8 Steps To Physical Therapy EMR Success
Each practice is different with its own unique processes and requirements that would need to be addressed during the move. Here are some facets of a transition that should be helpful to keep in mind.
- Create game plan for change
- Get consensus from the team
- Overcome resistance to change
- Create new EMR templates
- Raise therapist efficiency
- Dive into EMR data
- Take on enrollments
- Run billing in parallel
Creating a plan and schedule for the change, the software implementation and beyond, would be a good way to get things rolling. Therapists, billers, front office staff, and others would naturally have many questions about EMR templates and documentation. Billing teams would be additionally focused on backend operations for reviewing claims, posting ERAs and EOBs, and collections. Evaluating each department’s needs and speaking to staff about their expectations and potential challenges from the implementation should help avoid surprises in the future.
While deploying the physical therapy EMR, seeking feedback from other leaders and users from both the clinical and administrative sides would help pave the path to the new solution. Getting their buy-in early should ease the process and smoothen the transition, perhaps even creating excitement for change across the clinic.
When implementing the EMR, there could be resistance from clinical team members who may have been used to a certain way of documentation. They now have a lot of new stuff to deal with: New workflows, new application screens, new functions and features, and so on. Change is clearly difficult, especially when it slows down the pace of the clinic in the beginning. The first few days would be crucial to overall success. If the team fails to see the value in the new system, they would be reluctant to adopt it.
The clinic’s business revolves around therapists, and keeping them happy would always be a priority. In addition to getting early buy in from therapists, working with them in developing new clinical documentation templates as quickly as possible would go a long way. The new EMR should have the ability to customize documentation templates to accommodate the unique working style of each therapist.
Therapists are continually looking out for their patients. They are unlikely to have the time to constantly review daily notes, evaluations, and billing documentation to ensure that all the right boxes have been checked and that all the right codes have been marked. The new EMR would need to keep up with changing requirements from Medicare and private payers and make billing and coding easier for therapists.
Understanding what data is included in the EMR changeover, what isn’t, and if the new EMR vendor would assist with data migration should make things a lot smoother. Insurance/payer information, patient demographics, and physician referral information would likely be included as a matter of course. Significant stages of onboarding a new system would include definition of fee schedules, enrollments with insurance payers, and transitioning patient records. But other billing/collections data and financial information and even appointment scheduling data may not always make the cut — unless it is specifically made part of the plan. Information that is not moved over would likely be harder to access and fix once the implementation has been completed, so planning ahead would be a good idea.
Enrollments would typically be challenging because insurance companies do gain from underpaying providers and from delaying payments. Since incomplete enrollment delays payments, insurance companies have little incentive to help accelerate this process. The EMR vendor would need to coordinate between the provider and insurance companies and handle the challenge. A vendor who has experience in the enrollment process would make a major difference to project success.
Billing obviously represents the path to the clinic’s cash flow and therefore cannot be taken lightly. Cash flow is not something we would want to compromise in any way. Therefore, it may be a good idea to retain the old billing system while transitioning to the new PT billing software. There may be a need to move to a new clearinghouse. It may take a few weeks to transition and re-credential therapists with the new clearinghouse. A good way to start would be to begin to add new charges into the new billing system and then monitor transactions closely. Key would be to ensure that payments are coming through promptly and correctly. Once electronic relationships with the payers that represent the majority of the clinic’s business has been established, it would be safer to close out the old billing system. But there may be a need to work through aging payables manually.
To sum up, change is never easy, and migrating to a new physical therapy EMR is no exception. If done correctly, a migration would result in a happier and more efficient clinical and administrative staff as well as a better overall experience for patients. Saying “yes” to the new EMR is one thing but making the decision stick is after all where success lies.