If you are switching from one EMR system to another, you need to consider several factors including portability, integration and security.

Nitin Chhoda provides a detailed checklist to help you make the transition to an EMR system that will help you prepare for the future, streamline and automate your practice.

EMR systemThe selection of electronic medical records system is one of the most important decisions a practice owner will make over the next two years. It will affect every aspect of the clinic, from communicating with patients to submitting reimbursement claims.

With hundreds of available EMR options available, selecting a documentation software system can be an exhausting and confusing process without a well-thought action plan and clear expectations of what the system will accomplish. Look for the following features in an EMR.

  • Evaluation – Decide what the EMR is expected to accomplish within the clinic.
  • Teamwork – Form a team to evaluate the different EMRs and report back to the final decision makers.
  • Specialization – Choose a documentation system specifically designed for physical therapy practices.
  • Privacy and security – To maintain HIPAA compliance, therapists must ensure their EMR meets stringent requirements to safeguard personal health information. Practice owners that fail to do so will find themselves faced with costly fines, along with civil and criminal charges.
  • Customization – Physical therapy practices have unique need and an EMR should allow clinicians to create custom documents and templates.
  • Web-based – Select a web-based system that stores information in the cloud to eliminate the dangers of fires, floods, natural disasters and identify theft.
  • Workflow integration – Some therapists are attached to their existing systems and don’t want to give them up.

Choose an EMR that integrates any existing office software and offers the ability to remove old systems easily should they no longer be wanted or needed.

  • Portability – iPad compatibility is essential for portability throughout the office, at home and other venues where the clinic offers services.
  • Electronic billing – An EMR equipped with electronic billing reduces the turnaround time on reimbursement claims and allows for the quick submission of documentation and resolution of denials.
  • Communication – Interacting with clients can be automated to deliver appointment and billing reminders. Communications can be sent via email, phone, and text and voice messaging.
  • Patient portal – Clients can schedule an appointment, view test results, complete health histories and provide insurance information with a patient portal. Therapists can easily verify insurer information and contact patients if there’s a problem.
  • Prescriptions – The ability to submit medication orders to a wide variety of pharmacies saves time for therapists and patients.
  • Interconnectivity – Tests, x-rays and lab work from outside facilities can all be ordered from the office with an EMR. Therapists should ensure their EMR is compatible with other facilities in the area. Results can easily be returned to the office electronically and posted through a patient portal where clients can view them.
  • Importation capabilities – EMRs are designed to eliminate voluminous paper files, but the information contained within existing documents must find its way into the documentation software. It’s essential that the EMR offer the ability to import notes, documents and test results for a complete electronic solution.
  • Online training – Staff must be trained in the use of an EMR, but training provided by vendors often results in an overload for staff. Online training can be accessed multiple times and whenever it’s needed to reduce the learning curve and assist staff in retaining more information.
  • EMR adoption checklistCustomer service – Choose an EMR that provides automatic updates, 24/7 support, regular back-ups, and the ability to upgrade and add new modules as needed.

The idea of implementing an EMR can be a scary thought and has led many professionals to delay the process.

An electronic documentation system must be in place by 2014 and therapists need to initiate the search for a suitable EMR as soon as possible to ensure sufficient learning and shake down time before the deadline.