Facing the EMR Challenge: What to Expect – and How to Win

Moving all of your medical practice’s paperwork to electronic format sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Think of the filing cabinets you could eliminate, the file folders you wouldn’t have to buy, the photocopies your staff wouldn’t have to make, and the trips to the post office you could cut out.

The concept is wonderful. But getting there is the hard part. And unfortunately, even medical organizations that have embraced electronic medical records (EMR) are struggling to achieve lasting results. Consider this:

  • According to an NIH study, physicians who moved to EMR only increased their average time spent with patients from 28.8 to 29.8 minutes per visit.
  • Meanwhile, an American Journal of Emergency Medicine study found that physicians who used EMR systems were spending 43% of their time on data entry, compared to only 28% of their time with patients.
  • In a study conducted by Virginia’s Health Services Research & Development department, primary care providers who received training on their EMR systems only reduced the amount of time they spent on EMR by a negligible amount.

This isn’t good news. It appears that not only is it often a challenge to transition to EMR, but once you go live, you may not achieve noticeable benefits right away.

Carrot or Stick?

In response to news like this, many physicians will be tempted to say, “Fine. No EMR for my practice.”

Ah, but it’s not that simple. Like it or not, there will soon be penalties for not using an EMR. As the requirements of the Affordable Care Act take effect, the government is taking a “carrot-and-stick” approach to with regards to EMRs. The stick phase is fast approaching.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act earmarks up to $44,000 in incentive payments for physicians who adopt and implement certified electronic health record (EHR) or EMR systems.

What about practices that can’t demonstrate “meaningful use” of these systems by the 2015 deadline? They’ll be subject to a 1% reduction in their Medicare reimbursements – and larger reductions in each year that follows.

There’s a real imperative to embrace EMR. Is your practice ready?

How EMR Can Impact Your Team

Now, if you’re confident in the capabilities of your office staff – and especially if you’ve got some computer-savvy people on your payroll – you may be planning to try to meetthe EMR requirements yourself.

Before you take that approach, consider the burden it could put on your staff – and your patients:

Your practice staff may end up having to spend long hours entering data into the EMR. That means less time for patients or other important tasks. It could also mean delayed reimbursements, because even the smallest error in putting data into a complex EMR interface can prevent a claim from getting processed. Finally, you may need to pay your staff additional overtime because of the added complexity and data entry needs.

Your administrative team is probably already busy updating files, scheduling appointments, and dealing with insurance companies. Putting EMR responsibilities on their plate could detract from the quality of their work in other activities.

Your patients will continue to require as much personalized attention as ever – and perhaps a bit more, now that the healthcare landscape is changing so dramatically. As you tackle the EMR challenge in-house, will you be able to guarantee adequate time for patient care?

You can see, the EMR challenge isn’t one to be taken lightly. Fortunately, there are alternatives to throwing more man-hours and budget at the problem. Have you considered how you can save time and money by delegating your EMR data entry to an outside entity? To learn more, download our free white paper, “Overcoming the EMR Burden: How Medical Organizations Can Win with Outsourcing.” 

Seven Signs of a Good EMR Partner

In our previous post, we discussed the difficulty of moving to an EMR system, the dubious benefits of using such a system, and the potential perils of addressing the EMR challenge using only in-house resources.

How, then, can the typical medical practice meet EMR requirements as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, while minimizing risk along the way?

As we alluded to in our last post, [outsourcing] has become a viable option for medical practices of all sizes. Indeed the vast majority of large firms in all different verticals use this strategy. By partnering with a medical scribe service, and or revenue cycle management services ,your clinic or hospital can get the benefits of EMR avoiding many of the drawbacks.

When you outsource some or all of your EMR tasks to a third-party provider that specializes in supporting the medical profession, you can:

  • Reduce your administrative burden – and its associated costs.
  • Reduce staffing needs and associated HR headaches
  • Eliminate EMR headaches – and costly errors – by tapping into the expertise of EMR specialists.
  • Avoid purchasing, implementing, and maintaining an expensive EMR system. Your partner can store your data in a remote system that’s available to you through a browser.
  • Keep your focus where it belongs: on providing the best care for your patients and generating more revenue for your practice.

Of course, it helps to find the right EMR partner for your specific needs. Here’s what to look for.

Finding Your EMR Partner

As you search for a services provider that can manage your EMR processes, you’ll want to look for more than just familiarity with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and a track record of accurate data entry. Hold out for a partner that can provide:

  1. Intimate familiaritywith medical terminology.It’s not enough for your partner to know computers. They should also understand the context in which you’re speaking and be able to figure out the nuances of entering your data into the EMR system.
  2. Intimate familiarity with EMR interfaces.. Any reliable EMR partner should be able to navigate the system for you so you don’t have to waste any more time on this non-value-added task.
  3. Speedy turnaround times.We hardly have to tell you that entering data into the EMR is a highly time-intensive task. Look for a partner who delivers quickly as a matter of routine – not just as a special rush service.
  4. Flexibility and scalability.Engaging an EMR service provider doesn’t have to mean signing a one-year contract that severely hampers your bottom line. The most physician-friendly partners will offer contracts as short as 30 days and customize their services to your needs – no matter how big or small.
  5. First-hand knowledge of the medical industry.Ask your potential partner about their experience in the medical field. Are they merely an IT consulting company that just happens to target medical clinics as clients? Or were they founded by medical professionals who really want to help doctors do more for their patients?

Download Our Free White Paper Today

In the wake of the Affordable Care Act, deadlines to go electronic loom on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean running your practice will soon become a headache. By outsourcing your EMR activities to an expert partner, you can keep your focus on people without hampering the profitability of your organization. To learn more, download our free white paper, “Overcoming the EMR Burden: How Medical Organizations Can Win with Outsourcing.”

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