Taking the Plunge: EMR/EHR Upgrades for Mid-Sized Independent PracticesMay 27, 2017
For many mid-sized independent practices the idea of implementing a new Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system that meets the standards of meaningful use for Electronic Health Records (EHR) – and meets the standards of their staff, physicians and patients – can give one an overwhelming feeling. The solution for many practices is to wait on the side and watch as others take the plunge. But that strategy is only effective for so long and with more and more industry changes on the horizon, serious planning and budgeting for a new practice EMR/EHR is no longer optional.
Once a practice accepts that a new EMR/EHR is the right choice there are several important considerations from ORI as a billing service provider. One is cash flow during implementation. In choosing an EMR the system must be easy to transition and utilize with your current charting and workflow. Having staff and providers befuddled for weeks or months can create a cash flow disaster.
Practices need to ask questions about the level of technical service support for setup and testing, as well as interfaces with other systems. EMRs should use the standard HL7 interface with practice management systems as well as other records and billing related software. Avoid “one stop solutions” or proprietary systems that don’t play nice with others. They will limit your options. Some vendors may prioritize selling you their systems over what’s best for your practice. These often have a significant up front cost as well.
In regards to the clinic side, doctors are doctors because they are focused on patient care, not a computer screen. You don’t want to have to become a technology guru to use the EMR. That’s why a system that is user friendly and easy to learn is of the utmost importance. The initial and ongoing training that is offered for a new EMR is a very important consideration. Some positions, such as the front desk, may have a higher turnover rate so easy training and transition is a must. EMRs should include setup and training as part of the initial purchase. Always ask for references and inquire about the quality of the customer support team and service. For most small and mid-sized practices the costs of having on-site training can be unrealistic. As a billing service provider, Outsource Receivables will need to be at the table during training and implementation and can be an advocate for your internal processes and practice overall.
What are some of the benefits? From the perspective of a billing company, EMRs can reduce errors and rejected claims and increase accountability which will add to a clinics bottom line and cash flow. Other positive impacts of a robust EMR include the ability to chart more efficiently with higher quality. If you are reducing paperwork, there is potential for staff reductions and less office time for practitioner charting.
But with all the proven benefits of EMRs the implementation across mid-size independent medical practices is still limited. Those that have taken on the challenge often don’t fully utilize system capability. The argument that physicians don’t have the time or the interest in using an EMR is a big reason why systems have not been adopted in many clinics. However, there are many tasks that an EMR can facilitate to make patient data more accessible and follow-up and processing of appointments faster and easier. A real benefit of adopting a robust EMR is that it contributes to improved care through the quantity and quality of information available. It is difficult to deny that having patient records and results at your fingertips can create an environment for better informed decision making.
Implementing a new EMR is a first step in the right direction to improving practice efficiency, quality and profitability. It can also be a great time to transition to a billing outsource provider. If you are just taking the first steps or if your clinic is nearing the implementation phase, ORI can be of assistance. It is a great opportunity to review how your EMR will impact your medical billing and what your options are going forward.