During the past decade, the US healthcare landscape has seen some dramatic changes—both in terms of how care is being delivered and how it is being paid for. As a result, the market demand for electronic medicare record (EMR) systems among independent outpatient rehab therapy providers has increased. After all, it would be nearly impossible to keep up with the ever-evolving documentation, coding, and reporting requirements with pen and paper. Today, the healthcare industry is in the process of transitioning from a fee-for-service payment paradigm to pay-for-performance, in which patient statistics, financial data, and clinical outcomes are paramount. In other words, in our current healthcare environment, data is king. And to survive and thrive in this new era of healthcare, providers must adopt digital tools that help them improve care delivery and operation efficiency.

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Choose a solution designed for rehab therapists.

For therapists, that requires the adoption of a practice management platform—including an EMR—that’s built specifically to address the therapy workflow. In other words, you don’t want to adopt a generalist system designed for, say, physicians, and then have to create workarounds to make the system work for you. Instead, a good solution should intuitively help you:

  • Care for your patients;
  • Streamline documentation and billing processes;
  • Receive payment for your services;
  • Ensure you business is compliant with all regulations and requirements;
  • Share information with referrers and other members of your patients’ care teams; and
  • Make operational decisions using business intelligence and analytics.

Do your due diligence.

As you might expect, the number of software companies on the market has increased as demand has grown. Now, there are dozens of companies and products to choose from—when a few years ago, there were only a couple. While variety can certainly be a positive thing—providers now have more opportunities to select the best company and solution for their practice—it can also produce overwhelm and leave providers more willing to accept a subpar solution. And that can cause all sorts of hassles and headaches for your practice, your staff, and your patients. That’s why it’s so important to perform adequate due diligence prior to selecting a new platform for your practice.

In addition to ensuring that the software vendor you partner with is well-aligned, integrous, and financially sound, you’ll also want to be sure that the system has the following features:

  • Caters to—and was developed exclusively for—outpatient rehab therapy providers
  • Offers a fully web- or cloud-based experience
  • Provides an end-to-end solution that includes registration and scheduling features, an EMR, patient account management and billing capabilities (including collections and A/R management), reporting tools, and patient relationship management
  • Enables collection, storage, and analysis of outcomes data
  • Offers point-of-care documentation functionality via portable tablet
  • Furnishes a unified experience (i.e., it was originally developed and supported by one company under one agreement)
  • Provides flexibility via a subscription-based business model
  • Effuses stability, as it’s currently implemented over a large install base with referable clients

Be discerning.

Unfortunately, there are many companies offering EMR solutions to PT practices that do not meet the criteria described above. Some are re-configured solutions that were originally designed for medical practices. Others are cobbled together with disparate parts that don’t actually integrate with one another. And still others may have a good EMR, but no domain expertise in billing, AR, or revenue optimization (or the other way around). And, perhaps the worst of them all are the ones with poor system functionality, accountability, and support.

As a result, many practices that have chosen a subpar EMR system have experienced serious billing and A/R problems—including losing months of charges in the depths of cyberspace. Those practices can do nothing but take large write-offs for those now noncollectable visits. Don’t make the same mistake; don’t underestimate the importance of choosing a system that has well-integrated modules that seamlessly work together—and don’t settle for a less-than-stellar billing solution. A subpar system could have a significant negative impact on the financial performance of your practice—one that is difficult to recover from.

What has your experience been with the EMR selection process? What are your tips and tricks for performing due diligence, and ensuring that a potential software vendor is going to hold up its end of the bargain? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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