7 Ways to Increase Efficiency in Your Private Practice

You’ve surely heard the saying, “Time is money.” And as a physical therapist, you experience it first-hand when you bill for your timed services. But what about your non-billable hours? Are you using that time efficiently? In this Entrepreneur article, author Michael Moroney writes that “employees spend about 31 hours per month in meetings and spend less than 60% of [work] time actually working productively.” According to the infographic Maroney references in his article, the salary cost of unnecessary meetings for US businesses is $37 billion. Talk about inefficiency.

Even if your practice’s stats aren’t quite that shocking, there’s a good chance that you’re spending time on things that aren’t helping your patients, your staff members, or your bottom line. Luckily, you don’t need to overhaul your entire clinic to increase your efficiency—and you certainly don’t need to sacrifice patient care. Instead, try these seven small things to get the most out of every minute:

  1. Create and share processes. Whenever you identify a best practice—whether it be an efficient way to verify patient information or communicate instructions for a particular exercise—document it. Then, educate your staff and—when appropriate—your patients. Additionally, empower your staff members to become experts of their own domains by identifying, documenting, and sharing their own best practices—all in the name of efficiency.
  2. Keep things moving. While we definitely don’t recommend barking orders at your patients or your staff members drill sergeant-style, there may be opportunities to help everyone pick up the pace without rushing. Start paying attention to your patients’ experiences from the minute they walk into your clinic to the minute they leave. Are they spending a lot of time waiting on you or your front desk staff? If so, establish a process (see number one above) that helps speed things along at check-in. And consider prepping your therapy areas before patients arrive, so everything you need is easily accessible and ready to go. You also could enlist the help of an assistant or aide to start patients off with ultrasound, heat therapy, or warm-up exercises.
  3. See things through. As this article’s title points out, “Hand-offs are bad (but unavoidable).” Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t delegate tasks when appropriate, but passing around to-dos without cause can lead to mistakes and a lot of wasted time. Unless you have good reason to involve multiple people in a particular task, designate a lead and let that person take the reigns and see it through.
  4. Hold morning standups. Start each day with a super brief team meeting—a standing meeting ensures it won’t drag on—to review the appointment schedule and discuss any questions or concerns. Some potential topics to cover might be patients who require extra time or assistance; cancellations or open appointment slots; or changes to staff schedules. By proactively addressing these items—and others that are pertinent to your clinic—you won’t have have to deal with them in the middle of a busy day when you have a waiting room full of patients.
  5. Build promptness into your culture. If you maintain a lax attitude about timeliness in your clinic, your staff members and patients will do the same—and that can lead to dawdling employees and lots of missed appointments. Instead, lead by example: show everyone you respect your time and theirs by doing your best to stick to the schedule.
  6. Work to your strengths. Everyone has a different working style, so experiment until you find one that enhances your productivity and efficiency—rather than diminishing it. Do you enjoy back-to-back appointments in the early morning; need a two-hour break midday to catch-up on notes; or perform your best work after the sun sets? Consider your personal preferences, and whenever possible, take advantage of the times when you’re in the zone.
  7. Make friends with technology. Using the right PT-specific EMR can drastically improve your clinic’s efficiency. (Choose one that offers integrated billing and outcomes tracking tools, and your clinic will be so efficient you may find yourself with extra time on your hands.) Speaking of extra, if you’ve got some extra money in your budget this year, you also may want to consider investing in an iPad or two so your staff can access patient charts and exercise flowsheets anytime, anywhere. You could even use the tablet to pull up one of these nifty iPad apps to help patients better understand their injuries.

What steps does your clinic take to improve efficiency? Tell us in the comment section below.


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?


5 Reasons Why PTs Love Their Cloud-Based EMRs

Some physical therapy clinics seem to have it all together: documentation gets done in a flash, claims are processed—and reimbursed—with ease, and everyone’s up-to-speed on all the latest regulatory changes. Maybe they’re born with it—or maybe it’s their EMR. Great cloud-based EMRs are designed with PTs in mind; these systems help make running a clinic seem like a breeze. Here are the top five reasons why PTs love working with a cloud-based EMR:

1. Affordability

Thanks to the cloud, PTs no longer have to shell out big bucks upfront—or cover the recurring costs associated with manual updates and IT staff—to use server-based EMR systems. Plus, software-as-a-service (SaaS) EMR vendors typically offer month-to-month payment models, making a cloud-based EMR an even less risky investment—an especially crucial selling point for smaller practices. Plus, users of these systems can switch to another EMR at any time. Vendors know this, which means they’re dedicated to providing customers with the highest-quality products and support.

2. Support

Speaking of support, like your best friend (or a pint of ice cream), a good EMR vendor is there when you need it with top-notch customer service. Think you have to bust out a user manual or comb through compiled help files if you have issues during setup or implementation? Not with a cloud-based EMR that’s ready to assist you with how-to guides, extensive knowledge bases, and an expert support staff.

3. Ease-of-use

A great cloud-based EMR is simple, user-friendly, easily scalable, and flexible. PTs love that cloud-based EMR vendors provide constant software and compliance updates to improve the user experience. Some vendors even develop enhancements based on user suggestions. With cloud-based EMR systems, PTs never have to lift a finger to access the newest version of an application or waste time worrying about—or fixing—notes or claims that aren’t up to payers’ standards.

4. Security

When it comes to keeping your patient data safe and secure, never fear—cloud-based EMR is here. With bank-level security encryption, tough password guidelines, automatic data backups, audit trails, super-secure data centers, and specialized staff, cloud-based EMRs have your back (and your front, and your sides, and—you get the picture).

5. Accessibility

PTs enjoy the convenience of working with a truly cloud-based EMR, which can be accessed anytime, anywhere, from any browser, and on any Internet-enabled device (unlike those bulky server-based EMRs, which sit in your office like a bump on a log—and require downloads, installations, and manual upgrades).

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Cloud-based EMR vendors work hard behind the scenes to make documentation, billing, compliance, and practice management less of a hassle—and less of a hit to a clinic’s budget. But it’s not just about saving time and money (or wearing long-lasting makeup). A truly great EMR makes PTs feel all of the feels. Why? Because these features give PTs the freedom to get back to doing what they love most: helping patients.


Why Customer Service is a Physical Therapy EMR Must-Have

When you think about customer service, what comes to mind? Maybe you recall a situation when a business or employee went the extra mile to surprise you with an unexpected level of kindness. Or perhaps you immediately think back to a time when poor customer service—or lack of service altogether—left a bad taste in your mouth. Whether your experience was a positive one—or not—it certainly altered your perception of the business, leaving you either delighted or totally disappointed. And although you might typically think of customer service in the context of shopping, dining out, or going to the doctor, it’s also crucial that you consider this factor as you look for an EMR.

The Significance of Service

Chances are that one of the main reasons you’re shopping for an EMR is to improve your clinic’s workflow: you’re looking for something to make your processes more efficient. That said, one of the best ways you can improve efficiency is by working with an EMR that offers superior—and totally free—customer service and support. Why? Because a great support team can help tremendously throughout your lifetime as a user, helping you improve your workflow, troubleshoot problems, and optimize your use of the EMR. That’s why—when shopping for an EMR—customer service and support should be at the top of your must-have features list. As this HealthIT.gov document states, the “vendor must have reputation for exceptional customer service and support.” When you have a question about the software, you should be able to find an answer—and quickly. Furthermore, the vendor should offer online tools for self-education in tandem with efficient and friendly phone support.

The Freedom of Free Support

Clearly, it’s in your best interest to enlist an EMR that offers customer service. However, I’d strongly urge you not to pursue a software that charges for customer service. Not only could this get expensive, but it also reflects poorly on the vendor you’re evaluating. As this Fresh Desk article explains, “Most businesses end up making the cardinal mistake of assuming they are indispensable.” Remember, if you’re having difficulty with your software’s customer service, you absolutely can look elsewhere. The best EMRs are the ones that offer free customer service for the lifetime of your tenure as a user. Even better: Your “lifetime” should be flexible—with month-to-month contracts instead of long-term commitments.

If you ever have a question about a function or a feature, it’s crucial you have the ability to ask it at any point during your time using the software. You also should be aware that although some EMR vendors might say they offer free support, they might also put in the fine print that you only have access to it for a limited amount of time. If this is the case, once your time is up, you have to bear the financial burden of paying for every call and/or email just so you get the help you need to properly use the system.

The Examination of an EMR

In the words of this Dominion Systems article, “Even the best software companies need a solid backbone of customer service…” That means, even if you love the functionality of a software (even more so than the customer service), if the support is expensive—or doesn’t exist—you’re going to find yourself shopping for another system sooner rather than later. No matter how great the functionality is, you or your staff will need guidance at some point. That being said, the process of shopping for an EMR requires research and careful review of everything from functionality and workflow to customer testimonials and feedback. Conducting a quick Internet search on your vendor should give you some insight into this information. However, in addition to searching the web, you’ll need to ask your potential vendor the following questions to get a pulse on the customer service situation:

  • Does the vendor offer support?
  • If so, is customer support free?
  • Does the vendor have live support reps?
  • Where is the support team located? (If it’s outside of the US, you may find it difficult to get a hold of a representative during typical business hours.)
  • Does the free support have a time or interaction limit?
  • Are there free online educational resources?
  • Is there a community where you can submit product feedback?
  • How does the vendor respond to customer suggestions?

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All of that being said, your EMR vendor should pride itself on offering amazing—and amazingly free—customer service and support. If yours doesn’t, then it might be time to look for a new vendor.


3 Signs Your EMR Fails to Scale

If you’re ready to start expanding your practice, you’ve probably spent a great deal of time making sure your staff is on board and getting your financials in order. But have you considered the impact your EMR might have on the success or failure of your expansion venture? Here are three signs your EMR isn’t built to support a growing clinic:

1. It makes you pay per patient or per visit.

If your EMR vendor charges you per chart or per visit, it’s impeding the growth of your business—and your bottom line. Under this kind of payment structure, increasing the number of patients your clinic treats means increasing the amount you pay your software vendor each month. Instead of working with a vendor that takes a bite out of each piece of your financial pie, look for one with a payment structure that allows you to pay per user.

2. It limits your number of users, records, or patients.

This one should be pretty obvious. If your EMR caps the number of users, records, or patients you can have, it also caps your clinic’s potential for growth. To keep up with your growth, switch to an EMR that makes it possible—and easy—to add patients, users, records, and clinic locations. Better yet—choose an EMR that offers volume-based discounts to growing practices.

3. It doesn’t give you access to crucial data.

To grow your practice, you need to be able to dig into your business metrics and identify areas where you may be missing out on revenue. Your EMR should provide you with valuable metrics on both your patients and your practice. Look for a multitude of reporting options that allow you to analyze all areas of your business, including:

  • inactive patients
  • patient cancellations and no-shows
  • claim statuses
  • units billed
  • number of patients per therapist
  • types of documents created
  • missed notes
  • referral sources

Additionally, look for an EMR that gives you insight into how regulations like FLR, PQRS, and MPPR are impacting your bottom line.

Behind every great clinic is a great EMR; can you say as much about your system? Make sure your EMR gives you the data space, financial freedom, and business intelligence you need to grow. Don’t settle for an EMR that penalizes you for being successful—or one that doesn’t allow you to be successful, period.


The Software Bamboozle No One in the PT Industry is Talking About

Nowadays, shopping for business software is a lot like shopping for a car. You do a lot of online research; you ask friends and coworkers for their recommendations; and you take some test drives. One thing—besides the price tag—that can ruin the whole experience? You pulling out of the lot with your shiny, new investment—and an uneasy inkling that maybe, just maybe, you got the wool pulled over your eyes.

Of course, when you buy a car and you get that feeling, you talk to folks about it. The same can’t be said for the PT industry, though. Certain software have been duping us for many years now—and yet, we remain silent. That stops today. There are three ways physical therapy software vendors have been bamboozling their prospective customers. Let’s take a closer look.

The Web-Enabled Smoke and Mirrors

True web-based EMR systems store data within secure data centers; nothing is downloaded, installed, or stored on any customers’ computers. Customers then access that data via web browsers (e.g., Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Internet Explorer) using any device connected to the Internet. Essentially, this is how you use a web-based EMR system:

  1. You visit the website of the EMR system.
  2. You log in.
  3. You conduct your business directly through your secure login on the website.
  4. When you’re finished, you log off.

Web-enabled EMRs, on the other hand, require you to download and install a software platform that then connects to the Internet. As this article explains, “…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.” This means that like server-based systems, web-enabled ones only allow users to access the program on the computer to which it’s installed. Furthermore, every time there’s an update or upgrade, you’ve got to download and install more stuff. You also must deal with all the security drawbacks of server-based systems (i.e., storing data on local servers and managing all the hardware yourself). Plus, as the above-cited article states, “…your EMR and its data does not update online in real time,” and that’s problematic if you have multiple clinics or different therapists accessing records simultaneously. Individuals could access or alter outdated information, or accidentally save over others’ work.

In addition to coming with all of these significant drawbacks, these EMRs also usually charge per chart or employ pricing structures similar to those of their server-based forebearers, which typically involve upfront expenses, maintenance fees, and the like.

In short, web-enabled systems don’t satisfy the demands of a growing business because they’re ineffective at scaling. Vendors of these systems know that, and that’s why they never just come right out and say they’re web-enabled. Instead, they either a.) don’t specify what type of platform they are, or b.) say they’re “cloud-based” and hope that you—the customer—are none the wiser. Don’t fall for the old smoke-and-mirrors trick. After all, if a company isn’t truthful about its platform functionality, what else are they hiding?

Ask your current EMR or—if you’re shopping around—any systems on your “yes” list the following questions:

  1. Do I need to download or install anything? (With a true web-based system, you shouldn’t have to.)
  2. Does the system need to sync with the Internet periodically to update my online data? (A true web-based EMR is always functioning—and saving your data—in real time.)
  3. Will I need to store any data locally? (With a true web-based EMR, you don’t need to store any data on your computer.)
  4. When it’s time to document, how do I open the EMR? (With web-enabled software, you’ll open the program on your computer, and it’ll connect to the web. With a truly web-based system, you’ll visit a website to log in.)

The “Free” EMR Gimmick

In the world of PT, clinics typically rely on two types of software: electronic medical record systems, which handle documentation and scheduling, and revenue cycle management (RCM), which handles accounts payable and receivable. As this blog post explains, “Sometimes, you’ll see vendors advertising an ‘all-in-one’ solution, which implies the EMR and RCM live within one system…Other vendors will tout an ‘integrated solution,’ which is basically a fancy term for an EMR or RCM system that integrates with other softwares.” For an in-depth discussion of each setup’s pros and cons, I recommend this article.

One major reason to avoid the all-in-one system, though, is its fee model. Often, the vendor will offer the EMR portion of its software for free in order to gain your business. Then, you simply pay for the RCM. But watch the pricing on this “deal”; sometimes, vendors will charge high percentages per reimbursement for billing, which means the more money you make, the greater your vendor’s cut. Your billing software should take the smallest percentage possible, and the money you’d save with a “free” EMR definitely doesn’t make up for an overcharging RCM.

Before committing to any software, make sure you ask about its pricing structure and how it adjusts for your business’s growth. Then, compare it with other systems’ pricing to gauge whether the giveaways really make for a better deal.

The Per-Patient Pricing Hustle

Software costs money. But every system charges its customers in a different way and at a different rate. It’s imperative that you understand your EMR vendor’s pricing structure, because some systems charge per patient visit or chart. And that’s detrimental to your practice’s cash flow. Here’s why: The more patients you generate, the more visits you’ll have or the more charts you’ll create. That means you pay more as your business grows. In other words, you’re punished for being more successful.

Your EMR should work for you and your business, not the other way around. So, instead, look for an EMR solution with a per-user pricing model. Also, investigate whether the company sets different rates for different user types. Finally, look for a system with a cancel-anytime subscription model. This ensures you know what you’re paying for from the get-go—no surprise fees or rate hikes. That’s the kind of EMR system that works for scale.

 

Now that I’ve essentially shown you the “EMRFAX,” you’re in the driver’s seat—and you shouldn’t have any uneasy feelings or buyer’s remorse as you drive your physical therapy software off the lot. Be well-informed when you shop for EMR, RCM, and practice management platforms; trust your gut; and ask not only a lot of questions, but the right questions. You might not be able to out-sell a salesperson, but you can certainly outsmart ’em.


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.


How to Implement an EMR in 4 Easy Steps

If your PT clinic currently uses pen and paper for documentation, implementing an electronic medical record (i.e., EMR) in your clinic might seem like a daunting task. All new technology comes with a learning curve, but implementing an EMR system doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are four easy steps to get you up and running:

1. Identify your needs.

As you begin your search for an EMR, you’ll need to examine your clinic’s needs. On the most basic level, your clinic needs an EMR designed with your specific workflow in mind. That means choosing a PT-specific EMR system. The technology should improve your workflow, not make it more difficult. Additionally, the ideal EMR is web-based and comes with month-to-month terms of service. Steer clear of long-term contracts, because if your business changes, your EMR should be able to change with it. For example, you should have the flexibility to add (or remove) users, features, or whatever else your clinic might need. Moral of the story? Figure out your needs, and then choose a system that’s:

  • Web-based,
  • Designed for your speciality, and
  • Flexible enough to accommodate an ever-evolving practice.

2. Investigate technology challenges.

It’s best to base your EMR decision on how the system fits your practice—not on the technology requirements. But if you’re looking at a server-based system, technology requirements are the name of the game. Server-based systems operate using expensive servers that need IT maintenance. That means you have to invest a lot of money in equipment and possibly even bring on new staff members. In addition to the servers, you will need to make sure you have enough computers for all staff members. Furthermore, because a server-based EMR isn’t accessible from any device, it requires downloads and specific software. Web-based solutions, on the other hand, offer everything you need without the technological hassle. A web-based (not web-enabled) EMR is easy to use on any device with Internet capability—sans IT team. Be sure to ask your prospective EMR vendors about technological requirements before you make your buying decision.

3. Boost your Internet speeds.

When you’re looking at implementing a web-based EMR, you’ll want to ensure your Internet speed is fast enough. Additionally, you’ll want to take a look at your modem and router. An old modem and router can slow even the fastest Internet speeds to a snail’s pace. Another Internet speed word of caution: Running web-based applications on many computers and mobile devices can slow you down. For that reason, you’ll want to make sure your Internet connection is at least 10 Mbps (megabits per second) download. Different EMRs require different speeds, but the 10 Mbps rule is a good starting point. Keep in mind that your total Mbps gets divided among all of the devices in use at a particular time—which means the faster your Internet connection, the faster your EMR. If you’re curious about your own Internet speed, check out this speed test (it’s free).

4. Train, train, and train some more.

You may—or may not—include your staff in your EMR buying decisions. But it’s crucial that you do include them in training. For successful EMR implementation in your clinic, you must have your staff on board with the transition. Training is the best way to ensure your employees are comfortable with the new system before you implement it—which in turn boosts their confidence when it comes time to go live. A good EMR vendor will offer high-quality support and training—for free. Exceptional vendors also provide educational blog posts and webinars on a wide variety of PT industry topics as well as on-demand, online training courses.

 

Keep these four tips in mind for a smoother EMR implementation. Have questions? Leave them in the comments section below, and we’ll get you an answer as soon as we can.


5 PT Industry Predictions for 2015

I’m no fortune teller; I don’t have a crystal ball, and I can’t see into the future. But like a good sports analyst or meteorologist, I can make some educated hypotheses. And while I definitely couldn’t tell you who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month—or what the weather will be like at kick-off—I’m pretty confident about these five predictions of the topics and trends that will have the biggest impact on the physical therapy community in 2015:

1. Outcomes

The healthcare industry is changing, and in the never-ending quest to control costs while simultaneously elevating the quality of care patients receive, outcomes have emerged as a vital component of the pay-for-performance reimbursement models many payers are embracing.

For physical therapists, outcomes have traditionally provided a mechanism for staying ahead of the game—for gaining a competitive edge in insurance contract negotiations and referral marketing efforts. As we enter 2015, however, outcomes are fast becoming necessary to merely stay in the game. To truly capitalize on our strengths—and own our roles—as healthcare providers in the current medical landscape, PTs must be able to objectively demonstrate the effectiveness of their care.

You all know how amazing you are; you witness incredible outcomes in your clinics every day. But physicians and insurance companies can’t see those results firsthand; they can’t experience the human impact of what you do. What they can see, though, are the numbers representing those results, and in our increasingly data-driven society, that information holds a lot of weight. Additionally, outcomes tracking allows practices to assess clinical team performance through benchmarking. Practice owners and directors can then use that data to make informed business decisions, enabling them to better manage their therapists and their practices as a whole. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

2. Consolidation

The therapy industry has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. Back when I first started practicing—almost 20 years ago—it was all about the big dogs. Then the economy did a 180, and things started breaking up. At that point, independent private practice clinics stepped into the spotlight, which did wonders in the patient care department. But now, with ever-increasing regulations and declining reimbursements, consolidation is making a comeback. Faced with shrinking profit margins—but not wanting to close their doors for good—many clinic owners are considering joining forces with larger practices that have the business resources necessary to contend with the market forces working against them. And while, according to this report from Harris Williams & Co., smaller, independently-owned practices still account for about 45% of the physical therapy market, many of those businesses are having a tough time expanding “outside of their local footprint due to underdeveloped referral sources and infrastructure.”

So, while I think we’re probably going to see a swing back to a less-fragmented landscape—a return of the big dogs, if you will—I also believe that this time around, things will be a lot different. Why? Well, most importantly, the people at the helm of these large practices are PTs—rather than hired CEO guns. So unlike the private equity-owned, HMO-driven mega-corporations of the past, these owners don’t see patients as just dollar signs. In 2015, I foresee a lot of PT businesses partnering, consolidating, buying in, and taking on private equity funding. And all of that means that influential, business-minded PTs—specifically, some key heavy-hitters in our industry—will maintain the power.

In my book, change is inevitable, and we here at WebPT support industry changes —so long as PTs have the final say over what happens in our profession, and so long as those in this industry make decisions that increase our clout, respect, and autonomy within the healthcare community.

3. ICD-10

Try as they might, ICD-10 resistors aren’t gaining any ground in their efforts to further delay the implementation of these diagnosis codes. And while we may see some additional efforts to put off the inevitable—particularly in conjunction with the SGR fix legislation that likely will come around (again) in March—I truly believe that the switch to ICD-10 will occur October 1, 2015. What does that mean for you and your practice? If you haven’t already started preparing for the transition, then now’s the time to get going. I recommend checking out the resources on ICD10forPT.com. There’s a good deal that goes into getting ICD-10-ready, from learning the new code structure and ensuring the readiness of your vendors to evaluating your staffing needs and preparing for reimbursement delays.

4. EMR Switches

According to Robocop, Back to the Future 2, and The 6th Day, the year 2015 was supposed to feature cyborg police officers, hoverboards, and successful human cloning. Disappointingly, many of us in the healthcare industry instead will start this year with a strong desire to turn our backs on technology—and throw our computers out the window. Why? Well, the majority of our industry has switched from paper charting to EMR documentation, and while we certainly aren’t living in a Robocop-esque dystopian society, many PTs’ EMRs make them feel like they are. That’s why I envision 2015 to be the year of EMR-switching. Ultimately, there’s no reason for any PT to stay stuck in time with his or her lemon of an EMR, because believe it or not, there actually are great EMR systems out there—and there’s nothing fictitious about that science. And in 2015, PTs will go out and find them.

5. The Rise of the Patient

Back in the old days, getting more patients meant you had to get more physician referrals. And while doctors are still an important source of new business for physical therapists, patients are increasingly taking their health into their own hands. Because in this day and age, researching symptoms and vetting treatment options is as easy as hitting your Enter key. With that kind of power, patients no longer have to consult with their primary care providers to learn how physical therapy can help them. And with direct access to therapy services rapidly shifting from being the exception to being the rule—thanks to legislation passed last year, some form of direct access to physical therapy now exists in all 50 states—I predict that in 2015, we will really start to see a deviation from the traditional patient path to PT.

As physical therapists, we’re all about progress—and based on my predictions for 2015, we’re going to see plenty of progress in our industry over the next 12 months. Of course, there will be plenty of challenges, too. But although we might have to break a few tackles, if we keep playing tough—if we can we continue to move the ball down the field—we’ll score some major points this year.


4 Reasons Your EMR is Bad for Business

Your clinic already has an EMR, but it’s less than ideal. In fact, you frequently wonder whether it might bring you more satisfaction if you threw the whole computer off the roof of your building. But don’t despair. There are actually good ones out there. Here are four reasons why your current EMR is bad for business and it’s time to make a switch:

1. It’s designed for physicians.

While they share a doctoral title and a love for caring for people, physical therapists and physicians certainly don’t share the same documentation needs. If your EMR is designed for an MD instead of a PT, you’re probably having a heck of a time developing Band-Aid fixes and workarounds to ensure you can complete your documentation compliantly and thus, get paid. So ditch that bad-for-business EMR and switch to one that’s designed for therapists. After all, you want an EMR that’s tailored to your needs. Just think: functional limitation reporting, 8-minute rule monitoring, and therapy cap tracking all built right in. Plus, you’ll have a system that follows your workflow, which’ll save you oodles of time.

2. It’s server-based.

If your EMR is running on a server, you’re shelling out way more money and time than you should be. Not only do you have to worry about securing your patients’ protected health information (PHI), but you’re also responsible for updating the system to ensure you have the latest compliance features—if your server-based EMR vendor upgrades its technology at all. Who’s got time for that? Toss your server-based EMR in the trash heap and adopt a web-based one instead. You’ll be able to securely access your documentation anywhere you have an Internet connection. And because most web-based EMR vendors store all their data with top-tier security firms, you can be sure your patients’ PHI is safe. As if that weren’t enough, you’ll also gain the benefit of never having to perform a manual upgrade again. Instead, your EMR vendor will automatically update the system for you, so you’ll always have the latest technological advancements and relevant compliance features at your fingertips.

3. It costs an arm and a leg—and a chart.

Your EMR should increase your cash flow, not deplete it. So if you’re using a system that charges you per chart or per visit, where’s your incentive to grow? The more patients you add, the more you’re paying your software vendor. That doesn’t sound right. Good thing there’s another payment model available. Move to an EMR that offers you a monthly, membership-style payment structure so your technology can grow with you, not cap your growth. Plus, look for a solution that doesn’t lock you into long-term contracts or hold your data hostage. That way, you’ll never again feel stuck with an EMR that’s bad for business.

4. It doesn’t include free training and support.

If you’re paying extra for support and training—or worse yet, there’s no one available to answer your calls—your EMR is definitely bad for business. Sure, your system should be intuitive and easy to use, but good training should be a given and support should always be available just in case you need it. The last thing you want is to have an urgent question and either not be able to reach someone or have to shell out your hard-earned dollars just so you can get back to work. Instead, opt for an EMR vendor that prides itself on providing exceptional customer support and training—for free.


If any of the above rings true about your current EMR, then there’s no denying it: your system is bad for business. Replace it with a better option—namely,
WebPT. For more information on how WebPT blows your current EMR out of the water, schedule a free demo today.