There are many costs that go into running a physical therapy (PT) practice that are above and beyond just the equipment and expertise needed to care for your patients. The costs of running an office, overhead and other supplies must be put into the budget. One of the biggest costs is the overhead of managing your PT practice documentation. That is a cost that is easy to lose control over, especially if you have mountains of paperwork to fill out, store and eventually dispose of.
Maintaining a totally paper-based PT documentation program also runs opposite of the trend that is gaining momentum in all areas of business and private life, as well, and that is the trend toward earth-friendly or "green" practices to do what we can to help the environment. Those mountains of paper that you need to keep adequate patient, insurance and legal documentation represent a serious problem for any plans you have of becoming a green-oriented physical therapy practice.
The migration toward green lifestyles at the personal and professional levels is laudable, there is no doubt. However, despite the enthusiasm that exists in our culture to make those changes, you have a practice to run and your paper-based PT practice documentation is crucial to your success and how you operate your practice. As such, any changes you make to move toward a more environmentally sensible documentation management system has to pass the following criteria:
- There must be a migration path that does not cause disruption to your practice.
- There must be a means to continue using the older, paper-based system while making the change to automated PT practice documentation management systems.
- The switch to an automated system must not put a tremendous financial strain on your practice.
- The switch must be a good fit to how you operate your practice.
- The new automated system must be easy to use for anyone who must access PT patient data for your practice.
As much as it is a good idea to go green, if the new automated system does not meet every one of the criteria listed above, you have a right to delay the decision to go digital with your PT practice management documentation system. That is the responsible thing to do for the sake of your patients, your staff and your practice.
The good news is that there are very well-developed PT practice documentation management systems that not only facilitate your move to a digital record keeping system, but they bring with them a host of efficiencies that more than justify the move even if the environmental impact issue was not part of your motivation for the change. Electronic medical records (EMR) systems introduce new levels of efficiency that allow you to free up your staff time to do more important work than constantly chasing a paper trail of pulling records or putting them away.
The result is that you can often run your practice with a lower overhead for staff, and the people you employ are engaged in far more meaningful work and far less paperwork, so they are happier and more productive. It also means that your records are quickly available from any digital access device, whether that is a PC, a workstation terminal or a wireless device such as your laptop, smartphone or iPad. Access to your patient data is far more dynamic and the accuracy of that data is better because any changes, additions or corrections to a patient record become instantly available to any therapist or staff person who needs it.
Across the industry, PT practices that move toward automated PT documentation management systems report more efficient operations, faster and more streamlined billings and collections and more efficient offices that offer cost returns that more than offset the costs of making the transition to a digital system. That makes the change to an automated PT practice documentation system a smart move for you, your practice and your patients. And it is a good thing to do for the environment, to boot. That is a "win win" for everyone.
"We used to do everything on paper and WebPT allowed us to ‘Go Green.’ We work from multiple offices and can even access files from home. Going electronic makes us more professional. We didn't realize how inefficient we were until we starting using WebPT. Now we have reduced our storage space for files and can fax direct from our iPads. Now that my staff has WebPT they could never go back." Mark Spier, Owner, Spier Physical Therapy