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.

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If you’re looking to improve your processes, look no further than your EMR’s practice management system. As this HealthIT.gov 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?


Why You Need an EMR for PQRS

Every November, Medicare releases its Final Rule. And nestled among the many regulatory updates—like warm buns in a basket—are the PQRS requirements for the coming year. The 2016 Final Rule reveals that not much is changing for rehab therapy providers on January 1. But, even so, satisfying PQRS requirements is rarely a piece of cake—er, bite of bun? Anyway, as I was saying: The rules can seem convoluted, and adhering to them requires precise documentation. Here’s how an EMR can help you remain compliant in the following areas:

Tracking Progress

In 2016, eight measures apply to physical therapy, ten to occupational therapy, and a whopping one measure applies to speech-language pathology. And the reporting requirements are pretty strict, as Brooke Andrus explains in this article: “Each eligible professional (EP) must report on nine measures across three NQS domains for at least 50% of Medicare Part B FFS patients.” That means PTs and SLPs are automatically subject to the MAV process, which allows Medicare to review their data to ensure they’ve reported on the maximum number of available measures for their specialties. With all of these complexities in mind, how do you track your progress? And how do you know that you are reporting on all of the measures available to you?

Things can get really complicated when there’s that much data to account for, but the right EMR system makes the process simple by providing you with user-friendly reports that accurately display your progress. That way, you can adjust your processes as the year goes on. Sure beats trying to manually track all of that data.

Satisfying Measures Requirements

One of the potential time-sucks of reporting PQRS data properly is the need to document your measures. It can be difficult to remember which measures to report—and at which intervals. A great EMR will prompt you to report any necessary PQRS data at the right time (e.g., some measures are only reported at initial evaluation, while others require reporting at every visit). That way, you take the guesswork out of satisfactorily reporting, and you can always count on your documentation to be compliant.

Something to be aware of: as always, your bottom line depends on your compliance. When it comes to PQRS, you’re looking at a hefty 2% negative payment adjustment in 2018 if you don’t satisfactorily report on the measures that apply to your specialty in 2016. But, if you use an EMR, you don’t have to leave anything to chance. You’ll know exactly how many patients you’ve seen, which data you’ve reported, and how far you’ve progressed toward meeting the minimum requirements for reporting.

Submitting Data

Okay, so now you know that an EMR can help you easily track your PQRS data, satisfy the reporting requirements for all your measures, and avoid the penalty. But, I’ve yet to cover one very important part of this whole shebang: actually submitting your PQRS data to Medicare. Here’s the cold, hard truth: not every EMR is equipped to handle your data. So, make sure you look for an EMR with a certified CMS PQRS registry, meaning the system automatically compiles and submits your data to CMS on your behalf. No hassle necessary.

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Attempting to report on PQRS without an EMR is a lot like preparing a hearty meal without hot buns: sad and pointless. All kidding aside, keeping track of all of the regulatory changes on your own is enough to make your head spin. But the right EMR can help you avoid penalties, stay compliant, and cleanly submit data to CMS like a hot knife through butta’.


Physical Therapy EMR: Smarter, Faster, and Better Than Ever

Technology moves at lightning speed, and that leaves many EMR systems looking outdated and cluttered with burdensome processes—at best. That said, one technology model rises above the rest in the physical therapy EMR game: SaaS, or software as a service. TechTarget defines SaaS as “a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, typically the Internet.” In the EMR market, SaaS vendors are improving software implementation, updates, and usability while addressing customer needs quickly and consistently.

Implementation

When you use a server-based EMR, getting up and running means going through a strict, inflexible implementation process. While some EMRs on the market today still require practices to jump through tons of hoops just to get started, cloud-based EMR systems are doing things differently. Thanks to the SaaS model, users can start using the software after a short setup period. This typically involves configuring settings and/or importing data. The best part? The implementation process now fits provider’s schedules—not the other way around. Now, practices can get going with their new EMRs faster than ever before, all while experiencing minimal disruption to their operations—and their cash flow.

Updates

The process of updating cloud-based EMRs also has greatly improved. Now, updates can occur as frequently as multiple times a day. That way, everyone always has the latest version of the software—without the inconvenience of manual upgrades. Moreover, changes are made more incrementally, which minimizes disruption to users and makes it easier for them to learn and adapt as the software evolves. Another plus: Providers aren’t responsible for managing the updates. As this Handshake article highlights, “Under the SaaS model, since the software is hosted by the vendor, they take on the responsibility for maintaining the software and upgrading it, ensuring that it is reliable and meeting agreed-upon service level agreements, and keeping the application and its data secure.”

Usability

Modern SaaS vendors improve EMR usability through thoughtful iterations that greatly increase system customization. Additionally, the SaaS model allows applications to adapt to the device each person is using, thus ensuring the most important functionality is available in the right context. Any iPad fans out there? Well, thanks to cloud-based technology, your EMR can adapt to your favorite device. Finally, as this TechSoup article points out, increased usability of SaaS technology eliminates the need for a robust IT team because cloud-based software systems “generally don’t require specialized knowledge for day-to-day operation and maintenance.”

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So, what EMR system is smarter, faster, and better than ever? One that uses a technology-focused SaaS model that offers superior usability, automatic updates, and simple implementation.


Use at Your Own Risk: The Downside of Server-Based Systems

Server-based EMR systems are risky business—and not in the fun, dance-in-your-skivvies-and-socks kind of way. These chunky monkeys are chock-full of old technology that expose your clinic to compliance risks and data losses. Here’s why you should steer clear of server-based systems:

Your PHI is only as secure as your clinic.

Most web-based EMR vendors store all their data with top-tier security firms, so you can be sure your patients’ protected health information (PHI) is safe. But if you have a server-based system, all your priceless information is stored on-site—often unencrypted—which makes the responsibility of securing your patients’ PHI yours and yours alone. Unless you’re storing your servers in a bank vault (and who has that kind of space?), you run the risk of a full-on HIPAA breach.

You can lose your data.

Keeping your information safe from PHI predators isn’t the only reason you should stay away from server-based systems. You also have to worry about keeping your information—period. When you use a web-based system, all your information backs up to the cloud. With servers, what you see is what you get—and when you lose the server, you could lose your clinic, too. Studies show that more than 50% of small businesses close up shop within a year of a major data loss. Those odds will never be in your favor.

You have to get down and dirty with upgrades.

If you have a server-based EMR, it’s up to you to maintain your system—and that includes performing all system upgrades. As you know, regulations change quickly and often, so you need your system to stay up to date. If you miss an update—or if your system doesn’t update at all—you’re putting yourself at risk for non-compliance. And that comes with a heap of nasty consequences like penalties, fees, rejected claims, and audits. Think system maintenance sounds tough? You’re right. If the upgrades are particularly difficult—or if you aren’t technologically inclined—you may even have to hire IT staff, which can be quite expensive. You’re better served (pardon the pun) using a system that handles updates for you.

 

Server-based systems are on the path to extinction for a reason: they can’t provide clinics with the security and reliability of their web-based counterparts. Unless you’re willing to gamble with your practice—and your reputation—ditch the digital dinosaur and move your files to the cloud.