Electronic medical record (EMR) systems are becoming increasingly more common in the healthcare world. In fact, data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that approximately 86.9 percent of all healthcare providers in the United States today are currently using some type of EMR or EHR (electronic health record).
While some of this increase is likely due to the implementation of the HITECH Act—an act established in 2009 which incentivized EMR implementation for specific healthcare professionals in an effort to improve the quality and safety of patient care—this type of electronic record-keeping system does offer a number of benefits for physical therapy providers as well.
According to research published in the journal Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, use of an EMR has been found to increase office-wide adherence to clinical guidelines and governmental regulations. It can also reduce patient-related errors, increase revenues, and even leads to higher levels of job satisfaction among the people who use them.
Whether you are purchasing a system for the first time or looking to update your current EMR, here are five factors to consider when choosing EMR for your physical therapy business.
#1: Ease of Use
Have you ever bought a new piece of technology and, despite reading the directions or watching a number of different online videos, you still can’t seem to figure it out? While this can be frustrating with a personal device, when it happens with an EMR, it can be disastrous because it means not being able to update patient records, handle billings, or even do something as simple as schedule an appointment.
One of the very first things to look at is how easy the EMR system is to use. In other words, can you easily get from one area of the system to the next or transition between functions without much thought? Does its setup make logical sense?
It’s important to remember it may take you some time to be fluid within the system you do choose. However, if you’re having trouble understanding how it flows from one screen to the next or if it requires complicated actions that you’re struggling with from the very beginning, you may want to move on.
#2: Integration Capabilities
If you choose an EMR that can integrate a number of basic office practices, you’re able to handle a majority of functions in just one system. This saves time because the information will automatically transfer from one area of the system to another, which also reduces the likelihood of error by not having to manually enter data in two or more places.
What are some areas that can be integrated? Patient scheduling is one and billing is another. However, if your physical therapy office uses electronic diagnostic or treatment devices, some EMRs will integrate with those as well, making updating patient records almost effortless.
#3: Online Patient Portal Considerations
On average, how many times a day does your phone ring with physical therapy patients wanting to set an appointment? How much of your day is spent waiting for new patients to fill out forms or current patients to update their medical information? You can reduce both of these incidences simply by choosing an EMR which offers an online patient portal.
An online portal enables your physical therapy patients to go to your site and set or change their appointments themselves. In fact, many prefer this as one healthcare survey found that, whereas 42 percent of patients wish they could take care of their scheduling needs online themselves, only about one-third of that amount (17 percent) get the opportunity.
Online portals also allow patients to download any intake or medical update forms you have, making it possible to complete them prior to showing up at their scheduled time. Not only is this beneficial because it saves you time, but it also makes working with your office more convenient for the people you serve.
#4: Report-Related Factors
Another factor to consider before purchasing an EMR is what type of reports it’s able to compile. In healthcare and in business, there is certain data you want to keep track of to know where your business stands (whether it’s profitable or operating at a loss, for instance) or to ensure that you’re compliant with all governmental regulations.
By running reports regularly, you’re able to easily compile the data necessary to ensure that your practice is on track. This can save a lot of time by not having to manually create these reports yourself. It can also save a lot of frustration (and money) due to having inefficient or non-compliant office practices and maybe not realizing it.
#5: Cloud Versus Server Options
A final consideration to make prior to your purchase is whether you want an EMR that is cloud-based or server-based. What’s the difference?
A cloud-based EMR stores all of your data on external, off-site servers that are accessible via the internet, much like how Apple uses the cloud to store all of its user’s contacts and photos. A server-based EMR, on the other hand, stores all of your data onsite via software that is installed right at your physical therapy office.
One huge benefit of a cloud-based EMR is that you’re able to access your data anywhere you have an internet connection. One drawback is since you’re storing your patient and office information on the cloud, you’ll always have to pay for access to it, which means regularly recurring costs—even if you switch to another system—unless you download all of the information and store it somewhere else.
Using a server-based EMR solves this issue because, once you purchase the software, it is yours and you always have access to the data it stores. However, this type of system can cost more upfront since you have to pay for it all at one time versus paying a monthly subscription fee. Plus, there is no backup if your system goes down and you have to update the system yourself.
Choosing the right electronic medical record can be simplified as long as you pay attention to these five factors, you will choose the best one for your physical therapy practice.