You have EHR software, and you have practice management software. But they aren’t on speaking terms. They don’t even speak the same language, and this language barrier may be doing more harm to your practice than you realize.
Simply integrating these two systems can fix a lot of problems. If you’ve been hesitating to take the plunge, here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t wait.
You’ll save time
“Integrating medical records and practice management software cuts out a lot of duplicate effort,” says Laurie Morgan, a San Francisco-based senior consultant and partner with medical consulting firm Capko & Morgan. If your programs are not integrated, the billing staff has to re-key what providers have written or logged somewhere else.
“On the other hand,” Morgan says, “when the systems are combined, the clinician keys in the information and the codes and other information flow through to billing. You only input the data one time. It greatly speeds up the process.”
It also saves time up front, notes Tammie Olson, of Management Resource Group, an Ocean Springs, Miss.-based firm offering financial management and support services for the healthcare community.
“Office staff will not have to enter data twice into separate programs since the practice management software will automatically pull information from the EHR and vice versa,” she says.
You’ll save money
And of course, saving time saves money—maybe more than you realize.
“Practices often underestimate the costliness of redoing work,” says Morgan. "Paper super bills can be hard to read, and that means stopping the process to ask questions or redoing work more often."
Saving time is not the only way integration can save you money, however. “Integrating EHR and practice management systems can increase revenue because having the data all in one system makes it easier to pull claims to submit to payers,” says Olson. If it’s easier to submit claims, you get them in faster. This gives you a head start if for some reason claims are returned. You can resubmit and get paid faster.
“It’s also easier for integrated systems to identify and correct improperly coded procedures,” adds Olson.
You’ll make fewer mistakes
Putting in data only once reduces errors as well. Each time someone rekeys data, there is another chance for mistakes to creep in. And once mistakes are in your system, they can be difficult to get rid of—especially if spread across multiple systems.
“Consolidating patient data increases the accuracy of reports generated and makes for a seamless transition of data between the practice management system and the EHR system,” says Olson. “This will increase the accuracy of healthcare data on all fronts.”
You have a lower risk of privacy breaches
One unexpected benefit of integration is that the systems can help keep your data safe. “Nearly all privacy breaches result from human error,” says Olson. “An integrated system is easier to maintain and keep secure than multiple systems.”
A lot of people were traumatized by the EHR conversion ten years ago, but Morgan points out that now there are many systems for billing and integration that aren't nearly so disruptive. “There are really no downsides to integrating your systems,” Olson adds. “It’s a low-risk, cost-effective way to make your practice more efficient and more profitable.”