Why a Lack of Outcomes Tracking is an EMR Dealbreaker

If you’ve been searching for a while, you probably know that a cloud-based, therapy-specific EMR solution is the way to go. You also might appreciate the importance of added benefits like built-in compliance safeguards and ICD-10 coding capabilities, billing and RCM services, and comprehensive scheduling and business reporting functionality. But, there’s one more factor you should be considering—the rehab therapy software X-factor, so to speak: outcomes tracking.

Why is outcomes tracking such a big deal? Well, at the patient level, measuring progress has always been integral to providing the best possible care. Otherwise, it’s tough to know whether the treatment you’re providing is actually working. But, with the advent of technology, PTs and OTs now have the opportunity to leverage the information they record on a larger scale—one that’ll help move the entire profession forward and ensure rehab therapists survive and, more importantly, thrive in the face of a rapidly changing healthcare payment landscape.

Now, the word “data” often carries a negative connotation, especially in the rehab therapy world. That’s because historically, payers have been the owners of that data—which means they’ve used it to justify reduced payments for physical therapy services. But now that therapists have the power to compile their own data, they have a chance to tip the scale in their favor—if they track that data in the right way, that is.

Healthcare reform initiatives are pushing all providers—rehab therapists included—to deliver higher quality care at a lower cost, all while achieving higher levels of patient satisfaction. It’s the so-called triple aim, and it’s the driving force behind the industry-wide shift to value-based payment methodologies. Soon, the outcomes your patients achieve will have a direct impact on the amount of payment you receive. And you can help make that impact a positive one by:

  • Tracking your own outcomes data—rather than leaving yourself beholden to the data payers bring to the negotiation table.
  • Using an outcomes tracking platform that will help you compile and analyze that information in a way that’s digestible and meaningful.
  • Supporting your case for higher payment rates with results that are applicable across the entire healthcare spectrum (i.e., by using outcome measurement tools that are specialty-agnostic).

Now, the term “data” might conjure up not-so-rosy visions of complex formulas and spreadsheets. In reality, though, you’re probably already halfway to the data collection finish line—and you might not even know it. Because if you use outcome measurement tools to assess patient progress, then you are, in fact, collecting data. So, why not put that information to use beyond your clinic walls?

Here’s another tidbit you might not know: there are EMR solutions out there that allow you to complete—and track the results of—outcome measurement tools directly within your documentation. These platforms even generate easy-to-read reports that tell you how your clinic is performing at the individual therapist level, at the regional level, and even at the national level. This allows you to assess and fine-tune your own clinical processes and approaches to ensure you’re always providing the best possible care. More than that, though, it allows you to prove your value to payers, referring providers, and healthcare consumers using cold, hard facts.

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So, if you’re in the market for a new EMR—or if you’re simply evaluating your current one—integrated outcomes tracking capability certainly should be one of the boxes on your checklist. That way, you can be sure your EMR isn’t just your practice’s Mr./Ms. Right Now—but its forever soulmate.


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.