When you invest in a PT documentation software system, the number of features and benefits you get are many. The efficiency of being able to access your patient files from anywhere is a tremendous leap forward. A good electronic medical records system will streamline billing, introducing efficiency to the process that was unheard of before. Those efficiencies will cut costs and improve reimbursements significantly.
It is not hard to come with a number of levels of cost savings and improvements to cash flow to help justify the investment in a quality PT practice documentation system. However, if you only focus on the impact on document management on your practice, that change alone may more than justify the effort and investment you must make to automate this aspect of running your practice.
You can make a good start on that process of cost justification of an automated solution for your physical therapy by simply putting a pencil to paper for some of the ways you handle paper documentation that will no longer happen when those patient records are buried in an automated system. Here are a few examples:
- The time your staff must spend retrieving patient folders from the records room, updating them and then returning them can stack up. Add to this the time to go through a patient file to make sure all is in order and update it before filing it again in that room in the back and that time can be translated into a dollar value that is saved when those patient records can be accessed at any workstation or wireless device easily.
- In any paper-based PT practice documentation system, there is a significant amount of error due to lost files in folders, pages being filed incorrectly and errors in filling out forms. Each time a staff member has to take time to repair a patient folder, that can add up to a lot of lost time. You can talk to your staff about how often that happens and it is likely you will learn it is a common occurrence each week.
- There are numerous other demands for patient information that will send a staff member back to the filing room to retrieve a patient file. A call from a physician or a need to consult with an insurance company contact will call for having the patient file open. The need for a phone number or to look at a patient’s scheduled physical therapy plan for the therapist or for scheduling purposes can call for a run to the file room to retrieve that file. All of these trips take time to get the file, access the needed information and then return the file to its exact right location so that it is there the next time someone in the PT practice needs it.
By doing some conservative estimations of how much time is spent maintaining physical patient records and applying the average salary of staff members who typically have to take care of those patient records, you can draw a weekly, monthly and annual cost estimate of what kind of impact those files are having on your efficiency in running your PT practice.
Estimating how switching to an automated PT documentation system can save money can also be taken to the next level. The physical cost of maintaining those files is also a factor. That includes the cost of that filing room as a percentage of the rental of your clinic space, the cost of physical files, the mountain of paper and forms that you must purchase to build each patient file and other supplies it takes to care for those files. You can add those figures into the cost of staff to keep your patient files straight. Additional costs may include archiving records for legal reasons and other overhead.
The simple act of removing paper from the equation may be sufficient to offset the cost of implementing an automated PT practice documentation software solution. When your patient records are housed in digital storage, they will be indexed by numerous keys so you can access a patient by name, patient ID, phone number, date of visit or other methods. Any changes made to a patient record will become part of the patient record and viable to anyone else who needs to see up-to-date information on that patient on a moment’s notice.
Another benefit of switching to a modern, networked electronic health records system is that the data can be easily archived or backed up to an online facility, giving you 100% security of your data at a very reasonable cost. Compared to keeping a mountain of paper in a storage location that is susceptible to danger of water or fire damage, this is a far superior approach to managing your patient records.
With those factors in mind and using your basic math evaluation of the savings alone in how you manage patient records by getting away from a file room full of file cabinets full of paper files and you can easily cost justify making this change. An automated PT documentation system is endlessly expandable, so it can grow with your practice seamlessly. If you add this evaluation to the other obvious benefits, the decision to start the process of making the switch to a computerized PT documentation management system becomes an easy one.
" We were using a combination of Microsoft Access and paper and we found there was just too much inconsistency in our patient notes. Notes went missing, some notes were dictated incorrectly and we could not control compliance issues with paper. With WebPT we are definitely more streamlined. We have less problems with follow-thru and we like the templates and documentation flow in WebPT." Damon Whitfield, Clinic Manager, Tim Bondy Physical Therapy