Do Cash-Based Practices Need an EMR?

Many therapists are beginning to add cash-based services to their practice offerings—everything from gait analysis and golf fitness programs to aquatic therapy and deep tissue massage. After all, as Brooke Andrus writes in this post, “…in the current environment of declining reimbursements from third-party payers, adding cash-pay options to your practice’s current menu of services isn’t only smart—it might just be necessary to secure your survival.”

For some, offering a few cash-pay wellness services on the side might be enough, but for others, like physical therapist Ann Wendel, it’s cash-based all the way. While this business model certainly alleviates a lot of headaches when it comes to dealing with payer contract negotiations and increasingly stringent payment regulations, operating a cash-based practice isn’t all sunshine and rainbows—which is why even cash-based practices need an excellent EMR. Here are a few of the biggest reasons cash-based practitioners should equip themselves with top-notch EMR system:

Your patients still need insurance reimbursement, even if you don’t.

Sure, you get paid immediately, but many patients who are willing to pay out of pocket for physical therapy services do so because they’re able to submit claims to their health insurance providers and receive reimbursement directly. In this post, Wendel writes, “You may find it shocking, but my documentation and billing practices are not that different from [those of a PT in a traditional practice]. The end goal…is to get paid—it’s just that in my case, it’s the patient who is waiting for reimbursement.”

To ensure your patients are able to continue benefiting from your services, you have to help them get their money back—and that requires the same attention to quality documentation and billing processes you’d need to demonstrate if you were collecting reimbursements for yourself. But you’re not going to get that level of quality with pen and paper—or with a subpar EMR. That’s because only the best EMR solutions feature the alerts and safeguards necessary to ensure you create correct and comprehensive documentation that supports your invoices, gets them paid the first time around, and helps you generate those invoices and track patient payments—all within one streamlined system. And only the right EMR securely stores all that information—along with your patients’ medical records—so you can access it anywhere, anytime while remaining fully HIPAA-compliant. Plus, a physical therapy-specific EMR provides SOAP note formats that fit your workflow, so documentation is a breeze.

An EMR does more than improve documentation.

No matter how you choose to collect payment for your services (i.e., via cash pay or through third-party insurance providers) you still have a practice to run. And there are some practice management benefits that only the right EMR can provide. These include:

Scheduling

An integrated scheduling feature allows you to view and edit schedules for patients, therapists, and treatment rooms. And, because your calendar is connected to your documentation, your patient records and patient appointments are linked—thus enabling you to gain valuable insight from tracking no-shows, cancellations, and lost patients.

Automatic Patient Reminders

Sending your patients automatic appointment reminders via phone, text, or email can help you maximize your office hours and reduce no-shows. Plus, you can track your results directly within the EMR.

Referral Reports

Curious as to which referral sources are generating the most business for you—and which ones might need a bit of extra attention? Use referral reports to identify the marketing efforts that are worth your while.

Information Sharing

Whether it’s with your own staff or other members of a patient’s healthcare team, information sharing is critical to ensuring excellent care at every level. Use your EMR to easily communicate with staff via secure instant messaging and with external providers via secure email and faxing. Plus, with the right EMR, all of your external communication will be legible and branded with your clinic logo (talk about a leg up on the professionalism front).

Outcomes Tracking

An integrated outcomes tracking solution allows users to collect objective data, thus empowering them to prove their value and enhance patient care. With a library of standardized, industry-accepted tests, you can set concrete performance goals and track your team’s progress toward them. That’s great for your patients—and for your bottom line.

Security

HIPAA breaches are incredibly costly and can destroy patient trust, which is critical in a provider-patient relationship. With the right EMR, the burden of keeping PHI safe doesn’t rest solely on your shoulders, because the application is fully HIPAA compliant and stores all your data in a world-class, extremely well-guarded data center. Now, that’s a whole lot better than keeping it in a filing cabinet in your clinic—fireproof lock or not.

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In case you’re wondering, Wendel uses WebPT, because she likes the portability of a web-based application, the fact that she doesn’t need to store paper charts in her basement for seven years, and the professional quality of the notes she’s able to securely send to physicians and other healthcare professionals on her patients’ care teams.

Want to learn more about the best EMR for cash-based practices? Schedule your complimentary demo of WebPT today.


6 Ways an EMR Keeps Your Data Safe from Hackers

Sadly, the Internet is full of folks looking to steal your personal information, and while most people probably are keenly aware of the need to protect their Social Security numbers (SSNs) and credit card accounts, many don’t realize that their medical identities also are vulnerable to hackers. According to NBC News, the Ponemon Institute estimates more than 2.3 million adult Americans have either been the victim of or know someone who has been a victim of medical identity theft during or before 2014. Even scarier? The institute’s fifth annual survey revealed that medical identity theft rose by 22% in 2014—and that rate shows no signs of slowing down. Forbes reports that in this year alone, three major health insurers—Anthem, Premera, and CareFirst—were hacked. These major data breaches exposed tens of millions of patient records, leaving those patients at risk for medical identity theft.

Using stolen patient information, criminals can fraudulently receive medical care—inherently altering victims’ medical records and racking up costly medical bills in those patients’ names. If you’re a medical provider, the responsibility of preventing data breaches—and the legal and financial consequences of failing to do so—is on you. But you aren’t in this fight alone. Here are several ways top-notch cloud-based EMR systems keep your patient data safe:

1. Bank-level security encryption

An industry standard, bank-level security encryption scrambles up your information (sort of like my breakfast this morning), so you can safely transmit it over the Internet using a cypher (i.e., an encryption algorithm)—like a 256-bit or better Secure Socket Layer (SSL)—and a cipher key. Furthermore, as this resource explains, “Data transmitted over an SSL connection cannot be tampered with or forged without the two parties becoming immediately aware of the tampering.”

2. Password guidelines

Password-protected access is a given for any technology company worth its salt, but your EMR also should have strict password guidelines to better protect your patient data. For extra security, look for the TRUSTe Certified Privacy badge on your EMR vendor’s website. To earn the privilege of displaying that badge, the EMR must:

  1. employ strict password guidelines that ensure complete login security, and
  2. feature unique password-protected access to ensure HIPAA compliance.

3. Automatic data backups

When was the last time you backed up your data? (Insert cricket noises.) Yeah, that’s what I thought. Not to worry: your EMR has your back. Armed with automatic data backups—with multiple replication processes to boot—your EMR will never lose your all-important patient data, even if you lose power or Internet connection.

4. An audit trail

This special feature helps discourage hackers—and fraud in general—by tracking user activity (criminals don’t want to get caught, after all). So long as providers keep it turned on, an audit trail maintains a chronological record of all attempts to access patient data. It records the data accessed, who accessed it, and when and from where it was accessed.

5. Specialized staff

Great customer service reps are hard to find, but when it comes to protecting your patients’ protected health information (PHI), the search is crucial. That’s why awesome EMR vendors take the time to hire and train staff who are well-versed in online security measures and at the ready to provide you with their expertise.

6. Data centers

To ensure HIPAA compliance, the best EMRs house all their—and thus, your—data at state-of-the-art data centers. These data centers must possess bank-level security and supreme encryption methods that render data unreadable—even if hackers somehow get to it. WebPT, for example, stores all of its data at IO Data Center, a Tier III-Certified facility that provides multiple layers of access control, including a defensible perimeter, video surveillance, biometric screening, and round-the­-clock security guards.

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Often, the victims of medical identity theft remain unaware of the crime for months—or even years. Upon discovery, victims usually have a difficult time determining how it happened, and they often struggle to undo the damage. Make sure your patients don’t fall victim to medical identity theft. Web-based physical therapy software vendors—specifically, those that built their systems from scratch with the Internet in mind—are your practice’s best defense against cyber attackers.


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.


Speak and Spell: Sounding Out Common Healthcare Jargon

Imagine: It’s 1985 and you’re fresh out of batteries. And that—unfortunately—means your spelling mentor (housed in bright red plastic) is out of commission for the night. It looks like you’ll be going to bed early—and without the familiar, robotic voice of Speak & Spell to coax you into dreamland. Okay, so you’re probably wondering what an old-school children’s toy has to do with you—or this post. Well, that’s a great question, and the answer lies in the alphabet soup that makes up the modern glossary of healthcare jargon. As a PT, you’re bombarded with new terms that pop up left and right. In fact, with so many new vocab words and acronyms, you might not feel much different than you did as a child in our hypothetical ’80s drama—ready to call it a night. But luckily for you, the human mind doesn’t require batteries (yet) and you won’t have to go to bed early if you can’t make it through this list. With that being said, let’s get to sounding out a few of the most common healthcare jargon terms:

EHR: Electronic health record

Electronic health records (EHRs) are digital records that focus on the overall health of the patient. These systems typically include the patient records, notes, and other medical information that’s easily accessible across multiple specialties and healthcare organizations.

EMR: Electronic medical record

EHR and EMR might seem like interchangeable terms. However, the two are distinctly different. An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital version of paper documentation. These records typically contain data that can be easily tracked and accessed within a practice. However, they’re not typically designed to integrate with systems in other settings (e.g., labs and specialty medical offices).

FLR: Functional limitation reporting

Floor? Flower? But, without the letters o, w, and e? Well, not quite. Functional limitation reporting (FLR) doesn’t really sound like any of those words. However, it does sound like The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will continue looking for new ways to inform the development rehab therapy payment structures—and FLR is part of these attempts. To satisfy FLR requirements, all eligible Medicare providers must report on their Medicare patients’ functional limitations to objectively demonstrate the connection between rehab therapy and patient progress.

HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996

HIPAA sounds a lot like the word hippo. But this law doesn’t spend its time snoozing underwater. Rather, it serves to maintain privacy policy standards in order to protect patients’ sensitive health information per the Privacy Rule. This rule impacts how “covered entities” (e.g., healthcare providers, clearinghouses, health plans, and business associates) handle protected health information (see PHI below).

PHI: Protected health information

“And I’m PHI, PHI falling.” Uh, not quite. Protected health information (PHI) is any health information—in any form—that could individually identify a patient. Typically, PHI refers to patient demographics, but it also includes a variety of other data points that healthcare professionals collect.

PQRS: Physician Quality Reporting System

You might find yourself (or the nearest five-year-old) reciting PQRS as you sing through the alphabet. Or, if you treat Medicare patients, you might find yourself cursing these four letters. PQRS is a CMS system that encourages eligible professionals and group practices to provide measurable data on their quality of care by reporting on a series of measures. As of 2015, practices that do not meet the standards for satisfactory reporting will incur a penalty that will negatively impact reimbursements rates in 2017. Fun, right?

As it turn out, you don’t actually need those glowing green letters to decode the latest healthcare jargon.


One-Size-Fits-All Software Zaps Productivity

Have you ever worn one-size-fits-all clothing? If not, let me give you a word of advice: it’s not actually made to fit everyone. If you wear it, you’ll likely spend half your day tugging, twisting, and jerry-rigging your outfit so it works for your body. Sounds pretty annoying, right? Now imagine applying that same one-size-fits-all approach to EMR software. As a 2010 UC Davis study discovered, implementing that kind of technology could spell disaster for your practice.

This four-year study focused on roughly 100 physicians—specializing in either internal medicine, pediatrics, or family practice—from six primary care offices, all of which were part of a large primary care physician network affiliated with an academic medical center. These offices had implemented a multimillion-dollar information technology system that “digitized patient records and allowed for electronic prescriptions and messaging.” The three researchers collected data on work hours and output levels from before and after implementation to analyze the impact the EMR had on productivity.

The research findings suggest that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. After an initial—and expected—drop in productivity post-implementation, researchers found that the internal medicine physicians and their staff were able to adjust to the new technology. And once they did, they rebounded to a slightly higher level of productivity. However, the pediatric and family practices involved in the study never returned to their original productivity levels.

Why? According to Heman Bhargava, associate dean and professor of management and computer science at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, this kind of software can’t accommodate the needs of every practitioner. In fact, there’s a “‘mismatch between technology design and the work-flow requirements and health administration expectations for individual care units.’” Bhargava affirms that “‘the ideal technology design should vary by physicians’ requirements and work-flow demands.’”

Would you settle for a shirt made to fit what an industry has deemed “average” in size and shape? Certainly not. (And who wants to be considered average, anyhow?) So why would you settle for an EMR that isn’t tailored to your physical therapy practice? A therapy-specific EMR is designed to mimic the workflow of your clinic, meaning the documentation, scheduling, practice management, billing, and compliance features are built for the way you work. And that allows you to document efficiently, maintain full HIPAA compliance, decrease patient no-shows, save time and hard-earned dollars, and grow your business.

One-size-fits-all software can’t offer the kind of specialization your industry requires, and spending precious time adjusting a non-therapy specific software to fit your clinic’s unique workflows and documentation needs isn’t simply a mild irritation; it’s a serious problem that affects your clinic’s overall productivity—and, ultimately, your bottom line. You chose to specialize in physical therapy; you deserve to work with a software company that chose to specialize in PT, too. Still not sure what the big deal is? See for yourself.


EMR Compliance + Clinic Compliance = Complete HIPAA Compliance

Got EMR? Great! But don’t assume that means you’ve got total compliance. Your EMR company has (or should have) compliance safeguards to ensure that their systems are secure, but your EMR is just one part of the compliance equation. To truly keep your clinic’s protected health information (PHI) secure, you must account for all the variables, like access to your facility, workstations, and devices as well as staff training on proper procedure.

According to the new HIPAA Security Rule, covered entities are obligated to “maintain reasonable and appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards for protecting e-PHI.” If you are a covered entity—i.e, a “health care provider who transmits health information in electronic form in connection with a transaction for which the Secretary of HHS has adopted standards under HIPAA”—then you must:

  • Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all PHI they create, receive, maintain, or transmit.
  • Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats to the security or integrity of the information.
  • Protect against reasonably anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures.
  • Ensure workforce compliance.

While you know that ensuring compliance is mandatory, tackling the HIPAA security requirements can seem a bit overwhelming and time-consuming. Where do you start? Well, let’s break it down. A recent article from Healthcare IT News outlines some of steps you should take to keep your clinic compliant, including:

  • Learn the ins and outs of your EMR’s security features, then ensure they are properly configured and enabled.
  • Establish—and routinely evaluate—your policies, procedures, audit trails, and security measures to ensure total compliance with HIPAA requirements.
  • Designate a HIPAA compliance officer at your clinic.
  • Clearly communicate each staff members’ HIPAA compliance responsibilities.
  • Restrict PHI access (through user authentication or encryption) to only those whose individual’s job roles and/or responsibilities require it.
  • Conduct an annual HIPAA security risk analysis.
  • Mitigate and address security risks—like deficient security, lack of administrative and physical controls, and easy access to workstations or systems where you keep PHI.

Relying exclusively on your EMR to keep your PHI secure doesn’t add up to complete clinic compliance. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to protect all your patient data. To mitigate your risk for HIPAA violations, you must create your own physical, technical, and administrative safeguards.


Four Web-Based EMR Myths Exposed

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.


Web-Based vs. Web-Enabled: The Tale of Two EMRs

So much of what we do nowadays, we can accomplish online—from tax preparation and banking to movie watching and shopping. It’s no wonder that so many electronic medical record (EMR) systems—tools that allow medical providers to digitally document, schedule, and bill—are accessible online, too. Of course, these EMRs aren’t all the same. Most do not take into account the workflow or treatment style specific to physical therapy. Beyond that, some aren’t even truly “online.” That’s right, there are server-based EMRs out there masquerading as web-based applications by calling themselves “web-enabled.” Don’t be fooled; here’s why you should skip the tricksters and go for the real deal:

True Web-Based

In a cloud- or web-based system, the EMR stores your clinic’s data—which can include anything from patient records to appointment schedules—within secure data centers. You can then access that data online using any web-enabled device with an Internet connection. You don’t store your data on internal hardware (e.g., the computers at your practice). Instead, you access your EMR—and all of the information it contains—via your web browser (e.g., Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Internet Explorer). With that kind of flexibility, you can document, schedule, and bill from anywhere, at any time. And many web-based EMRs charge month-by-month and do not have contracts—making them a very affordable option.

Server-Based

In contrast, server-based systems require your practice to store all its data as well as the EMR software itself. This means you need a server, corresponding hardware, and quite possibly an IT person or staff simply to maintain everything. It also means that you can only access the EMR from the computers on which it’s installed. To offset the costs associated with producing and supporting such expensive equipment and software, server-based companies use long-term contracts to ensure returns on their investments. Frequently, they also tack on maintenance and support charges, which ups the upfront expense and long-term cost burden on your end.

Web-Enabled

In an attempt to compete with the web-based EMRs hitting the market, many server-based systems have developed “web-enabled” versions. With these pseudo-cloud options, you still have to install software on your computer, and your computer still does all the processing. However, at certain intervals, the software will connect to the Internet to sync your account and data to the cloud. So even though your access is a bit more flexible, your EMR and its data does not update online in real time. Furthermore, such software may require you to manually sync the software with the web. Not only is this process tedious and time-consuming, but also your practice will still need the aforementioned hardware, servers, and IT staff.

Why You Want the Real Deal

At the end of the day, web-enabled EMRs are basically just as clunky as their server-based predecessors as they often require additional hardware, servers, and IT resources. Talk about cumbersome. Plus, business in the modern world is inextricably tied to Internet capability. Workers in every sector—health care included—have come to expect the convenience of anytime, anywhere access to their files. And they want all that data in real time. Web-enabled simply can’t provide that.

Furthermore, if you have multiple clinics or different therapists accessing records simultaneously, you run the risk of individuals accessing or altering data that’s not current. When the EMR connects to the Internet to sync, someone’s entries might replace someone else’s work depending on timestamps. I hate when someone accidentally saves over work I’m doing in a shared file, and I’m just writing blog articles. Imagine if it were a patient’s record! Another drawback of web-enabled: you must download and install web-enabled software, meaning it resides only on the computer to which it’s installed and you can only access it from that computer. Talk about chained to your office. 

When you go with web-enabled rather than true web-based, you also must deal with the security drawbacks of server-based systems. Storing data on local servers, like the computer under your front desk, is just about as secure as keeping your money under a mattress; there’s no failsafe. True web-based systems, on the other hand, provide top-notch security features like unique password-protected access, bank-level security encryption, and automatic data backups. And the best web-based EMR vendors keep your data in a secure, defensible facility with 24/7 surveillance.

Because web-based EMRs undergo regular updates, they can easily integrate new compliance measures as they’re introduced. Built-in alerts ensure you always document completely, correctly, and defensibly.

Another reason to go web-based: the trust factor. Server-based EMR systems never manage your data. You do, because the data is stored locally, like on that server under your desk. So, when server-based systems switch to web-enabled, they’re essentially entering uncharted territory. That’s an issue. It takes a particular skillset to not only develop an application, but securely and compliantly manage the data associated with it. You want to go with the people who are the experts and have been managing data all along. Patient medical records are too important to trust with the inexperienced.

Lastly, true web-based EMRs are more cost-effective over the lifetime of the service than web-enabled EMRs because they feature low, month-to-month, per user costs. Web-enabled EMRs either offer the pricing structures of their server-based forebearers (contracts, hefty upfront investments, maintenance fees, etc.) or employ cost-per-chart pricing. You’re 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 that you add. In my book, your EMR should work for you and your business, not the other way around.

How to Avoid Getting Tricked by Web-Enabled

The value of EMR is pretty clear—as it relates not only to your business’s bottom line, but also to the quality of care delivered to your patients. Now it’s imperative that you choose a true web-based system by asking the following questions:

  1. Do I need to download anything? (With a true web-based system, you don’t need to download anything.)
  2. Do I need to install anything? (With a true web-based system, you don’t need to install anything.)
  3. Does your EMR need to sync with the Internet occasionally to update my online data? (A true web-based EMR is always functioning in real time.)
  4. Will I need to store any data locally? (With a true web-based EMR, you needn’t store any data on your computer.)
  5. When it’s time to document, how do I open the EMR? (You access a true web-based EMR simply by opening your web browser, going to the service’s website, and logging in.)

Your documentation is important. It’s how you demonstrate your expertise and value; it’s also how you prove that the services you provide are beneficial and necessary. That’s why you should choose an EMR worthy of you and the great work that you do. For that reason, go with a physical therapy-specific, cost-per-month, web-based EMR. It’s secure, mobile, and compliant; it’s quick to adapt and update; and it’s super easy to use. Most importantly, it is what it says it is. If an EMR vendor isn’t truthful about how its product actually operates, what else is the company hiding? Your EMR should be a reliable, honest business partner, dedicated to helping you achieve greatness in practice. Don’t settle for an EMR that provides you with anything less.