Nitin Chhoda shares the basic fundamentals of having an effective practice management that will help increase productivity and efficiency within a practice.
Healthcare practice management is often a delicate balance between the human side of an efficiency equation and the problems or benefits related to technology.
For some practices, the introduction of the latest EMR technology is a difficult and frustrating experience.
For other practices, implementation can go smoothly and an EMR will start to improve efficiency right from the beginning. How can you determine that technology will actually benefit your practice? Good practice management will find out what the goals of the practice are before considering any new technology.
Common Reasons for Technology Improvements
Most practice management professionals know that technology is the way to greater efficiency. Communication via email is considerably more efficient than mailing a letter.
You would never consider going back to paper communication when email is an option, right? That is how most practice management professionals feel about using EMRs and practice management technology once they have implemented and adjusted to the changes.
However, at the start of the process, there will always be pushback. There are high start-up costs, and to answer the questions about whether or not EMRs are worthwhile, you will certainly need to ascertain that there are efficiency problems in the practice that an EMR can solve.
But think about investing in email. Email requires significant start-up investments, including computers, high speed internet, and software. Implementing an EMR may sound expensive, but the benefits almost always outweigh those initial costs.
What are the benefits? Most clinics find that the reduction in paper and the improved speed and quality of communication is the first thing they notice.
Additionally, for medical billing and accurate medical coding, an EMR can represent higher efficiency and better rates of accepted claims. In fact, the number one reason for implementing better technology, from a practice management perspective, is to reduce rejected or denied claims.
Ensuring That Technology Works for Staff
Of course, anyone in practice management will also want to think about how these changes will affect the staff. The idea behind technology improvements is to improve efficiency. But if the staff is not well enough prepared or if they do not find the EMR to be useful or intuitive to use, the outcome will not be improved efficiency.
Similarly, technology improvements can allow for incredible benefits for practice management reporting. Good practice management should include a reporting and review system so that you can focus on changing the things that are not working.
But if the staff doesn’t understand why they are adding more tasks to their day, they may not enter information correctly, leading to useless or even harmful report results.
Additionally, there should be an integration of staff needs and goals into the overall goals of the practice management solutions.
Effective practice management will include human resources principles into the overall strategy of improved efficiency.
Rather than assuming staff will figure it out eventually, make sure they are an integral part of the EMR or practice management technology implementation process.
Before deciding what type of physical therapy software to use in your practice, you first need to determine where your practice needs help. Nitin Chhoda shares the different healthcare practice management tools, and the ways it help to increase productivity and efficiency.
Improvements seem to be made from day to day, so should you invest now or is it too early?
Should you spend a lot of money up front for the best solution, or find something more reasonably priced and add features as you benefit from the change?
What are the risks of choosing the wrong health care practice management tool? Rather than focus on which are the best tools, first it is important to distinguish between the different kinds of health care practice management tools and what they can do for your practice.
Electronic Medical Records
At their simplest, EMRs are systems that allow you to keep detailed records of each patient without using a lot of papers and pens. There are plenty of other benefits, such as the fact that information is faster to enter, review, and communicate with others.
This can improve efficiency within the office as well as the health care practice management, and when communicating with other clinics or hospitals.
Medical Billing Software and Medical Accounting Software
For big steps toward improved efficiency, most health care practice management consulting teams will look for an integrated EMR and medical billing software solution. Medical billing software will improve the speed and accuracy of claim submissions, reviews of rejected or denied claims, and re-submittal of claims.
A well designed medical billing software system will incorporate medical coding, as well, increasing the opportunities for staff to catch their own errors before claims are sent to insurance companies.
With an incorporated system, EMRs can be shared with medical billing staff instantly. Filing and sharing of files will no longer hold up the important processes that health care practice management want the staff to focus on.
Staff may also find that their jobs become more streamlined and flexible as a result of a good EMR and medical billing system.
Staff are often thrown off balance by cancellations or re-scheduled appointments at the last minute. An improvement in scheduling can also result in improved billing and collections.
And naturally, if patient scheduling software is included in the health care practice management tool you purchase, the results can be pretty exciting. For example, if a clinician needs to be informed of a change in schedule, they can get a notification instantly.
Reminders can be set for scheduling tasks and priorities so open appointments can be filled rather than overlooked. And each patient visit can be channeled through the system via their electronic medical record, triggering the medical billing cycle, and new appointment scheduling.
There are many other perks that some EMR and health care practice management solutions provide, including radiology information systems and picture archiving systems. To determine which health care practice management tool is best for any practice, the first step should be the detection of inefficiencies that exist and goals that the practice has.
Healthcare practice management tools already exist in the market today, but you must choose wisely. Nitin Chhoda points out that the tools you selected should meet the needs and requirements of your physical therapy practice.
Once you have settled on goals for the practice, you can start to explore your options for health care practice management tools.
Many of these tools will offer basic EMR and EHR systems, but there are also features to consider for the future, or that might make sense to implement right now to reach your goals.
No matter which health care practice management solution you select, remember to set your goals first. The wrong system may not improve efficiency as expected and can cause problems instead of offer solutions.
The final decision should also be determined by the size of the practice, your specific needs, and the flexibility of the system as balanced by your budget; if you don’t have the finances to purchase an all-encompassing, health care practice management system, find one that can be expanded upon with other features as you feel ready.
Top 10 Most Popular Health Care Practice Management Tools
While popularity isn’t necessarily the best measure of a good health care practice management tool, companies that have done more installations are going to have worked out more bugs and inefficiencies. You can at least count on them to have evolved to suit their clients. Below is a list of the top ten companies and their market share as of 2011. Data may change in the near future.
Epic Systems (8.7%)
Siemens Healthcare (8.4%)
Healthcare Management Systems (7.3%)
Self-developed systems (5.8%)
Eclipsys, now part of Allscripts (3.9%)
The first three in the list above account for over 50% of market share, but that may be because they are used in large hospitals; for that reason it makes sense to review the experiences of practices of a similar size to yours, that have actually installed a health care practice management system you are considering.
Meditech is generally used in large applications of health care practice management, such as in hospitals and medical facilities that see hundreds of patients and have specialists of all kinds on staff. The program is considered very stable and consistent, but users do have some trouble with the interface. The majority of applications are used for medical accounting and lab documentation, but less by physicians and clinicians.
Cerner also ranks fairly low with users for functionality and is used by large hospitals and clinics. But there are quite a large portion of users who find Cerner to be quite useful.
It may be that for the right practice, this is the right health care practice management solution.
Amazing Charts, SOAPware, and e-MDs Chart also rank highly with small practices, although Amazing Charts ranks fairly low for functionality.
Praxis EMR is also highest ranked for satisfaction with support and training, which may be the most important ranking.
For small practices, with between one and five physicians, there are other options which rank very highly with practices that currently use the system. The top user ranked health care practice management consulting tool for small practices is Praxis EMR.
Nitin Chhoda emphasizes that a physical therapy practice should be aware of all the regulations and laws that are connected within the practice. Not everyone can be an expert, but assigning a dedicated staff member to focus on regulations, laws and the changes that are made will be helpful to your practice.
For a large hospital or clinic to keep a lawyer on staff is not uncommon, and in many ways it makes sense to always have a legal specialist available to answer questions about the rights of the hospital and their patients.
However, for a small practice it is much harder to justify having legal representation on staff. There are many horror stories of legal problems causing bankruptcy for a medical practice.
Health care practice management should include some basics about the dangers of making legal decisions for which the outcome is unclear. However, because of the focus on patient lawsuits, health care practice management teams often forget to think about regulatory legal blunders.
Understanding HIPAA regulations is one of the most important jobs of health care practice management. While mistakes in following HIPAA regulations can be damaging, they are also some of the easiest mistakes to avoid, if the health care practice management team is aware of common mistakes that are made.
The most common problems that health care practice management run into focus around liability for fraud, mishandling overpayments, violations of privacy, and not responding to Medicare inquiries. Third-party payer audits and certificate-of-need process should also be comfortable topics for health care practice management consulting professionals.
HIPAA violations can be avoided if at least one member of the health care practice management within your practice understands HIPAA thoroughly. It may seem like a very big and ominous law, so expecting everyone to know everything will be challenging.
But at least one person should be or become a HIPAA specialist so the practice has someone to ask before procedures and standards are set that will violate HIPAA regulations.
Legal blunders relating to contracts are also very common. Naturally, health care practice management professionals are on high alert about any contracts, especially with staff, physicians, and clinicians.
You can also run into trouble with non-compete clauses if you work with physicians who are providing services for more than one practice, especially in-office ancillary services.
To avoid legal problems, it is best to negotiate all contracts in full, taking the time to review all aspects that may introduce conflicts within the practice.
At the first sign of a problem, make sure that communication is open and honest so that changes can be made before a problem becomes a legal issue.
The HITECH Act will also pose a lot of risk for health care practice management, as the punishments for not following HIPAA regulations are more severe as a result of the HITECH Act.
Additionally, funding through the HITECH Act is expected to increased oversight so that infractions are more likely to be discovered.
Regulatory oversight can be the least of your worries if you have focused on improving your knowledge of the regulations.
Managing a health care practice can include complex facets, and being aware of risks to the practice should be a high priority. The best way to avoid a risk is to understand what constitutes risky behavior.
The first priority of physical therapy management is to give 100% patient care while obeying the law. Nitin Chhoda explains why avoiding legal suits is important, as this will affect the standing of your physical therapy business.
Even if the case is eventually decided in favor of the practice and it is determined that you did nothing wrong, the legal cost of defending the practice can be devastating.
On top of financial fears due to legal expenses, there is a very good chance that your other patients will hear about the lawsuit and some patients may leave your practice for less tarnished options. Potential new clients may learn about the lawsuit as their introduction to your practice.
Needless to say, avoiding legal action from patients is a very big priority for health care practice management.
Steps to Avoid a Lawsuit
With so many opportunities for patients to accuse a health care practice management systems of negligence or malpractice, it may seem impossible to avoid a lawsuit if it’s coming at you. But there are some steps you can take to ensure that patients are heard before they start thinking about legal action.
Most importantly, clinicians and all staff of the health care practice management should be educated about the risks of legal action.
Criminal and civil lawsuit examples should be discussed among the staff so that everyone understands their role in avoiding a lawsuit. This should include not just patient-staff relations but also the employee-employer responsibilities.
When a situation does arise where a patient or employee feels they are being taken advantage of or mistreated, the action that health care practice management takes may determine how far things escalate. Never underestimate a claim, even if it is totally unfounded.
Be sure to spend time listening to the complaints, as it may be enough for the patient to be heard and acknowledged. However, rather than giving in and being apologetic, be sure to stand firmly on your policies and avoid saying things that could incriminate your health care practice management.
The first step in any litigation will include mediation. In some ways, you should consider mediation as your first option when a serious complaint of your health care practice management is filed.
There should be an easy-to-use complaint filing system and ways for patients to give feedback, so that they feel confident they are being heard. If a patient is frustrated while simply trying to file a complaint, their estimation of your practice will only diminish further.
Introducing a third party mediator or legal consultant for the health care practice management can be the right step for many situations. Especially if you have legal advice that suggests you are not in the wrong, bringing a third opinion into the conversation may help you to avoid an actual lawsuit.
And just like in any legal situation, it will probably be less expensive to work things out before things escalate, even if you win your case in the end.
Bigger Picture Thinking
Avoiding legal mistakes will be a challenge for any health care practice management team, but most especially for small practices that do not have significant resources.
Remember to focus on the big picture and consider how each step and each action your practice takes will reflect on the community’s perception of the practice.
But don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know is correct and to hear out complaints in an effort to reduce the potential for damage.
Whether you are healthy or not, having the right insurance for you is a must. Nitin Chhoda elaborates the importance of having the right insurance, and how it can help you prepare for future healthcare needs.
The terms healthcare and insurance have gotten a bit muddled in the minds of most Americans. So much of the public debate around healthcare is focused on health insurance.
But the reason that we need a better system of healthcare and insurance is because people aren’t getting the kind of healthcare they need to stay healthy.
It can be difficult to understand the healthcare practice management system if you never need to know how it works. But then one day you do need to understand, and maybe that’s because you’ve ended up in the hospital and are uninsured or underinsured.
The Truth About Healthcare and Insurance
The truth is that patients these days need better healthcare, and healthcare and insurance is the way that healthcare becomes affordable. If you had millions of dollars in the bank, you might not care about health insurance.
If something happened, if you were in a car accident or got sick with a serious disease like cancer, you could pay for your healthcare, even if that meant spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for the best care. However, if you don’t have unlimited funds to spend on unforeseen expenses, healthcare and insurance is there to cover the big costs.
What is Healthcare?
For a moment, let’s forget about healthcare and insurance altogether. Imagine that every time you got sick and needed to go to the doctor, you would just go and the doctor would charge you a fee for the visit, and you could afford to pay that fee.
You have a bad sore throat that won’t go away, you go to the doctor, suspecting strep throat, and the doctor charges $30 for the visit and gives you a prescription for antibiotics. Then you visit the pharmacy and pay $10 for your medication and you’re all better in a week. You don’t feel like you need a healthcare and insurance.
That is healthcare at it’s most simple approach. Of course, the situation gets more complicated if something serious happens.
You have pain in your back all the time and you visit the doctor. You have to go back a number of times for a number of different tests.
Each time it costs $30, plus the costs of the tests. Then your doctor orders an MRI. In the United States, an MRI costs hundreds of dollars. Healthcare and insurance seemed to be important at this time.
Or if someone has back pain that is making their life difficult and full of pain, they do not have a choice about seeking out healthcare and insurance.
The alternative is to live with awful pain all the time, limiting what they do in fear of making it worse, and possibly taking pain medication which will do further damage in the long term, to the liver, kidneys, and other important organs.
Getting Healthcare and Insurance is Part of Life
So rather than risk that this patient will have to pay for all these medical tests and potentially ending up in surgery, which will cost $50,000 to $100,000, the alternative is to buy healthcare and insurance.
You may choose a high deductible and pay for all those inexpensive visits, but if something truly bad happens, you are financially protected from medical bankruptcy.