One of the challenges of writing about healthcare is that it is always evolving. While the focus 20 years ago may have been clinical issues, PTs and other clinicians now have to deal more with Medicare, HIPAA, the Affordable Care Act, and EMRs.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that EMRs will be great for healthcare… eventually. With all of our moving around, I’ve had 5 knee surgeries in 4 different cities with 4 different doctors. Trying to gather my records to bring to the next surgeon has been a feat; when we moved to Atlanta and I had to see another new ortho for a strained IT band, I handed him a stack of paper 3 inches thick and a one-page summary of all that I’ve had done. So I can’t wait to be able to access my healthcare records via the cloud, and being able to virtually share them from doctor to doctor.
But getting clinicians and their front office staff on board takes time. Learning new software is always a challenge, especially software that tries to tackle not just virtual charting but also scheduling and billing. I spoke to Stevyn and Andrea to get some advice for our members on how to integrate such software into a PT practice as painlessly as possible.
Integrating EMR software into your practice
Many therapists are grappling with the transition to electronic medical records (or EMRs, also known as electronic health records or EHRs). In July, we revealed a few tips from PTPN members on how to shop for EMR and billing software. This month, Stevyn Voyles, COO and vice president of Progressive Physical Therapy (a PTPN member with four locations in Southern California), and Andrea Cassese, director of PTOS Software for Patterson Medical (a Preferred Vendor for PTPN), give readers some advice when preparing to integrate such software into their practices.
Before we begin, Stevyn, what type of EMR system do you use?
SV: After being a testing site for four different EMR systems and trying out at least 10, we considered ourselves pretty knowledgeable about what a system should do, what it shouldn’t and what we wanted. Needless to say, we are a demanding group. Our goal was to find a system that would help us chart faster, be more complete (that is, compliance-driven), and integrate with billing.
Most of the open architecture systems relied on too much open data entry for our taste. We decided against them because regulations are ever-changing, and we don’t want our PTs to be caught short just because they forgot to dot an “i” or cross a “t.” That’s why we focused on compliance-driven software that used drop-down menus to help PTs choose the right codes for billing, PQRS, etc. There’s still data entry and the ability to free-type, but less room for error.
The program we decided on is an ASP access program, software that is accessed via the internet. Though we have the ability to bring the program in-house and host a server for ourselves, a web-based solution works well for us because we have four different clinic locations.