Founded in 1984 as the first free-standing acute rehabilitation hospital in New Hampshire, Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital Network currently employs more than 100 therapists—and 1,000 total employees—across four inpatient hospitals, more than 20 outpatient clinics, and a home care services department. A regional leader in rehab therapy, Northeast Rehab is accredited by the Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). It has also earned Joint Commission Disease Specific Care Certification in stroke, brain Injury, and amputee rehabilitation. The organization’s mission is to rebuild “lives through providing hope, compassion, and a dedication to excellence.”
Northeast Rehab was using Meditech as its hospital-based EHR, and while its outpatient rehab clinics were using that system for scheduling and billing, providers were still completing documentation on paper. Without a centralized data source for the whole network, accessing current, accurate data was proving difficult, and the team wasn’t able to audit their processes to ensure accuracy and completeness without resorting to a time-consuming manual review. Paper documentation was costing the organization both time and money, and the team at Northeast Rehab knew they needed a solution that would interface with their existing hospital EHR.
According to Gerriann Samowski, Director of Patient Intake, Scheduling, and Registration, documenting on paper “produced many challenges. We had to write the same info on all pages of the documentation, develop a manual audit process to pull documentation from sites, enter charges and modifiers manually, and track authorizations manually—all of which was really difficult to do if the therapist had the physical chart.”
Northeast Rehab was also facing external challenges. Due to the error-prone nature of handwritten documentation, Northeast Rehab would get frequent complaints from doctors and referral sources about illegible notes—especially faxed notes. According to Neil Washington, Director of Outpatient Programming, producing manual documentation also made it difficult to build strong relationships with referring physicians: “We had no easy way to market clinical outcomes to referring physicians,” he said. “We were able to do some referral marketing, but [pulling the right data] was a manual process.”
Northeast Rehab needed a solution that would solve the challenges it was having with paper documentation and integrate with its existing hospital EHR system, Meditech. “We were looking for something that was going to be efficient, improve our compliance, and improve our outcomes,” Samowski said. “After touring another hospital that had integrated its enterprise hospital EHR with WebPT, it was obvious that an integration with WebPT solved these issues.” The team was pleased to learn that this type of an integration worked well in a hospital setting. “There are so many larger products out there that don’t really meet the needs for outpatient rehab therapy,” Samowski continued. “We saw that WebPT clearly works in a hospital setting, and it would still allow us to use our current EHR while integrating with the rest of our business.”
In WebPT, Northeast Rehab found a cloud-based, rehab-centric solution that could help the organization not only improve efficiency, billing compliance, access to meaningful real-time data, and outcomes tracking, but also keep up with the ever-changing compliance requirements with minimal additional effort from Northeast's IT staff—something the team identified as a major necessity during their comprehensive Request for Information (RFI) process.
“We had a lengthy RFI process to decide on an EMR,” Washington said. “We asked a series of yes/no questions, then narrowed it down to three EMRs based on those responses. We demoed all three, then decided between WebPT and a competitor.” Ultimately, the team went with WebPT because it “was able to meet the largest number of our needs at a reasonable cost,” he said. Samowski added that “WebPT came out number one—and not only that, we felt like we could really trust the people we met through that process.”
The integration and implementation process was very well done. WebPT’s onboarding team was very responsive to any questions or concerns we had. And they always seemed committed to meeting our needs, while simultaneously looking for feedback on how they can enhance their own product along the way.
When Northeast Rehab was ready to begin implementation, the team created a rollout strategy with WebPT’s help: “We developed a training plan in conjunction with WebPT, so we took what they use as a template and we customized it to [align with] our processes,” Washington said. “Overall, it’s been very seamless.”
Samowski also really enjoyed the training—as did her team: “Training was great,” she said. “We received material ahead of time to help plan the education and adoption of the software. The team at WebPT was very informative and organized. They were able to articulate the functions of WebPT, and they really understood our practice and how the software would interact with our processes.” The Northeast Rehab team “felt that the ease of going through the training was wonderful.”
Washington particularly appreciated that WebPT allowed Northeast Rehab to customize the documentation templates to better meet his organization’s needs: “It was very helpful to be able to build our Network-specific initial evaluation templates and SmartText ahead of time. Not only did this allow us to customize the product to meet our own policies, but it also allowed users to become more adept in navigating WebPT.” Washington also found the ability to “learn, practice, and play in the training environment ahead of time to be very valuable. We were able to create and test all sorts of scenarios, and we continue to use that environment, even now,” he said.
The implementation of a cloud-based, rehab-specific EMR—specifically, one that integrates with the organization’s existing hospital system—has benefited Northeast Rehab in many ways. According to Washington, WebPT helped open the door to new capabilities: “Clinically speaking, WebPT is giving us opportunities to improve our documentation, and it allows us to be more compliant and consistent with our billing practices,” he said. “WebPT also provides Northeast Rehab with the tools to market our clinical success in a way that has never been possible before.” As a result of implementing WebPT, Northeast Rehab is able to reduce overhead for data entry, leverage outcomes data to build better relationships with referral sources, audit charts in real-time, and make corrections to data immediately.
Having a centralized source from which to pull data was a huge asset to the team at Northeast Rehab. “We place a large emphasis on education, auditing, and clinical outcomes,” Washington said. But, pulling the data necessary for these types of endeavors “used to require a substantial amount of staff hours, because they were all manual processes. Having these reports—along with access to medical records electronically [within WebPT]—has allowed us to speed up this process,” he said.
The front office staff at Northeast Rehab also loves how speedy and easy it is to collect patient demographic information, schedule patients, and pull actionable reports. And the therapists are thrilled with the reduction in clinical documentation redundancy, especially on progress notes, re-certifications, and discharge notes. They’re finding tremendous value in alerts for billing, expired authorizations, and missing required fields. Overall, Northeast Rehab’s clinical team feels that daily documentation is much more efficient with WebPT.
According to Samowski, the WebPT team is “a great group of people to work with who really make every effort to meet our needs.” In her eyes, the most valuable thing WebPT has done is listen—and act on what they’ve heard: “We have brought up many thoughts, ideas, and needs that WebPT has not only listened to, but also adopted and implemented into their system,” she said. “It shows that they value what we bring to the table and that they will work with us to make things happen.”