Even the word “audit” sounds awful. Think about it. Did you get goose bumps, feel a looming dark presence in the room, or shudder slightly? You’re not alone; I did too. So how do you quell that nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach when you contemplate an audit? It’s simple: you make sure your practice is audit-proof. Not that you can ever prevent an audit from occurring, but you can certainly take steps to ensure that when one does occur, there’s no skin off your back. For example, if you were concerned about a potential IRS audit, you’d hire a tax expert to make sure your business practices and returns aligned exactly with the letter of the law. And if you’re concerned about a potential Medicare audit—which you should be—you’ll implement an EMR to make sure that your documentation is perfectly defensible. Today, let’s dive deeper into why an EMR will be your very best friend in the case of an audit.
Here are three reasons you’ll wish you used an EMR when you get audited:
1. Mistakes happen—and you’re liable for them
We all make mistakes—and most of the time they’re nothing to worry about. I mean, you can fix just about anything. Unfortunately, though, that’s not the case in an audit. Mistakes—even ones as simple as inverting numbers on a claim sheet or forgetting a step in functional limitation reporting—can cost you big time. Just one red flag can trigger a cascading audit that turns into an entire upheaval of your clinic—the effects of which can range from being a serious pain in the you-know-what and costing you valuable time that you could have spent treating patients to reimbursement denials, penalties, and fines that could add up to serious financial complications and even bankruptcy.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With an EMR, it’s impossible to forget anything because the application has built-in alerts to prevent you from finalizing your notes until they’re picture perfect. Plus, double data entry will be a thing of the past—as will worrying about inverting numbers. You see, your EMR can seamlessly transfer everything you enter into your documentation directly onto your claim sheet. Say goodbye to human error and hello to EMR certainty.
2. “I didn’t know” is no excuse
On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you know everything there is to know about the 8-minute rule, PQRS, functional limitation reporting, and the therapy cap? Unless you answered 11—and you’ve got plenty of spare time to stay up to date on the almost minute-by-minute changes made to these Medicare regulations—there’s a huge possibility that you’re going to miss something. And Medicare doesn’t care why. They don’t care that you’re busy treating patients, running your practice, and doing the best you can—they expect you to comply, no matter what. Miss a piece of any of these requirements and there’ll be hell—I mean penalties—to pay.
Holding all that responsibility is unrealistic. Instead, put some of it on your EMR. The people working behind the scenes of your EMR will stay up on all the nit-picky little things that go into being fully Medicare compliant so you don’t have to. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can bury your head in the sand and stop paying attention to new legislation and regulations. It just means that you have some serious help. Help that—when you get audited—will be a huge lifesaver. Just make sure you choose a web-based EMR—one that’s agile enough to constantly roll out new upgrades incorporating these uber-frequent changes as they happen. At this pace, a server-based EMR will be outdated two minutes after you buy it.
3. Not being able to find or read your notes is very, very bad
Take a few minutes to survey the mess that is your office filing cabinet. Now, go back to 2007 and pull a patient record. Can you read your notes? Are they faded or penned in chicken-scratch shorthand? Could someone else—like a cranky Medicare auditor—read and understand your writing? Would they agree that your plan of care was medically necessary? Did you do a good job justifying it? Do you even still have all your records for 2007? Suppose Medicare asked you to submit information on patient Sally Joe from her visit to your clinic on March 9, 2007. How quickly could you find the information they were requesting? Is her record complete? Are you sure? Would you bet your clinic on it?
Simply writing this blog post gives me massive amounts of anxiety, so I can only imagine how anxious you’re feeling reading it. The good news is that this process can be—are you ready for it?—easy with an EMR—and that means a lot less gray hair. You see, every note you submit is complete, defensible, and—best of all—legible. Plus, you can access any record for any patient from any date of service with just a few quick keystrokes. In other words, everything is organized. And everything will be perfectly preserved for at least the minimum seven years required by law. Did you just breathe a sigh of relief? Me too.
Now, can your clinic really stand to face an audit without an EMR? I didn’t think so. It’s time to start seriously considering what an electronic medical record will do for you—and your sanity—before it’s too late.