Guest Column | May 22, 2018

Getting The Most Out Of Practice Technology

By Brian Gennusa, Nextech

AMA EHR Usability Framework

Even though lots of physician practices have electronic medical records (EMRs) and practice management (PM) systems, many don’t use the technology to its potential. As a result, they miss opportunities to elevate quality reporting and improve practice performance.

Recognizing The Value

Part of the reason that physician practices aren’t as engaged with their technology as they could be, is they don’t fully appreciate the benefits it can bring. EMRs and PMs are more than just data repositories: they are treasure troves for uncovering patterns and trends that reveal strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. When organizations apply analytics to the data housed in these systems, they can get a clear picture of their practices’ performance and how it changes over time.

For example, a practice can understand how well its collecting patient payment. Many providers are trying to shift this process up front to minimize back-end costs, including statements, follow-up calls and collections agencies. Regularly reviewing data can reveal how well the practice captures payment at the point of service. Practices can see how often staff are asking for upfront payment and can analyze which staff members are doing this well and who needs further training. Practices can also get a handle on the dollar amounts being collected to see if they are gathering all the money they are owed.

EMRs and PM systems can also help with compliance reporting, such as for MACRA. When the technology seamlessly tracks practice performance behind the scenes, and physicians don’t have to change their workflow to collect the required data, it can streamline the quality reporting effort. Practices can easily review the information and automatically upload it to ensure prompt compliance with relevant regulations.

Key Strategies For Optimizing Technology

Once a practice commits to fully leveraging its EMR and PM systems, there are some essential steps for getting started:

  • Set goals for the system. Before pulling any data out of an EMR or PM solution, practice stakeholders should agree on what they want to use the system for and how they can realize those goals. Part of this discussion should involve devising a data collection plan, which outlines how the practice will ensure accurate data capture. Without this step, they run the risk of a “garbage in garbage out” scenario, where the resulting analyses are flawed because of inconsistent and incomplete data entry.
  • Move away from retroactive report review. Once an organization gets its data analysis and reporting efforts underway, it should commit to regularly reviewing the information. In some cases, practices run reports and review performance only once or twice a year, waiting until the end of a quality reporting period. Unfortunately, this puts the practice behind before it even starts. Information may be outdated, making it hard to promptly adjust processes and respond to issues. Practices would be better served to run reports on a weekly or monthly basis. This way they can spot problems and address them before they become long-term patterns, which are difficult to unwind.

Note that if generating data reports is an onerous process, practices may struggle to achieve the goal of weekly or monthly analysis. As such, they should make sure their systems are easy to navigate, allowing staff to create detailed reports with a few keystrokes.

  • Share data to sustain buy-in. Data analysis and reporting should be something all clinical and administrative staff are aware of and committed to. To gain this buy in, practices must consistently share information across disciplines. When they do, everyone can be aware of how the practice is performing and where there are improvement opportunities—and they can see the value of accurate and complete data entry. Practices should be sure that they present information in an easy-to-interpret format. Merely handing out spreadsheets filled with numbers will not be effective at communicating information. To ensure data reports are clear, practices should check that their reporting tools let them customize outputs to include the most relevant data. This is particularly important for specialty practices because canned reports often include data that is not applicable to their needs. Tools should offer graphical interpretation capabilities and allow stakeholders to zoom in and out on specific information. The easier the reports are to interpret the more useful they will be.

The Future Is Built On Data

Making a commitment to optimize EMR and PM systems is a strong first step in readying a practice for the future. The more organizations use this infrastructure, the faster they can progress toward top performance.

About The Author

Brian Gennusa is the sales engineer manager at Nextech, a leading provider of health care technology solutions for specialty providers, including electronic medical record (EMR) and practice management (PM) solutions. Brian has been with Nextech since 2006 and has worked in a variety of capacities in the sales and product teams. Primarily, he currently serves in his role as a solutions expert, helping across teams with product road-mapping, client success and support, outreach and education, and more.