Physical therapy clinics require specific workflows from their EHR and medical billing softwares to ensure they operate as efficiently as possible. Because these medical softwares are so crucial to a practice’s success, much diligence is required when researching EHR companies and medical billing software for physical therapy. Physical therapists work too hard to be held back by clunky software.
For many, an electronic health record system that simply does not get in the way would be enough, but for the truly modern physical therapy practice, you need software that can even enhance the patient care you give and the way you run your practice. This article compiles the features physical therapists should prioritize in an EMR, practice management software and medical billing software for their practice.
Physical Therapy EHR Features
Cloud-Based EHR Software
First and foremost, physical therapists need an electronic medical record that can be as mobile as they are. A mobile EHR is a must-have for modern physical therapists who value establishing personal relationships with their patients while streamlining their clinical note-taking workflows. With a cloud-based EHR, you can take your charting with you anywhere, whether you are in the thick of a prescribed exercise demonstration or reviewing notes at home. All you need is an internet connection and a phone, tablet or desktop computer!
Persistent templates are a particularly useful charting feature for physical therapists because the patients they see are generally working on similar issues from appointment to appointment. If a patient needs physical therapy treatments for their tennis elbow when they first see you, they will probably be looking for the same care when they return.
With this feature, you can establish a patient’s clinical note on day one, and then you can easily copy their information over to subsequent encounters. This would reduce time spent manually entering this data for every appointment, as well as opportunities for data entry errors that can prove costly down the line.
Image Annotation and Videos
Providing physical therapy treatments to your patients requires some education around their condition, why you are providing a particular treatment plan and often how to perform certain prescribed exercises at home. That is why an EHR that allows physical therapists to annotate medical images from x-rays to pictures captured on your iPad can be especially useful. Image annotation gives you the ability to visually demonstrate problem areas for patients, fostering better understanding on their end.
Then, once the issue is understood and a plan is in place, physical therapy patients may need further assistance executing that plan when they are away from your practice. By working with an EHR that has video capture capabilities, you can make sure they know how their exercises should look to avoid any persistent issues with their form that can hinder the healing process.
Customizable Clinical Notes
Customizable clinical notes should be non-negotiable for physical therapists because no one knows how you work better than you. Your electronic health record software should allow you to build your notes from scratch if you so choose, or you should be able edit the templates they provide to better fit your clinical workflows. Your physical therapy practice is not the same as every other physical therapy practice, and your EHR should reflect that.
For more in depth information about EHR for physical therapy, read this blog.
Practice Management Software Features for PT Practices
HIPAA Compliant Patient Portal
An easy-to-use EHR patient portal is vital to proper patient communications and effective practice management. This application is your patient’s hub for the medical records you share with them, and as such, it must be highly secure and HIPAA compliant as well. You will use the patient portal to message your patients and share patient education materials such as the aforementioned prescribed exercise videos.
Online Appointment Scheduling
Online appointment scheduling will save your physical therapy practice the time and effort needed to handle your calendar over the phone. Instead, patients can easily schedule their appointment without having to wait in a long queue or have their call go unanswered, creating a better, more professional experience for them along the way.
Some vendors will allow you to implement their calendar tool into your website as well, or patients can schedule from the patient portal. It can also provide a virtual queue to let patients know what to expect with wait times at your office.
Kiosk Mode for Patient Check-In
Once patients arrive at your clinic, they should be able to check in quickly to avoid any waiting room pileups. With a kiosk mode, your practice can set out iPad stations with a patient check-in app that will let your patients fill out their intake forms, and their information can automatically populate their charts in your EHR. Because the forms can be completed online, your patients also ought to have the option to complete them before they even walk in the door.
Open API with Partner Marketplace
Finding an EHR vendor that has a well-developed open FHIR API can make all the difference in your EHR and practice management software search. For particularly tech savvy physical therapy practices, this would empower you to build solutions tailored to your workflows on top of the existing EHR platform. Otherwise, a partner marketplace with a wide variety of third party applications that can be integrated into your practice management software can cover up many feature gaps that you might encounter.
The API can get you connected to practice management tools like Updox that will work seamlessly with your medical software, and it may also have integrations for the clinical side such as Deepscribe for a digital scribe or solutions to assist with outcome tracking like OutcomeMD. Of course, you want a strong base of features that are native to the main platform, but an FHIR API on top of the existing software can open up a lot of doors for your physical therapy practice.
Medical Billing Features for Physical Therapists
For optimal medical billing workflows at your physical therapy clinic, you will want billing software that is fully integrated with your EHR. This integration will streamline your physical therapy billing process by automatically pulling information from patient charts into the billing side which will also eliminate opportunities for data entry errors. Ultimately, the right medical billing software for physical therapists could be their EHR system.
Automatic Claims Submission and Easy Billing Code Correction
Physical therapists need a billing software that makes billing easy, and one way to do that is by automatically sending out claims on a daily cadence to help your PT practice maximize revenue. Depending on the billing software and the clearinghouse, this process can even be done twice daily. One way to achieve great billing results is to work with clearinghouses that specialize in workers compensation and other physical therapy specific claims.
Additionally, your medical billing software should make it easy to correct coding errors before filing your claims to foster a faster claims process. This capability working with the automatic claims submissions can make billing and coding much easier for your physical therapy practice.
The best medical billing software makes the billing process transparent and understandable for practitioners that handle their own billing. Moreover, physical therapy clinics need to be able to track how their revenue processes are performing, so that they can either make adjustments or maintain successful workflows.
With a billing analytics dashboard in your medical billing software, you can utilize graphs and other visualizations to gain a thorough understanding of your revenue. The billing analytics function should provide real time billing insights, so that issues do not remain unnoticed for too long.
How can a medical billing software really simplify processes for physical therapists? One particularly useful feature that achieves that goal is billing profiles. Billing profiles allow physical therapists to establish profiles for commonly coded procedures such as electrical stimulation, mechanical traction, massage therapy and more.
Then, when those relevant appointments take place, the necessary information and CPT codes will be loaded into the patient’s note. This will save your medical practice from extraneous data entry for procedures that you are likely performing every day, multiple times per day.
If you want some more in depth information on these features, check out this blog.
Revenue Cycle Management Service for Physical Therapy Clinics
Your physical therapy practice might be able to handle your billing workload right now, but as you grow, that may not always be the case. One way to make sure that your practice is able to scale up more seamlessly is outsourcing your medical billing to a team of medical billing professionals. Revenue cycle management is a service where certified billing and coding experts manage your end-to-end billing cycle.
If your clinic is in the position to work with an RCM service, it would make sense to work with a vendor that is familiar with your practice and specialty. That is why it is worthwhile to consider signing up with an EHR and medical billing company that also has an RCM team.
Then, as you begin to work with that team, you will come into the situation with an understanding of the billing software and workflows to facilitate a more transparent and efficient partnership between your practice and the RCM team.
Regardless of the RCM vendors you consider, you need to be sure that their certified billing professionals are well versed in physical therapy billing and coding. They should reliably be able to correctly code for your PT evaluations and treatments, and, for example, if you treat Medicare patients, they should understand the 8 minute rule for physical therapy treatment units. Arguably the most important part of a relationship with a billing team is transparency. If their processes seem opaque to you, it is difficult to trust them with your revenue.
Leveling up to RCM can open up a significant amount of time for your physical therapy practice to see more patients and develop better relationships with them. Even if that is not a service you need today, keep in mind how you want your practice to evolve over time. What kind of support will you need next year or three years from now?
Physical therapists need medical software that can help them achieve the level of efficiency they need for their practices to thrive. Though you may be inclined to run with a physical therapy specific platform, you might eventually find the rigidity of those softwares rather stifling as your practice grows.
Moreover, if your practice needs unique solutions as a result of the way you like to work, a truly customizable EHR software will be a great place to start. Whether you are starting a new physical therapy practice, or trying to grow yours, an EHR with the features laid out in this article can be a major asset on that journey.