32 Million Reasons you need an EMR Now!

The Affordable Care Act will add approximately 32 million previously uninsured patients to the health care roster in 2014. These new participants in the healthcare system will be looking for doctors willing and able to accept new patients.  Some providers will see this as a crisis, while others will see it as an opportunity to increase practice capacity to take on new patients.   A little preparation will go along way.

Here are two ways your practice can prepare for this increase in patients without the fear of decreasing quality of care and working more hours.

HIRE ADDITIONAL STAFF

The most obvious way to increase the number of patients your practice can take on is to hire additional staff, including Physicians, Physicians Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners.  If you commonly refer patients to a specialist, hiring a physician trained in that specialty can keep that revenue in-house. The main drawback is cost since a physician will expect a salary that compensates them for their years of school and training. If you decide to go this route, make sure you select your new partner carefully. Choose someone you can get along with and has similar ideas on how practices should be run, as power struggles can be damaging to your business.

If your current physicians are handling tasks that could be delegated to an individual with less training, consider hiring a Physician’s Assistant.  PA’s can take on many of the duties performed by a physician, including taking medical histories, making preliminary examinations, treating minor injuries and counseling patients.  They require less training than a physician, so their expected salary will be less. According to salary.com, as of July 2013 the median expected salary of a PA is $91,749 per year.

IMPLEMENT AN ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS SYSTEM

Another way to increase your capacity might be switching from paper records to an EMR that can be quickly and easily customized to your practice.   This can help your practice handle more patients without hiring additional staff.  Consider how much time, resources and space is wasted keeping track of all of that paper.  According to the Annals of Family Medicine, up to one-third of a physician’s day is consumed by paperwork.

Switching to an EMR allows practices to store and transmit their information digitally, sharing patient data with other physicians, practices, labs and pharmacies without losing or altering essential information. An EMR that fits your practice can reduce the amount of time physicians and physician assistants spend on administrative tasks, leaving them with more time to see patients.  When looking for an EMR, look beyond the expected features of appointment scheduling, patient tracking, health record data storage, and so on; look for one that allows you to customize easily to your practices workflow.

Cloud-based EMRs allow you to access patient records from anywhere there is an Internet connection.  The also can be accessed from a variety of devises including laptops, tablets and smartphones.  This increases the location flexibility of the EMR and can be critical to multiple location practices that may want to consolidate audit, billing and coding functions.

A properly implemented EMR can also reduce errors.  When information is interpreted or copied by humans, it introduces the potential for errors. These errors can have disastrous effects on a patient’s health. Since 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received almost 30,000 reports of medication errors. The FDA attributes these errors to poor communication from a range of sources, including misinterpreted handwriting, mistaken abbreviations, misplaced decimal points and drug name confusion. EMRs that integrate e-Prescribing and bi-directional lab interfaces can help to reduce these types of errors.

The HITECH Act has introduced rewards and penalties intended to drive EMR adoption, but it’s not a decision you should rush into.  An EMR that doesn’t suit your practice or specialty can actually increase the amount of time spent on administration.  You must be careful to choose an EMR and vendor that will fit your practice and integrate seamlessly into its existing workflow.

The increase in patients will happen.  If your practice prepares now you can be ready to capitalize on this opportunity and deliver quality care to many more patients.  ZH Healthcare can help your practice be ready.  ZH Healthcare’s cloud-based, meaningful use certified ZH OpenEMR provides multiples ways to customize how your practice utilizes the EMR ensuring your processes are optimized and working smoothly.  There are a variety of different charting methods, including checkboxes, text selection, data base integration, free hand notes, image notes, and even transcription, that can be customized to the individual needs of each provider within a practice.  With an integrated patient portal, e-Prescribing, and lab interfaces your practice can see more patients and meet the qualifications of meaningful use sooner that you think.

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