By Timothy Moore, Chief Financial and Operating Officer
Adopting an electronic medical records (EMR) for the first time or changing EMRs both require careful planning and coordination to avoid downtime, frustration and lost revenue.
In our 20 years of business, weve helped hundreds physical therapy practices successfully make the switch, and weve developed a five-point checklist that can help your practice, too. Bear in mind that each practice is different, with varying strengths and weaknesses that will need to be addressed during the transition. But these are the most important facets of a transition that you must consider.
1. Never underestimate required training and employee buy-in.
The change management component of any software change or upgrade is often the most difficult aspect to deal with. Understand that most people are fundamentally opposed to change and will resist. While evaluating software, solicit feedback from other senior leaders and department heads that will be impacted by the change. Getting them onboard early can create excitement for the change throughout the organization.
2. Create a game plan for change.
Give your organization sufficient time to create an action plan for the software implementation. Therapists, naturally, will have questions about templates and documentation, while billing staff questions will all be about back end operations. Evaluate each department and question staff about their expectations and the potential challenges of the implementation.
3. Understand what data is (and isnt) coming over.
You need to understand what data is included in the EMR changeover, what data isnt and whether your software vendor can assist with this effort. Insurance, patient demographic and physician referral information likely will be included, but financial information and scheduling data may not make the cutunless you specifically ask. Information is much harder to fix once its been moved, so you must plan ahead.
4. Live with two billing systems for awhile.
Billings are the lifeblood of any medical practice, and you dont want to compromise cash flow. We suggest keeping the old system in place while transitioning to the new billing system. Often, you will need to change clearinghouses, and it may take a few weeks to transition and re-credential your providers. Start putting new charges into the new billing system and watch the transactions closely to ensure you are getting paid promptly and correctly. Once youve established electronic relationships with the payers that represent the majority of your business, close out your old billing system, understanding that you may need to work through aging payables manually. We dont suggest moving billing between EMRs.
5. Make creating new templates a priority.
Your business revolves around your therapists, and you want to keep them happy. In addition to getting early buy in from your therapists, support them by developing new clinical templates as quickly as possible. The ability to customize templates to accommodate the unique working style of each therapist should be a primary consideration of any EMR.
Any change can be difficult, and an EMR migration is no exception. The keys to success include careful planning and getting buy in from employees. If done correctly, a migration will result in a happier and more efficient staff and a better overall experience for your patients.