Technological innovations in health care have changed the way that many therapy providers converse with their patients. Electronic health records are among the chief advancements in this field, and based on several studies, they appear to be bringing benefits to both physicians and patients alike.
It’s likely as a physical therapist you’ve heard about EHRs and perhaps the federal meaningful use program that grants financial incentives for hospitals and practices that attest to EHR implementation. However, you might not be completely aware of what EHRs do, why they are becoming more popular in many health care fields or how they could help your patients in the long-term.
EHRs: The new standard
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), EHRs are “the new wave of health information.” In short, EHRs are digital versions of patient paper charts. However, since EHRs function in real time, they can give health professionals such as physical therapists instant information about an individual’s health. This can include radiological images, test results, previous diagnoses and medications, allergies and other important data in a patient’s medical history.
What are the long-term benefits of EHRs
Besides the obvious wealth of information that therapy providers can obtain from these innovations, there are many practical benefits that EHRs can bring. The HHS states that EHRs can:
- Advance the quality and convenience of patient care
- Create a user-friendly interface so that patients can participate in their health on a greater level
- Boost care coordination
- Increase the accuracy of diagnoses and health outcomes, saving health care professionals time and money
- Create practice efficiency and cost savings
Because EHRs are accessible whenever and wherever patient care is needed, they create a new era of medical accessibility for PTs measured by better patient outcomes and increased revenue.
EHRs and physical therapists
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, widespread use of EHRs is growing in the PT field. However, the source made it clear that PTs are not yet required or incentivized with implementing EHR systems into their practices through Medicare. In 2015, the federal system will begin to issue penalties for eligible providers that have not attested to the meaningful use program. Yet it’s worth noting that PTs who share patients with physicians and facilities who must attest to these standards must have compatible EHR systems. So, it is in PTs’ own financial interest to make sure that PTs are either taking steps to use EHRs or become familiar with these systems.
Financial incentives with EHRs
Based on an August 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, long-term EHR implementation was associated with increased revenue. Even though the findings discovered that the number of patient visits decreased during the two-year study, reimbursements increased significantly. There were also no occurrences with upcoding or increased medical fares associated with the additional revenue.
What does this mean for PTs? For private practices, financial benefits are numerous with EHRs when you think long term. Although these systems will cost providers upfront, the services will more than make up for the investment in just a few years.
Another study conducted at the University of Michigan demonstrated that compared to paper records, EHRs reduced outpatient medical revenue by 3 percent. Although this might not seem like a large number at first glance, the estimated savings averaged to about $5.14 per patient on a monthly basis.
EHRs can also prove beneficial for PTs, who are likely having to watch their bottom lines. Budget cuts for practices can result in the need to go paperless, creating a more sustainable business plan that actually saves money. Patient portals can also allow patients to have a sense of empowerment with their health and create remote access to files or other medical data.
EHR implementation is growing at a rapid pace, especially in the past few years when software has become increasingly sophisticated. PTs can streamline their services and adequately conduct coding so that they are billing for the right treatments. Since PTs also procure many of their patients through referrals in their physical therapy network it pays to have an electronic system that works across many different formats. EHRs are also an innovation that could save billions of dollars for global health care providers over the next few years.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.