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.


Imagine a PT-Designed EMR

Israel Green-Hopkins, MD, recently wrote a pretty interesting article for KevinMD about an imaginary physician-designed electronic medical record (EMR). He begins by saying that the thought alone “should make us all cringe,” because a clinician-designed product “is doomed [to be] limited [in] scope and lack…forward-thinking trajectory. Yet, the concept of integrating and considering the physician point of view and workflow is critical to successful EMR functionality.” While we definitely don’t agree with his first point—that a physician-designed EMR should make us cringe—we do think there is a lot to be said for a clinician-technologist partnership in the creation of a technological tool for clinicians. It just makes sense: two heads—with two specific, perfectly relevant skill sets—are most definitely better than one. And this is true for any specialty-specific technological tool. For our purposes, let’s consider the benefits of a physical therapy EMR (hopefully, imagining a PT-designed system doesn’t make you cringe, because it makes us practically giddy):

Specialty-Specific Workflow

Green-Hopkins writes: “Healthcare is a rapidly changing field and applying a blanket EMR structure to its core function seems impractical at times. Kenneth Mandl, MD, MPH, and Isaac Kohane, MD, described the paradox well in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012 when they stated that the challenge is fitting EMRs into a ‘dynamic, state-of-the-art, rapidly evolving information infrastructure.’” All of this supports the need for niche, specialty-specific—one day, interoperable—technological tools tailored to meet the needs of each practicing professional. And who knows your needs better than one of your own? No one. And who can bring technology to life to address them? An expert software developer. (It’s a pretty powerful team.) If your EMR fits you like a glove, you won’t have to worry about developing Band-Aid fixes and workarounds. Instead, you can spend your valuable time improving relationships with your patients, building your business, or enjoying your family.

Relevant Compliance Updates

There’s a lot going on in health care right now—ICD-10, the Affordable Care Act, functional limitation reporting, meaningful use, and PQRS, just to name a few. Don’t you want the person (people) who designed your EMR to know which documentation and compliance regulations apply to you—and which don’t? With a PT at the helm of your software solution, you can be sure you’ll have the best—and most relevant—tools and features before you need them. Take functional limitation reporting, for example: only PTs, OTs, and SLPs must complete this type of reporting, so a generalist EMR most likely won’t take the regulation into account. A physical therapy-specific EMR, on the other hand, focuses on the exact regulations and requirements impacting the PT community—which do not include meaningful use—so its users can properly report functional limitations and get paid.

Better Education and Support

Not only does a PT-designed EMR offer the best software for practicing physical therapists; it also offers the best in education and support. Think about it: If your EMR doesn’t come with the expertise of a real-life PT, neither will your support team, your training team, or your content team. And that’s a pretty important piece of the puzzle.

Sure, you want an amazing EMR. As Green-Hopkins points out, “In its simplest form, the EMR is a communication tool. Clinicians from every discipline and at every level use it to communicate with the patient record and, in many cases, with each other.” And this communication is critical because breakdowns can often lead to potentially dangerous medical mistakes. But in order get the most out of your application, you’ve got to know how to use it.  And in order to succeed in your field, you’ve got to know what’s happening in your industry. What better way to achieve all of the above than to choose a 360-degree PT solution led by a PT?

What do you think about a PT-designed EMR? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.


Give Yourself the Gift of EMR

The traditional gift-giving holidays are all behind us now—even Cupid has holstered his bow and arrow—but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to something really nice just because. Give yourself the gift of EMR this spring, and say goodbye to writing, filing, and lugging paper charts—a pain, whatever the season. And that’s not all. With the right EMR, you’ll get these other great gifts that just keep on giving, too:

Legible, Accessible, and Defensible Documentation

All physicians must transition to EMR by 2014, and there’s a reason for that: compared to paper charting, EMRs are better able to provide the medical community as a whole with legible, accessible, and defensible documentation. And that’s important for both patients and providers, especially as we continue to move further into this pay-for-performance, regulation-heavy healthcare environment. With an EMR, your documentation will better tell your and your patients’ stories. And you’ll never again have to sort through another towering stack of filing cabinets in search of a certain note, only to find that you can no longer read the chicken scratch that once passed for handwriting.

A Partner in Compliance

Each reporting regulation has its own unique—and often messy—set of requirements, but with the right EMR,  you’ve got a partner in compliance. Instead of stressing about all the hard-to-keep-straight details—like those for PQRS, functional limitation reporting, the 8-minute rule, and the therapy cap—you need only follow the built-in prompts and alerts to complete the requirements for the right patients, every time. Plus, your EMR can help you manage the transition to ICD-10.

Unmatched Safety and Security

Choose a cloud-based EMR, and your patient data will be safe and secure—always. You’ll have all the perks of the world’s leading data centers—like protection from natural disasters, digital video surveillance, biometric screening, and round-the-clock guards—and none of the cost or responsibility.

A Leg-Up on the Competition

For most physical therapists, referrals make up a large part of new business. With an EMR, you can maximize those referrals by tracking how many you receive and from whom. It’s a great way to identify those in your network who need a little more attention and those who deserve a big “thank you.” With an EMR, you can also display your clinic’s logo on all of your digital documents, so every note you send is a reminder to prospective referrers of your skills and professionalism. Talk about a big leg-up.

Now’s the perfect time to nix perilous paper—think of it as an extension of your annual spring cleaning—and make 2014 a year to remember with the best gift you, your clinic, and all the trees of the world could ask for: EMR.