Practices do not just have to use staff members to improve their financial situation. The EHR can also be a huge help.
Your best employee might not sit at a desk, but be sitting on top of one. The EHR is one way for practices to save money.
"When it is programmed right," says Jeffery Daigrepont, healthcare IT expert and senior vice president of the Coker Group, a healthcare consulting firm in Atlanta, Ga, an EHR can reduce the need to depend as much on humans. A good program can eliminate the need for some staff." Computers never get sick or show up late, and they don't gossip with other employees or complain about the placement of their work stations. They can also be a big help in minimizing errors. For example, a good EHR program will check for missing digits in codes and alert you to other mistakes before the payer returns the claim.
Daigrepont points out many other ways EHRs might be your most valuable worker. One of the most underappreciated and underutilized benefits of EHR is that it can be a determined revenue watchdog, if programmed to do so. If a patient is checked in and no payment is made, the computer can alert you to that. No more patients bypassing checkout and no one noticing. Using an EHR technique called charge-linking can make sure you don't miss any associated charges on a visit. For example, every time an immunization is charged, there should also be a charge for an injection. A human might miss that; if programmed to check for it, a computer will catch it every time.
Your EHR system can also keep you from making clinical mistakes by alerting you to potential drug interactions or reminding you to ask a patient about other potential contraindications to a medicine you might be prescribing.
By keeping up with details that are hard for humans to track (but a breeze for computers), Daigrepont says, your EHR can let you know which patients are chronically late to appointments or miss them altogether, and which patients may need more of your attention. For example, if you want a list of all your patients who have hypertension so that you can follow up with them to make sure they come back for regular blood-pressure checks, it could take a human several days of work to compile that list, and more time to assemble the contact information for each patient. Your EHR can do this, literally, in a matter of minutes.
Healthcare is the most human of professions, and computers will never replace people, but they are great tools, and using them well could save you more than money.
This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Physicians Practice.