Taking Due Care in the Rush Toward Electronic Medical Records Systems 

In almost every industry, the rush to get systems automated and put online seems urgent. For some reason, there is an obsession in almost every aspect of life to get applications into a networked solution and preferably to turn a business practice into an online social network or a smart phone app.

As physical therapists, we are part of the medical community and it is up to those in our community who have wisdom to declare, "Not so fast." There is no question, of course, that electronic medical records systems have a lot to offer. Any PT practice office can see the value of getting away from those rows and rows of file cabinets and the tedium and inefficiency of maintaining patient records in cumbersome file folders and paper forms.

As medical professionals, however, it is smart to make sure that we do not cave in to the "craze" of going with an automated, networked or even online EMR system and definitely not the cheapest solution until we are absolutely certain that all care has been taken to make sure the privacy of your patients and the legal implications have been researched and resolved. The potential of a breach of any aspect of information security when it comes to the medical records of your patients has numerous ramifications and none of them are attractive.

Perhaps the most obvious area of concern to address when reviewing any PT practice documentation management system is the quality of the software and its ease of use. Any software system can have "bugs," and if such a flaw was to jeopardize the security of the patient data you are maintaining, that is unacceptable.

Not all software flaws cause the database to crash. A more insidious type of software bug might lose crucial patient data or open the PT practice documentation management system to allow breaches to online security which could permit such data to be "hacked." Not only is the risk of this happening bad for your patients, it could leave your PT practice open to legal problems and threaten your ability to continue operating. That is not a compromise you ever want to make.

It is easy to be carried away by PT management software that has a lot of bells and whistles and that is impressively presented to you. All that is well and good, but when you do make the plunge to invest in a good physical therapy documentation management system, it should be one that is very up-to-date and provides all the functionality you need.

Make sure you do not forget to check into the technical viability of the product and of the supplier who is backing it up. Good old-fashioned research into how long the company has been in business, how many customers they have, if there have been any serious problems with their system and the quality and reliability of support are in order. Do not be afraid to ask for references and to include in your due diligence talking to other PT practice managers who have used the documentation management service and software for a long time.

By making sure that you are investing in a system that has been thoroughly debugged and that has a solid reputation within the physical therapy community will go a long way to assure you that you are making the right choices. Any PT documentation management software supplier that is worth their salt will happily cooperate with such viability discussions and allow all the time you need to "check them out" before making such a big investment and starting out on such a big change to how you do business.

Your expertise is in offering top quality physical therapy to your patients. You should not have to become a technical guru to be able to take advantage of quality PT documentation automation. By engaging a top of the line PT automation company, you can out source that expertise in full confidence. To increase that confidence, here are some questions to ask when researching PT practice management documentation automation services.

  • Where is my patient data housed? Where are the servers and who is responsible for them?
  • If there is any problem with the EMR company, what will become of my patient data?
  • Can you provide me references of success stories that your company has had?
  • How is the security of the patient data protected? Be sure you get an answer that you understand and the PT documentation company does not try to "snow" you with technical jargon.
  • What is the problem solving process if there is a technical problem with our automated documentation system. 
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