Paperwork. Administration. ARRA. Eligibility. Billing.Employees.Supplies.Collection.Equipment.SOAP notes. Insurance claims. Legal issues. These are the realities of a chiropractic practice, and we haven’t even mentioned the adjustment. Did we all, prior to becoming chiropractors, tell our friends and colleagues that we had a burgeoning desire to open up a chiropractic practice so that we could dive right in to documentation, administration, and collection? Of course not. It is the patient, the one needing the adjustment, that drives our efforts. And yet, even with our best intentions, there are always the administrative duties that accompany those efforts.
So, as chiropractors, it is our duty to minimize the administration of our practices while maximizing the care we provide our patients. But that doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves away from the patients and become pencil-pushers. Automation tools can empower our practices and help us get our hands off the paperwork and back on the patient.
Moving forward, and with the multitude of health care changes looming over us, automating the office is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. No doubt, there will be some who are pessimistic about the changes in EHR healthcare mandates, as it’s always easier to follow the path of least resistance. But in taking a closer look, integrating a complete, certified EHR practice management system into a practice is the bridge to the efficiency we as chiropractors need to not only improve our patient care, but to compete in the marketplace as well.
Either way, there will be changes in documentation procedures. New coding will have to be learned and software technology will be able to solve most of the difficulties these new changes will present. Chiropractic practices that convert to fully automated software systems will be able to greatly reduce office expenditures after these changes are implemented. In this case, the software automation will make the transition a much smoother process.
Automation tools can empower our practices and help us get our hands off the paperwork and back on the patient[/pullquote]
The first and best approach to adopting software automation begins with an EHR-certified practice management software system. In addition to the ARRA Incentive Program, which offers a great opportunity for eligible providers who demonstrate meaningful use of a certified system to receive up to $44,000 in incentive distributions, the program really provides a framework of standards that constitute a national solution.
These standards have raised the bar in the EHR industry, and address:
Improvement of Patient Care
Clinical decision support rules are a requirement of EHR in an effort to help improve patient care through alerts based on certain key indicators in a patient’s health records.
Reduction in Drug-Drug and Drug-Allergy Interactions
Drug-drug and drug-allergy interaction checks are mandatory for those providers practicing meaningful use. With interconnected e-prescribing, medication lists, and drug allergy monitoring, doctors can prevent interactions through a collective effort.
Being able to show clinical necessity based on more closely defined clinical quality measures can help garner more dollars from treatments. And because certified software must live up to a specific standard, purchasing under a certified label ensures that the piece of software you choose has passed governmental guidelines and functions as a complete EHR.
Improved Portability of Patient Records
The certification process is laying the framework for an interoperative national standard where patient records can be transferred easily—and really become the patient’s information, not the doctor’s. This means that soon, when a patient who sees multiple providers is admitted to the ER, all of their chart notes, x-rays, medication lists, allergies, and lab tests will be readily available because inter-provider electronic exchange of patient information has been realized. This potentially life-saving access to patient records can decrease the time to diagnosis, duplicated lab tests, and potential drug interactions to name a few.
Deciding the best path to take toward the EHR incentive is a question on the minds of many providers in this recent era, and your choice of software systems is one of the most important decisions you can make for your practice. Your choice to purchase certified software will ultimately result in much more than a dollar amount on your stimulus check.
The decision comes with many factors, claims, and requirements to consider. And competing vendors are happy to speak for you when you begin assessing your needs and sorting out the fear from the facts.
But whereas your software choice should be measured on how well the software itself will support the needs of your practice, the EHR incentive is not as subjective. It comes with due dates and eligibility requirements that can be measured specifically, and can be compared against the feedback you receive from every vendor you research.
Automated software also provides your office with many solutions so that you and your staff can streamline many of the daunting tasks that managing the office requires. Electronic Health Records provided by automated software systems now combine documentation, billing, scheduling, reporting and much more into one HIPAA-compliant system to drastically reduce the time it takes to do the tasks that your office is already doing.
Also, it’s important to recognize that while many software solutions state that they provide the “right” solutions, they don’t necessarily get those solutions right. It may seem like semantics, but the deeper meaning here is found in the software’s approach to achieving a given automated task. Just because a software company states an automated solution is included in its capabilities doesn’t mean the method by which that solution is provided is ideal—and can even mean more work for the chiropractor and/or staff behind the scenes! Chiropractors are well advised to dig deeper and go beyond the surface when conducting their research.
Here are some of the features that software automation can take off your hands:
Streamlining the Signing in Process at the Front Desk
Automation saves you valuable time, energy, and staff.[/pullquote]
Modern systems can allow patients to check themselves in by fingerprint, pin number, bar code scan or swipe card. All of these features are now available through automation to streamline a patient’s arrival. Patients can arrive, check themselves in and then have a seat in the waiting room until you are ready to see them, and even be called back to a room through an automated announcement system.
Total Patient Flow Management
From one screen on the computer, the right automation can help staff manage the entire flow of the office. They can easily view the patient’s purpose of visit; their provider, who has arrived, who has checked-in, who has checked-out, who owes you money and who is running late.
Automated software can allow the customization of several views so that your staff can easily keep track of a patient’s schedule. They can view past, present and future appointments with a patient all at once. Also, administrative notes and insurance information for each patient can be accessed within seconds.
Patient Billing and Collection
One of the features that makes a software management system so attractive is the billing feature. Most chiropractic software systems have built-in electronic billing as well as standard paper billing. This feature can save your office thousands of dollars every year in billing and collection costs. The process is easy as well as efficient. Many systems can print monthly statements or use an e-mail system to remind your patients that a bill is due. They can also send out delinquency notices so that your office can collect past due payments.
Just as it is important to identify a software system that meets all of your needs, one must also look closely at the support that stands behind the software. Along with robust training, pick a software company that partners with you and your staff every step of the way. Do they have a dedicated representative that is there for you when a question arises? Do they offer access to a support community online consisting of other chiropractic offices that can readily help you with any questions or issues that may be encountered while adapting to the new system? Are they ONC-ATCB certified?
Truthfully, no doctor enjoys writing long chiropractic reports or creating SOAP notes. Chiropractors are starting to realize the advantages of using automated software, and most doctors certainly would agree that their time could be better spent caring for more patients and tending to other important things, including getting a little rest and relaxation for themselves.
I hear many colleagues talk about the ‘expense’ of practice management software, and I immediately counter by asking them to consider the expense of NOT incorporating a fully-functioning practice management software into their offices. Automation saves you valuable time, energy, and staff. Automation allows the chiropractor to spend more time with more patients—while streaming operations, reducing staff, and increasing productivity.
Ultimately, how you and your staff spend your time is the most important consideration. Time spent defines profitability, quality of patient care and the overall efficiency of the practice. Chiropractic office automation is designed to revolutionize your practice from beginning to end. Automation cuts costs, saves time and will provide you with the tools you need to improve the quality of care to your patients. It can improve work flow to keep your office moving at optimum speed.
In our profession, change isn’t coming—it’s already arrived. General (Ret.) Eric Shinseki, former Chief of Staff of the Army, said it best when addressing change: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” As a community, it’s time that we embrace change, empower our practices with powerful automation tools, and ultimately improve the care we give to the patients we all collectively serve.