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Physical Therapy EMR Software Selection| Considerations and Criteria for the Road Ahead


In the market for a new physical therapy EMR Software? Trying to select one based on information on the web could be a confusing experience! Every vendor would obviously claim their product is the best and trying to validate these claims may not be easy.

To help the shopping process, here are some high-level considerations to keep in mind and criteria to apply. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution! No product would be fully customizable to meet all requirements. But it may be useful to look into whether the EMR would grow and scale as the practice grows.

Physical Therapy EMR Software | Considerations

Flexible Documentation

As a busy therapist treating lots of patients, documentation is likely the first thing that comes up. It is easy to get influenced by documentation features that look good in a vendor sales pitch. But the question to ask should probably be does the EMR support unique clinical documentation needs. The most important ones are possibly initial evaluations, progress notes, and discharge summaries as these also represent marketing opportunities for the clinic. The EMR needs to have flexible documentation templates that are easy to adapt to practice requirements. More rigid templates could become a hurdle over time.

Billing Integration

A lot has been said about the evils of billing software that is interfaced/integrated with the EMR. Most of the information seems to target a certain large PT EMR Software player, not surprisingly! The reality may be a bit more nuanced. A larger practice that is enterprise class may find a billing software integration harder to navigate. But smaller practices may be somewhat less challenged. Either way, a billing module that is a seamless part of the overall solution would certainly provide an advantage.

EMR Functionality

An EMR that covers over 90% of practice needs including Scheduling, Documentation, Billing, Patient Statements, Credit Card Processing, E-Faxing, Patient Texting, KPIs/Dashboards, and Referral Management would provide a head start. Clearly, the fewer vendors to deal with, the simpler life would be.

Clearinghouse Enrollment

There are many flavors when it comes to enrollment. EDI enrollment refers to getting approval to submit claims through a specific clearinghouse. ERA enrollment is required to receive ERAs from the payer. Without ERA enrollment, the provider would have to fall back on paper EOBs that would have to be manually posted. ERA enrollment is often included with EDI enrollment and approval could reportedly take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) enrollment is required for electronic transmission of funds from the payer to the provider as reimbursement for patient services. All in all, approval time could vary from one to four weeks depending on the payer. This time would need to be budgeted for when moving to a new EMR.

EMR Duplication

There would likely be the need to run both old and new Physical Therapy EMR & Billing Softwares in parallel for potentially three to four months. This would be required to wind down old Accounts Receivable in the old EMR while entering all new claims in the new EMR. This would typically be done by establishing a cutover date.

Physical Therapy EMR Software | Criteria To Apply

PT Centric

Needless to say, one should buy a Physical Therapy EMR that was truly created from the ground up for physical therapists. The PT part should not have been an afterthought, with new functionality bolted onto an older product.

Implementation Speed

Implementation should take no more than four to eight weeks, at the most. The quality of implementation support would be a big factor. Does the vendor have a dedicated team to support the implementation? Is an online knowledge base and training material readily available?

Compliance Built-In

Compliance is obviously huge. There is HIPAA and then there are Payer rules. The PT EMR should be HIPAA compliant, that should be a given. All payer specific rules (Medicare first) should be built into the EMR, today and in the future, so that claims that are submitted are always in line with rules and using the right CPT codes and modifiers, with charges captured in the documentation.

Integrated Clearinghouse

An EMR with an integrated clearinghouse would take the guesswork out of filing claims by keeping the end-to-end process fully digital and seamless, right from claims submission to receiving ERAs/EOBs to Electronic Funds Transfer.

Customer Satisfaction

Does the EMR have high ratings on independent review platforms? After all, there is nothing like authentic customer feedback.

Device Agnostic

It should be possible to access all EMR features from any device. A web based platform would be ideal so that the software could be used from any browser.

However, the future may look different. Todays physical therapy EMR Software is essentially a transactional system that revolves around a persons therapy record. But to address the long awaited transition to value based care, the EMR must shift to focusing on a persons plan of care, pivoting from processing clinical transactions to delivering information and insight to the provider and the patient.