, but what about server-based EMRs? Well, if it’s under your desk or in a room in your office, I bet not. And that means you—and your patients—could be at risk. Just think about what could happen in a natural disaster. If your data is stored offsite, in the cloud, with multiple failsafes and backups, it will remain safe and secure. You’ll be able to get back to work as soon as you’re ready—exactly where you left off. What about theft? Whereas IO has 24/7/forever guard protection, your clinic probably doesn’t. WebPT currently holds 27 million patient records in the the cloud, and we’ve never lost a single one.
I could prattle on for several more paragraphs about how any web-based EMR worth its salt is far more secure than the server-based systems of yesteryear. Instead, I’ll refer you to this super awesome blog post I wrote about the security and compliance of web-based vs. server-based software.
Myth: Cloud-based systems go down—a lot.
Truth: System-wide downtime in a web-based EMR should be a very rare occurrence. WebPT, for example, boasts over 99% uptime. Downtime for site maintenance is scheduled ahead of time during low-use hours, and Members always receive plenty of advance notice. There’s a lot of chatter out there about the threat of downtime with web-based applications, but oftentimes such problems are actually the result of issues with individual Internet providers. In that case, you can easily prevent outages with the installation of a backup Internet solution, such as a mobile hotspot device. Lastly, Internet speeds today are more than fast enough for your web-based EMR needs. (And remember, server-based or web-enabled systems often require Internet connections, too.)
Myth: Learning a new system is just too hard.
Truth: Contrary to popular belief, you can teach old (or change-resistant) practitioners new tricks. As Healthcare IT News reports, “although there is an initial learning curve during the EMR adoption process, an easy-to-use EMR can significantly improve workflows once [it’s] fully implemented.” We here at WebPT, for example, we routinely get new clinics up and running (with training) in a matter of days. Most new Members learn our application in a virtual meeting environment; however, we do offer onsite training as well, which might be convenient if you have a lot of employees who all need to learn the new system at once. Ultimately, no practice-wide change comes without a period of workforce adjustment. In the long run, though, you’ll recover any losses you incur due to transitional hiccups (see the next myth). Furthermore, if you’re considering retiring, selling, or changing hands at your practice, switching to EMR sets your clinic up for future success and an easier transition, says Healthcare IT News.
Myth: Switching to web-based EMR is expensive.
Truth: Some EMRs are expensive—and that goes for both server- and cloud-based systems. However, the best web-based EMRs cost merely a fraction of what server-based systems charge. Why? Because web-based options typically charge low month-to-month costs and require neither a contract nor a hefty upfront investment. Server-based systems, on the other hand, typically require a lot of upfront costs, including hardware purchases or upgrades and software installation. There are also recurring costs to consider, such as hiring new employees, conducting training, and replacing, repairing, or adding to your hardware.
I know I mentioned that web-based EMRs can be expensive, too. The key is to look for truly web-based (not web-enabled) software. True web-based EMRs charge per user, whereas web-enabled either employ the pricing structures of their server-based forebearers (contracts, hefty upfront investments, maintenance fees, etc.) or employ cost-per-chart pricing. You’re probably focused on growing your business, but that’s tough to do in a per-chart pricing structure where you pay more money for every patient you add. In my book, your EMR should work for you and your business, not the other way around.
Now, you may be thinking that paper is more cost-effective than EMR. That’s another myth. (Just think how quickly the costs of copying, transporting, and storing paper records add up.) Check out these myth-busting stats from DSSI:
- One four-drawer file cabinet holds 15K-20K of pages, costs $25,000 to fill, and costs $2,000 per year to maintain.
- The US spends $25-35 billion annually on filing, storing, and retrieving paper.
- It costs $20 to file a document and $120 to track down a misfiled document (if you can find it).
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.
Now that we’ve busted these web-based EMR myths, we can return to guessing which celebrities are now dating. In all seriousness, though, it’s important that private practice PTs wade through the hearsay, so they can make educated decisions about the tools they use. After all, decreases in reimbursements, increases in regulatory changes, and intensifying competition definitely aren’t rumors, and neither is this: Web-based EMRs can sincerely help you not only be better in business, but also stay compliant and craft clean, detailed, and defensible documentation.