Using an EHR can Increase Profitability
In addition to the many benefits that going digital can bring to your practice, electronic health records (EHRs) can also help to boost profitability. Here’s how:
Going Paperless Saves Staff Time
One of the key benefits of an EHR is that it allows your practice to go paperless, which helps cut down on the amount of time your staff has to spend sifting through paper patient records and other documentation. Transitioning to a paperless practice can save thousands of dollars per year in office supply expenses, eliminate all transcription costs and decrease physical file storage requirements.
But to get to a paperless practice, you've got to build in processes that will gradually wean your office off paper records. For instance, instead of scanning every new patient's insurance card, enter that information directly into your EHR so that you don’t have to print out the insurance card and then enter data into your EMR at a later date.
Get More Out of Your Claims
When working with government insurance providers like Medicare, claim reimbursement requires extensive documentation. Because this is a time- consuming process, many doctors will only bill for those items that have proper documentation. Unfortunately, this leaves up to 15 percent of legitimate reimbursements on the table every year.
Beyond that, doctors often have their claims "downcoded" to less expensive procedures because the insurer deems the claim unnecessary or unsupported. This usually happens because there is a lack of supporting documentation. EHRs offer the opportunity to document every aspect of a patient visit, and thus increase the potential for revenue from each claim.
EHRs Improve Efficiency
EHRs can also boost profitability simply by saving physicians time at each patient visit, allowing them to see more patients each day. A couple of features that improve the efficiency of practices include:
- Pre-filled templates to document common patient complaints more quickly than writing everything from scratch.
- Prescriptions that go straight to the pharmacy before you’ve even finished the encounter.
Although the time savings on a per visit basis may be relatively small, they can add up quickly. For example, if the time spent with each patient drops from 20 minutes to 18, you can most likely see two more patients each day. Even if this only brings in an extra $100 per patient, revenue per year would increase by $50,000. At the same time, reducing the workload of your staff can dramatically cut down on salary expenses so that you can focus on revenue generating activities.
Government Incentives Help You Afford Your EHR
The government incentive program for transitioning to an EHR is still alive and well. If you opt in to the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, you can be reimbursed as much as $44,000 over five years. Or if you opt into the equivalent Medicaid program, you may be entitled to up to $64,000 over six years. Although the benefits of these programs will begin to drop at the end of 2012, you can still manage to get a significant portion of your EHR purchase paid for by this program.
EHRs Can Reduce Your Liability Premiums
A recent study by the Harvard Medical School found that malpractice claims are about one-sixth of their previous rate after adopting an EHR. The study shows that out of 51 malpractice claims filed during the observation period, two occurred after the adoption of an EHR. The relationship between EHR adoption and malpractice claims is leading malpractice insurers like Texas Medical Liability Trust and MMIC to offer discounts for physicians that adopt EHRs.
Beyond the liability issue is the fact that many believe "failure to adopt and use electronic technology may itself constitute a deviation from the standard of care” in the future. Once this is the case, the laggards will be branded as dinosaurs; they’ll be more open to scrutiny and will lose patients and reimbursements, all for failure to adopt what everyone else, by then, will consider to be an essential business tool.
The Hello Health EHR can Actually Provide Incremental Revenue for your Practice
On top of all the standard ways that EHRs can help with profitability, the Hello Health EHR comes with its own unique business model, where patients pay a modest subscription fee for access to their doctor and a complete suite of tools (including secure scheduling and web consultations, and access to prescriptions, lab results and educational materials). Hello Health takes a portion of the subscription fee, but the medical practice keeps the rest, for a recurring revenue stream.
The purchase of an EHR is more compelling when it is more affordable, and the long term return on investment more tangible. What ways are you using your EHR to improve the profitability of your practice? Share your tips in the comments section below.
Matt Beer is VP of Physician Services at Hello Health, the revenue generating EHR platform for primary care practices supporting practice vitality through patient engagement and electronic medical revenue.
Some of the research for this article was conducted by David Fried, a contributor at Software Advice.