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Physical Therapy EMR Scheduling: Pathway to Efficiency and Patient Satisfaction

Physical Therapy EMR Scheduling
Maximizing front office efficiency in the physical therapy clinic would keep therapists busy and patients happy. Enter patient appointment scheduling in the physical therapy EMR that would make it possible to:
  • Build, edit and view schedules for patients and therapists alike with ease.
  • Sync up patient appointment schedules with clinical documentation in the EMR.
Let us take a closer look at patient scheduling. This is where the patient journey would begin. Consider a multi-office clinic with several therapists in each office whose schedules would need to be viewed and updated anytime for the week, month, and year. In the physical therapy EMR, each office would typically have its own appointment schedule. Different appointment types like initial evaluation, follow up, and re-evaluation would need to line up with appointment statuses like arrived, canceled, and no show. Everything would have to fit together perfectly.

Patient Appointment Scheduling

Appointment scheduling would be made easy by dragging and dropping appointments into open slots or making changes to start/end times, all through a visual interface. Additional details that would make the process more effective would include:
  • Selecting a new day/time and/or introducing a new therapist to add flexibility to the appointment scheduling process.
  • Setting appointment type (initial evaluation, re-evaluation, follow up?) along with appointment status (open, arrived, canceled?) to provide for proper categorization.
  • Identifying the patient case along with case code, description, and per visit fee to connect to the documentation and billing stages.
  • Viewing and acting on authorization or insurance warnings for the patient to reduce the likelihood of denials in the future.
  • Adding alerts or messages to the appointment to ensure that other schedulers and therapists are fully aligned and informed.
  • Assigning the treating therapist along with any co-therapists to the appointment to confirm that the clinicians? time is booked.
  • Optionally adding the supervising PT to enable their signature to get applied to the notes and charges going out.
  • Searching and scheduling recurring appointments under one or more therapists to get the full plan of care squared away.
When it comes to scheduling new patients, clearly speed would be of the essence. What would help would be getting the minimum amount of information to create the patient case in the EMR. This would include service type like PT/OT/Speech, name of referring physician, fee class to make sure the therapist is able to add charges, and body part selection to drive a filtered list of content as well as diagnosis codes. Information entered here would also flow into the automated appointment reminder system (email and text messages).

Checking In Patients

While checking in patients, patient specific alerts that were added in the earlier step would come in handy. This would be the right time to collect the co-pay and other payments. There would also be the need to access more information about the patient and appointment. It should be possible to view:
  • Critical patient information in one place including visit count and outstanding balance.
  • Financial and clinical case-specific information including insurance and Rx authorizations.
  • Visit calendar with the list of patient appointments with different statuses and types.
  • Warnings like missing insurance and Rx authorizations and exceeded number of allowed visits.
  • Internal pages of the patient?s record like case information, diagnosis, and insurances.
Accessing frequently used reports like patient receipts for multiple dates of service, list of appointments grouped by case, list of future follow up appointments, patient case ledger, list of patient payments, and patient demographic information would add a lot of convenience. Forecasting likely authorization problems in the future would avoid future troubles.

Collecting Patient Payments

Collecting patient payments including credit card payments would be accomplished via an integrated credit card terminal, cash, or check. It would be necessary to:
  • Apply money collected to one more dates of service.
  • Create a payment in the physical therapy EMR.
  • Collect money in advance if needed.
  • Display any unapplied funds that could be applied to future visits.

Creating Time Blocks

There should be several ways to create blocks on the scheduler to avoid scheduling appointments when therapists are not in. Different types of employee blocks would help. These would comprise therapist specific blocks like lunch breaks, meetings, and out of office. Facility blocks would take care of holidays and create a block for all therapists and other users. This could be a ?hard block? that would prevent scheduling alongside it or a ?soft block? that is flexible. Add to the list time-offs and days-off as a recurring block schedule. Introducing timesheets would help plan ahead the therapist?s schedule for a week by applying it to days where the timesheet would be active. Developing a timesheet would take the following steps:
  • Designing a full week?s schedule.
  • Applying the timesheet to days on the calendar.
  • Applying the timesheet to a particular therapist or therapist type.
The path to front office efficiency would run through the physical therapy EMR patient appointment scheduler. Once the schedule is in, documentation and billing processes could move into high gear and deliver the outcomes that are targeted.