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Three EHR 'Add-Ons' to Boost Your Practice's Efficiency


If driving practice efficiency is in your game plan, technology investments to complement your EHR should be considered.

Your practice invested in its EHR for a variety of reasons. Sure, achieving meaningful use was a part of the equation. But you also saw the promise of making your practice more efficient. If driving efficiency's still in your game plan, here are three EHR "add-ons" you may want to consider.

1. A scanning solution

One option is adding a scanning system to your EHR, said Joncé Smith, vice president of revenue management at Bethel Park, Penn.-based Stoltenberg Consulting. With a scanning solution connected to your EHR, you can create a digital archive of patients' insurance information, their contact details, and their signed HIPAA consent forms. "A scanning system is helpful to the front-office staff who are trying to schedule a follow-up appointment and to the billing office if they run into a problem with insurance. If the billing staff can't resolve a problem with a patient's insurance, they can contact the patient directly," she said.

2. A practice management system

If you want to streamline billing and scheduling, a practice management system that includes both capabilities may be a good fit. Selecting a practice management system provided by your EHR vendor is key, advised Morris Stemp, CEO of Long Island City, NY-based Stemp Systems, a healthcare IT consulting firm.

"If you're using systems from two different vendors, you're going to be duplicating data. Anytime you have to manually enter information from one system to another, you leave yourself open to human error," he said. While integrations between systems from different vendors can be helpful, those integrations break, noted Stemp. "When an integration breaks and your practice stops functioning, who's responsible for fixing what's broken if there are two vendors involved?"

While Stemp acknowledged that switching in order to have practice management and EHR platforms from the same vendor can be a costly proposition, over time the benefits outweigh the costs. If you have platforms from two different vendors and either vendor updates its software, you'll probably need to update those integrations. Neither the practice management nor the EHR vendor wants to invest in supporting integrations to a variable number of other systems, he said.

3. A data analytics solution

Data analytics tools should also be on the short list, according to Shane Pilcher, vice president at Stoltenberg Consulting. "There's a [data analytics] tool and process for every size organization. [Data analytics] can take your revenue cycle data and pair it with data from the clinical side of your practice, and you can see how your practice is really taking care of your patients. With this information in hand, you can really make decisions and changes to the way you deliver care. You can improve patient outcomes and decrease the cost of care, which impacts your bottom line," he said.

With access to this data - in the form of dashboards and visual roadmaps - practice leadership can have access to information pulled from disparate systems, advised Smith. For example, with a data analytics solution, practices could have greater insight into which patients are using their patient portal successfully and then align resources around making the patient portal more user friendly.

Technology's not going to fix all of your problems, though. Any smart practice should make sure to fix any broken processes before throwing technology at a problem and hoping for a "fix," advised Pilcher.

"Putting new technology around an inefficient process only exacerbates that inefficiency," he said. Pilcher's advice? "Look at the processes that you're using, identify changes and make them more efficient, and then wrap technology around that. That's going to allow you to see a bigger return on investment and better success of the overall project."

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