We have seen the influx of information technology revolutionize almost every industry over the last few years, with one innovation after another expediting the exchange of information among organizations and individuals. The same holds true for the healthcare industry, where the term health IT has dominated discussion between physicians, hospitals and government funded institutions. The rate of innovation in health IT has been incredible, especially with the advent of Cloud-based Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Health Information Exchanges (HIE). These new solutions have helped providers escape the barriers of traditional server based technology and be connected with their patients from virtually anywhere in the world.
Today, mobile technology is paving the way for the future of affordable and accessible care delivery. Physicians have always looked for ways to respond to the needs of their patients quickly even from outside of their offices. SaaS EMR(s) and online Patient Portals have made this possible, as physicians are able to access the medical records of their patients directly from their cell phones, tablets and laptops. However, many physicians across the nation remain unaware of the functionality and benefits of SaaS EMR(s) or why it has become so popular.
The influence of SaaS upon the healthcare continuum is evident once we take a closer look at solutions such as EMR, practice management, patient portals. SaaS allows for a pay as you go service, where the data captured at the provider’s practice is stored on virtual servers outside of the physician’s office. This means that via SaaS, providers no longer need to maintain hardware equipment or perform data backup.Subscription fees are usually paid on a monthly basis, while customer support is usually available round the clock.
As with other innovations in technology, drawbacks and concerns always emerge after implementation. In this case, the primary risk of implementing SaaS in healthcare is the potential threat to safety and integrity of sensitive patient information.The long term preservation and confidentiality of this datais the responsibility of the respective SaaS EMR vendor. Most SaaS vendors today assure their clients of the safety of their information by complying with strict HIPAA guidelines. There are additional guidelines outlined in the Meaningful Use program by the CMS, thanks to which SaaS in healthcare will experience a 20% growth by 2017.
Providers must ensure their due diligence when choosing a SaaS health IT solution. The vendor must assure the provider of their compliance with HIPAA and other information security standards such as ISO 27000 etc. Providers should ideally request their vendor for copies of recent audit reportsalong with the any information security certifications before making their final decision. In light of the aforementioned characteristics of SaaS and health IT, it is easy to construe that providers looking to go paperless at this stage must give preference to Cloud technology over traditional server based technology. This will ensure the long term viability of their health IT investment.
Swift health information exchange is the need of the hour in the healthcare sector, with most doctors converting to electronic documentation with EMRs. With clinical documentation and health information exchange taking precedence, doctors have little time to focus on office administration and profitability. However, established EMR vendors now offer the perfect solution for such practices in the form of “all-in-one” software packages. These packages provide practice owners with a single solution accommodating clinical documentation, office administration, scheduling and billing along with advanced reporting capabilities. Without the need to run two separate software (EMR and Practice Management), these competitively priced packages reduce acquisition cost and provide better value.
With health IT adoption on the rise, there are now hundreds of vendors in the market trying to capture their share of the care community. This has meant that vendors are now looking to offer greater value to their clients, in an attempt to stay ahead of competition with offerings such as the aforementioned “all-in-one” software packages. Standalone practice management software (PMS) is by no means a new concept in healthcare. However, it’s recent popularity can be directly attributed to the government’s backing of electronic health information processing and dissemination.
As EMRs deal with the clinical operations within a practice, PMS simplifies administrative tasks such as scheduling, monitoring appointments, follow ups, insurance verification, billing and reporting etc. With the right amount of training, practice staff can accomplish routine tasks much faster, with less errors and duplication. The right solution can ensure better coordination between clinicians and their staff to improve the overall efficiency of the practice – saving time and money for patients and physicians. Furthermore, the incorporation of features such as OCR (optical character recognition), online insurance eligibility verification, text messaging (alerts and reminders) and data mining reports etc., has drastically improved practice profitability and eliminated redundant workflows in small practices.
Fortunately for providers, not all among their staff can access sensitive patient information or the billing information related to the practice. Role based access and audit trails prevents unauthorized staff access, while allowing administrators to restrict individual users in the practice from accessing any one or multiple patient charts. In light of the aforementioned characteristics of “all-in-one” health IT solutions, providers now deem it more beneficial for their EMR to be integrated with practice management software. Providers looking to start their journey towards a paperless office must ensure that the practice management capabilities of their chosen solution are not overlooked. As a consequence, their health IT investments will generate greater value and returns, while guaranteeing peace of mind in years to come.
With the enduring efforts of promoting interoperability by the federal government and health IT vendors alike, we have observed a surge in the adoption of certified EMR across the nation. For some providers, the prime reason for adoption is avoiding penalties, while others view it as a professional responsibility. Regardless of their motives, it would be reasonable to deduce that the utilization of certified EMR technology in practices has raised the bar for the quality of patient care and staff productivity as well. All providers looking to comply with the Meaningful Use objectives must employ a certified EMR. The definition of certified EMR changes with the corresponding stage of Meaningful Use. As of now, we are in Meaningful Use stage one while stage two should begin in 2014.
Stage 2 of Meaningful Use requires the use of patient portals in order for providers to qualify for the apportioned incentives. The fundamental reason for the government’s focus on the use of patient portals is for the improvement in health management for patients. Once the patient feels involved, the level of satisfaction he/she experiences increases as well. As a result, there is better coordination between patients and physicians ensuing in a lot of time and hassle being saved for both.
According to a recent report published by KLAS, more than 50 percent of all clinics and hospitals varying in specialties nationwide have implemented patient portals in their practices. Moreover, this statistic is improving by the day. The current figure strongly indicates the sensitivity of physicians towards their patients’ needs along with a willingness to comply with the Meaningful Use guidelines. The final precept of stage 2 in regards to patient portals mandates that a minimum of five percent of a provider’s patients have to be active on their portal in order for the provider to qualify for their share of incentives.
Given the aforementioned benefits and the overall response of the physician community across the U.S. towards the use of certified EMR and patient portals, we can conclude that the implementation of this technology substantially improves practice efficiency and patient health management. The results may require time to become evident; slowly but surely, we are witnessing the benefits which are inherent to the use and utilization of health IT.
The introduction of interoperable health IT solutions had a significant impact on the entire healthcare industry. All conventional rules of medical practice were modified and providers across all specialties strive to stay in business with the ever changing regulations and new health standards. The adoption of EMR in the healthcare sector was a game changer, as conventional methods of storing, retrieving and documenting clinical data became obsolete overnight. The potential benefits of EMR technology were the major reason behind the introduction of Meaningful Use incentives for providers – helping promote widespread adoption.
EMR adoption was on the rise, but so was the increase in provider specific requirements, often based on specialty and practice setting. It has taken a while for the physician community to fully utilize EMR technology, as initial EMR solutions were limited in functionality and usability. The rising patient volumes and pressure from insurance companies, and other regulatory bodies meant that physicians now needed to accomplish a lot more clinical documentation whilst complying with the administrative and security requirements. This led to the integration of EMR systems with Practice Management software. Standalone practice management solutions existed before the introduction of EMR technology, but with the advent of interoperable “all-in-one” solutions rendered such standalone systems redundant.
This meant that EMR vendors now focused on amalgamating their systems with practice management software to retain market share. For clinicians, the appeal of reduced hassle with the integration of practice management was a better option that ensured optimum financial and clinical performance. Subsequently, physicians could now focus on patient care without having to worry about increased office administration.
With the number of vendors rising by the day, EMR and Practice Management technology is rapidly evolving – with specialty specific EMR systems now making their presence felt. Healthcare professionals are no longer satisfied with basic EMR functionality and thus look for a solution that caters to their specialty specific clinical content and workflows. As the care continuum strives for improved clinical outcomes, it would require a great deal of effort from vendors and providers to help develop solutions that meet their specialty requirements.
While discussing the matter of medical billing in regards to any clinical practice, generally you come across two distinct opinions. Firstly, there are those who believe that the responsibility of maintaining financial workflows of a practice lies with the clinician, alongside managing other administrative and clinical aspects of the practice. On the contrary, there are physicians who believe in providing uncompromising patient care, which is why they prefer outsourcing their medical billing to an expert organization. It’s difficult to establish which option is better since both arguments have their inherent pros and cons. Let’s try to determine which option is a more viable strategy to implement within your practice.
The foremost argument for advocates of accommodating an in-house medical billing department is ‘why pay someone for a job that you can do on your own?’ One may regard this as a valid consideration due to the expense incurred by hiring an expert medical billing service. Everybody dislikes money going out of their pocket without an advantageous trade off; so the million dollar question arises, what gains are acquired from the transaction considering option number two?
Surveys and polls have elucidated that overall efficiency of a practice including the clinicians’ productivity have substantially increased once the billing processes have been outsourced to a specialized medical billing service. The fundamental reasons for this phenomenon as cited by these surveys are improved revenue cycles and efficient claim management. A diminished number of rejected claims inevitably results in greater earnings for the practice.
“It’s a mystery why some physicians still opt to have in-house billing. This appears even more ludicrous viewing the exceptional positive impact that outsourcing to a medical billing service has on your practice’s finances. For those who consider their practice to be primarily a business, the argument of saving money by having in-house billing is flawed in my opinion. In comparison you spend more money in hiring trained professionals, or hiring novices and training them. Moreover, training your supplementary resources to perform these functions consumes valuable time. Your revenue cycles are unnecessarily extended and you do not have the resources at your disposal to process the maximum number of claims possible”, according to an Ohio based health IT consultant.
If you inspect closely whilst making a comparison, eventually both time and money are conserved if you outsource your medical billing to an expert and proficient medical billing service. Since a much larger number of claims are being processed, even a small percentage paid to a third party billing company eventually translates into a greater profit for your practice. Furthermore, since all financial responsibilities and intrinsic concerns are outsourced, it gives the physician more time on their hands to focus on their primary responsibility of ensuring delivery of quality care. When all is said and done, the number of clinicians outsourcing their medical billing speaks volumes for its benefits. Specialist medical billing services are making a huge statement through their performance and paving the way for the future of healthcare industry at large.