Urgent Care EMR Attributes
With so many electronic medical records (EMR) systems available in the healthcare market, it can be hard for urgent care physician owner/operators to pick just one. By analyzing different attributes specific to urgent care, you can narrow down your choices and make sure that you go with the best fit for your practice.
“The most important aspect of an urgent care EMR is that it allows you to see patients quickly,” David Stern, MD and CEO of Practice Velocity, says. “The second aspect is somewhat similar; the software has to be easy to learn.”
EMRs that are easy to learn and use can cut down on the time it takes to register and chart a patient visit. It’s also important for EMRs to be easy to use if you have a variety of different staff members using the system.
“It’s common for urgent care centers to use part-time providers so you should have an EMR that is user-friendly,” Stern says. “This is so providers that haven’t used EMRs before or that only have minimal training can still use it. If the EMR is not user-friendly, you’ll have to spend a long time training your providers and they may have trouble remembering how it works in-between shifts.”
Renee Vandall, Director of Marketing for Net Health, says that proper documentation is an important aspect to look for in urgent care EMRs.
“You should look for an EMR that allows you to chart fast and code appropriately,” Vandall says. “An EMR should also be able to recognize missing information from a patient’s chart, so that when charts are audited in the back end of being paid, all of the correct documentation is captured so that providers receive appropriate reimbursement.”
Wayne Sebastiano, MD and owner of Glendale Family Medicine Walk-in Care, says that it’s also important for EMRs to be integrated with your front office.
“EMRs are typically associated with the back office, but you need it to work with your front office as well,” Sebastiano says. “It allows all of the information from the procedures done in the back office to come through and allow for effective billing in the front office.”
“Your information should all be in one seamless place; no need to go back and forth to capture any information,” Vandall says. “An EMR with good documentation is proactive and can catch what’s not captured appropriately up front so that it doesn’t affect things on the back end.”
While speed and ease of use are the two non-negotiable urgent care EMR attributes, there are other features that you should still pay attention to.
“Online bill pay options, patient portals and integrated credit card functions are all very useful in urgent care,” Stern says. “If you have the ability to pre-authorize a credit card like hotels and rental car places, that can be useful. If a patient isn’t maintaining a long-term relationship with the urgent care center, it can still bill effectively with online bill pay options. These two things can really help you capture revenue that would otherwise be lost, or very slow to come in.”
Stern says that another functionality of a good EMR is an online check-in system.
“It can be very helpful to have patients get in line, queue up online and minimize waits inside of the clinic,” Stern says. “It makes patient flow more efficient.”
“You want to have an EMR that can recognize allergies when you try to write prescriptions,” Sebastiano says. “You also want it to designate if it’s a true allergy, or simply an intolerance.”
Sebastiano says that electronic prescription writing is also useful.
“It makes things easier because you don’t have to keep stopping and writing prescriptions, and patients aren’t constantly calling you and telling you that they lost it,” Sebastiano says. “
If you offer multiple services at your center, it’s important to find an urgent care EMR that’s flexible.
“A growing trend, and a tremendous need urgent care centers have, relates to supporting occupational medicine and worker’s compensation, which involves complex billing,” Vandall says. “It’s good to have an EMR that can keep those records separate, but still in the same database.”
It can be easy to narrow down your EMR choices just by looking at all of the available features, but it’s also important to think about who you want to be in business with.
“When you buy software, that’s only a portion of what you’re buying,” Vandall says. “It’s important to look at the vendor’s culture and how they take care of their customers.”
Vandall says to pay attention to what the customer service is like when you call an EMR company.
“Are they knowledgeable enough to answer your questions?” Vandall asks. “How fast do they return your calls, and are they friendly?”
In addition, Vandall says it’s also important to look at a company’s stability and track record.
“What is their commitment to the industry and their customers?” Vandall asks. “Are they investing in newer features, and can these features help your practice run more efficiently?”
A reliable support system is also another feature of a responsive EMR.
“It’s great having an EMR, but if the support isn’t stellar, then your EMR is a brick,” Sebastiano says. “Doctors are not computer savvy, and we’re always going to run into problems, so you need someone that is going to support you.”
“Just like any software company, a reputable EMR company should give you a support line to call 7-days-per-week if you have problems,” Stern says. “If your system goes down, you still need to be able to see patients. An EMR that has a back-up paper system is ideal. Not a lot of systems have that, but if they do, it’s wonderful.”
Desirable features in an urgent care EMR will also vary slightly depending on if you own/manage a large or small number of centers.
“Larger businesses should look for EMRs that have a modern, robust database,” Stern says. “Some systems are built on antiquated databases that can’t handle large practices.”
References from other urgent care owners/operators can also help sway your opinion.
“A salesperson is the last person I want trying to sell me a product,” Sebastiano says. “You want to know what others doctors think. Nobody trusts a doctor like another doctor.”
Finding a high quality EMR can be pricey, but think twice before going with the cheapest option.
“You get what you pay for,” Sebastiano says. “Buy cheap, get cheap.”
Investing in a more expensive EMR may be a gamble, but if it can increase your revenue through more effective coding, then it’s well worth the cost.
“I absolutely believe that a good EMR is a wise investment,” Vandall says.
Choosing an EMR is a big decision, and not one to be taken lightly.
“Like a divorce, changing an EMR is a painful process,” Stern says. “It’s expensive and requires a lot of work. It’s not easy to change your EMR.”
Analyzing the different urgent care EMR attributes can help you narrow down the available options and ultimately help you pick the one best suited for your practice.
“Find an EMR that is perfectly fitted to your organization and only make changes to your operation that you agree will make your business run better, smarter and faster,” Vandall says. “Don’t fit your business into an EMR; find one that is flexible enough to fit yours.”
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