Six Ways Physicians Will Automate the Office in 2016

December 30, 2015

With the new year upon us, here are six predictions on how physician practices will continue to automate their processes in 2016.

With the fourth quarter of 2015 upon us, it is not too soon to start contemplating how office automation will continue to impact providers in the coming year. As those who deliver care continue to look for ways to increase office efficiencies and enhance the patient experience, here are six things I believe are bound to happen:

1. Physicians will appreciate the fact that the greatest benefits come not from automating just one part of their practice but the entire office, so all parts run in one smooth rhythm. Already most physicians have adopted EHRs. Now it is time to welcome a web-based clearinghouse that can manage every aspect of the revenue cycle including claims management, eligibility and electronic remittance advice. The right clearinghouse can increase cash flow, lower accounts receivables, and assure that providers receive the full reimbursement to which they are entitled. In addition to pre-screening for errors in the information provided by the provider to the payer, a clearinghouse helps in the claims processing because insurance companies that receive claims through a clearinghouse get information in a format that is actionable and easy to understand.

2. Physicians will increasingly embrace electronic prescribing of medications into their daily practice. E-prescribing allows physicians to view prescription benefits and formulary information, automatically build medication history for each patient, and access various reports for easy record keeping and tracking. These modules also provide physicians automated interaction alerts for drug-to-drug, drug-to-disease and drug-to-allergy interactions as well as clinically relevant cautionary information, thus reducing the chance of medical errors. The best e-prescribing software platforms allow physicians to prescribe all medications in a safe and easy manner, including controlled substances.

3. Physicians will expand their electronic records capabilities to include healthcare labs. EHR/lab interface makes it possible for doctors’ offices to click a button to submit lab orders rather than faxing or sending a paper order with the patient. This saves time (which saves money), helps assure accuracy, and vastly improves the patient experience. When lab reports are shared electronically, diagnosis and treatment decisions can be more comfortably made based on complete and trustworthy information. EHR/lab interfaces also help identify trends and diagnoses that may be critical in care decisions, which can contribute to the adoption of best practices.

4. Physicians will begin to better leverage electronic clinical messaging through which they can be notified in real time and at point of care of the recommended clinical procedures most advantageous to the patient. The messages can come directly from outside sources such as health plans, third-party administrators, integrated physician associations, accountable care organizations, or health plans or can also be generated internally based on the payer’s business protocols. Studies have shown that such real-time messaging significantly improves quality of care and allows for better results of disease management, resulting in fewer hospitalizations and reducing serious medical errors.

5. Physicians will increasingly look for ways to interact with patients online. While recognizing that such interactions will never take the place of a needed office visit, patients should have the ability to schedule, cancel or change an appointment online as well as request medication refills, view lab results, and keep track of their entire medical records. In today’s mobile and technology-reliant society it is only natural that patients would want secure, easy access to this information so they can monitor their own health, ask the right questions and make better-informed healthcare decisions.

6. Physicians will become more selective in choosing the right automation partner that won’t just get them up and running, but also offers 24/7 customer support as they embrace new technologies and transition from paper to automation.

As the business of healthcare becomes more and more complex, 2016 will be the year that physicians increasingly turn to automation to do many things they have historically done by hand. Doing so can make their practice more efficient and more profitable while delivering exceptional patient care.

Brian O’Neill is the chief executive officer of Office Ally, which works with more than 380,000 providers and 5,600 insurance carriers and is the only organization in the country offering healthcare providers a full suite of revenue-cycle management services. www.officeally.com