Searching for the perfect electronic medical record software for your practice can feel overwhelming. Whether you are starting a new practice, moving away from paper charts or trying to switch to a new software, it requires a lot of internet sleuthing and demo attending to land on an EMR that strikes the right balance of features and price point.
You need a platform that is equipped to handle a variety of core functions in your medical practice, which can range from record keeping and charting to practice management to medical billing and coding. Likely, that software will be responsible for more tasks in between.
Because you and your staff will depend on that electronic health record for a variety of tasks throughout the day, a frictionless experience is critical. This blog can serve as a guide to help you understand the core features of EHR software, telehealth platforms, practice management software, medical billing software, revenue cycle management and EHR implementation.
The electronic health record has come a long way in a short time. What was once a clunky, desktop only software, now runs smoothly on desktop and mobile. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous; likewise, tablets have carved a large role in how many practices run day-to-day, and therefore, your EHR should fit neatly into a mobile ecosystem.
Mobile EMRs open up a world of flexibility and allow for more personal patient interactions. But that’s just the first step, as once the software is running on your tablet, ensuring it charts efficiently based on your specific practice’s needs often gets overlooked by providers.
Make sure your chosen electronic medical record platform has customizable medical forms and templates that give you the room to chart in a way that makes sense for you. Ideally, your EHR will have some pre-made templates to use out of the box, but it should also be able to accommodate your specific workflows as you optimize them over time.
On top of the actual forms physicians use, look for intelligent charting tools to make filling out a patient’s chart even easier. One such feature to look out for is dynamic photo charting. This allows a practitioner to take a picture, upload it to the chart and annotate it however they like, all without leaving the EHR.
Another popular feature is medical-speech-to-text which gives providers the ability to verbally dictate notes into the software. Features like these will save your practice a significant amount of time in the long run.
The next thing to consider is whether your vendor integrates with a large number of labs. Local and national lab integrations are critical to ensuring a physician is getting the lab results they need in a timely manner. Ideally, the EHR software will allow those results to automatically upload to the patient’s chart.
Finally, if you plan to prescribe medications to patients, make sure your EHR platform has eRx features. E-prescribe is a crucial feature for modern practices, allowing them to send prescriptions, including controlled substances, from the chart to a patient’s preferred pharmacy.
Though e-prescribe simplifies the prescription process, it also must meet specific requirements. The software must be fully compliant with DEA, NIST and Superscripts requirements. For added security, look for a medical software with two-factor authentication as well.
Many other features play a part in a great EHR, but from a high level, these are the most important. Learn more about what other features you need in an electronic health record here.
Practice Management Software Essentials
Beyond the work involved directly with what happens during appointments, an EMR system should have a suite of features available to make practice management easier. These tools can save a practice both time and money by automating administrative tasks and reducing the need for extra staff. Adding on more staff to handle the practice management workload is expensive, and it can mean having to see more patients while spending less time with each just to make up the costs.
As such, you should look for features in your practice management software to ease that administrative burden. One essential feature is online scheduling. This allows patients to schedule their own appointments through a patient portal without having to wait through a clogged phone queue. Some patient portals will also show how long of a wait patients can expect at the office.
Once that appointment is scheduled, you want to know that the patient will show up. Automated appointment reminders will go a long way towards cutting down your no-show rate. The software should be able to send reminders via phone, text message or email.
Ask your vendor if they allow you to create appointment profiles in the software. These can be big time savers because they let you pre-determine how long each type of appointment should be, what kind of intake forms they need and what kind of medical billing codes are commonly needed for that encounter.
Another useful feature in the appointment process is patient check-in. Practices can cut down on unnecessary wait time by allowing patients to fill out their check-in paperwork electronically from anywhere. This will reduce the overall data entry time across a work day, as patients will be able perform tasks like scanning their insurance information directly into the EHR.
In the same vein, it’s important that the software can perform real-time eligibility checks on patient insurance information. Those checks can add up throughout the day when performed manually. Especially in cases where pre-approval is required for a procedure, your practice will need this instant access to insurance companies.
After the appointment, collecting payments in the practice management platform will make for a quick conclusion to the service. You should be able to simply swipe a credit card and accept payments from anywhere via mobile device. Make sure your vendor allows you to save those credit cards on file after the transaction is made.
Finally, for increased customizability, look for a platform with a secure, open API that integrates with third party softwares. If you find a vendor with most of the features you need, but not all of them, many of those gaps can be filled by integrated partner softwares.
Practice management can be heavily streamlined for most practices. If you want to learn more about practice management features, read this blog.
Telehealth Features to Prioritize
Between remote patient monitoring technology and video visits, telehealth has quickly become a must-have in the healthcare industry. Patients have grown accustomed to the experience, and most want telemedicine to stick around long term. Odds are, your patients have a smartphone, so if you want to be equipped to meet them where they already are, you need to find a telehealth software provider.
Not every service is built the same, as so many new services are emerging due to the pandemic environment. However, an exceptional telemedicine platform is more than just the video visits it’s built around.
First and foremost, the platform must be HIPAA compliant. Virtual visits have a specific set of requirements they must meet for compliance. A telehealth service must be built with these rules in mind, and they must be able to quickly adjust as changes are made to the telemedicine HIPAA regulations.
Because the device most readily available to most patients is their cell phone, you should seek out a platform that is cloud-based. That’s the best way to take advantage of the convenience of telehealth. A cloud-based platform would not require any extra downloads on the patient or physician sides. Patients will face fewer barriers to entry if the appointment is web-accessible via a link.
To make the process of these appointments even simpler, find a telehealth service that integrates directly with your EHR. Digging around for a third party provider at a reasonable price is often not worth the time and effort. If the telemedicine software works naturally with your EHR system, it brings the added benefit of smoother appointments.
Instead of navigating between two different softwares to access your patient’s chart and the video visit, put the two together into one seamless experience. This way, you can view and edit patient charts without having to close the video visit.
These features are a good starting point for a telehealth service, but to learn more about other features as well as how to properly measure your ROI on telehealth, read this article.
Medical Billing & Revenue Cycle Management Options
Medical billing and coding are endlessly complex and time intensive functions, but the right platform could dramatically improve your billing workflows and revenue collection. If you select an EHR with integrated medical billing tools, that will also greatly simplify things.
The best softwares can save time while improving your clean claims rate by automating aspects of the billing process that are fraught with potential for human error. These will generally be targeting data entry tasks. One way that billing software achieves this is similar to the appointment profiles mentioned above. Billing profiles will cut down on data entry by letting you set up your most common diagnoses and corresponding medical billing codes.
Reporting tools are also necessary to understand how your practice is performing on the revenue side. If your billing software integrates with your EMR, you can view graphs and reports within that platform, so that you know where improvements are needed in real time.
This software should also seamlessly integrate ERAs into your workflow. You will want to be able to filter Electronic Remittance Advice for more effective reporting. Moreover, those ERA payments should be posted directly to your practice’s bank account via direct deposit.
However, your practice might be in a position to consider outsourcing your billing workload to a team of billing and coding professionals. If that is the case, a transparent and trustworthy revenue cycle management company could work wonders for your revenue collection. Note that typically, RCM services will charge a percentage of your total collections rate, or a bare minimum monthly or annual fee.
There are a few benchmarks to consider before outsourcing to billing and coding specialists. When new patient volume and claims volume become overwhelming for your staff, and work starts spilling out to after hours, an RCM service might be right for you.
Also, a clean claims rate below 85% or a denials rate above 10% are red flags indicating that your practice’s RCM strategy is not performing for you. Moreover, if things are routinely spending over 35 days in AR, it may be worthwhile to look for outside help.
Of course, more must be considered before offloading that work to a third party. If you want to gain a more thorough understanding of when to outsource billing and coding, read this blog.
EHR Implementation Must-Haves
After all is said and done, and every feature and integration has been accounted for, the final piece of your EHR puzzle is the implementation process. Finding the perfect solution for your practice or clinic is one thing, but ensuring that you are properly supported as you learn to use it is another entirely. A well-structured implementation process can be the difference between a frustrating experience and a comparably frictionless one.
Implementation works best when treated as a two way street. Kick the process off by collaborating with your implementation specialist to determine goals and timelines for your practice. Your specialist will take that into account as they guide you through the ins and outs of the platform over the course of implementation.
With DrChrono, that process can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days, and that can vary from vendor to vendor. However, with the help of the training sessions, you would be able to use the software even before the full go-live. The best way to move smoothly through this process is to approach it with patience, curiosity and a willingness to learn. As implementation winds down, you will most likely be moved from your specialist over to an account manager for the rest of your contract.
Learning a complex medical software that manages so many aspects of your practice can come with some hurdles. Some of these challenges can be avoided through discovery during the sales process. For example, if your EMR does not have a native feature that you were looking for, that cannot be resolved by an implementation team. However, if your electronic medical record allows third party integrations, they can help you find a solution through the API.
Another frequent issue centers around data transfer. If you are switching from one EHR to another, you have to transfer the medical data over to the new system. Some EHRs will have significant charges to make this happen, so make sure you know what to expect before signing a contract with the new vendor.
If you want to learn more about the EHR implementation process, as well as red flags to look out for during your search, you can read this article.
Signing onto an EMR is a huge decision for every practice. Though there is so much to consider, the information in this guide should set your practice down the right path towards choosing the right system.