Since the electronic medical records (EMR) market (read more here) continues to boom, at Software Advice we thought it'd be helpful to dig into ways that physician practices can use an EMR to boost their profitability. Here are five tips to help you understand how an EMR can contribute to bottom line growth. 
 
1. Going Paperless Saves Staff Time 
 
One of the key benefits of an EMR 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 cut down on physical file storage requirements. 
 
In oder to get to a paperless practice, however, you've got to build in processes that will gradually ween your office off paper records. For instance, instead of scanning every new patient's insurance card, simply enter that information directly into your EMR. This cuts down on having to print out the insurance card and then enter data into your EMR at a later date. 
 
2. 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 items that they have written evidence. 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. Using an EMR gives doctors an opportunity to document ever aspect of a patient visit, and therefore increase the amount of claim revenue they're eligible for. 
 
3. EMRs Improve Efficiency 
 
EMRs 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 let you document common patient complaints more quickly than writing everything from scratch.
  • Prescriptions go straight to the pharmacy before you’ve even left the patient.
Although the time savings on a per visit basis may be relatively small, these time savings 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 and allow you to focus on revenue-generating activities.
 
4. Government Incentives Help You Afford Your EMR 
 
The government incentive program for transitioning to an EMR is still alive an well. If you opt in to the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, you can be reimbursed as much as $44,000 over five years. On the other hand, 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.
 
5. EMRs 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 EMR. The study points out that, out of 51 malpractice claims filed during the observation period, two occurred after the adoption of an EMR. The relationship between EMR adoption and malpractice claims is leading malpractice insurers like Texas Medical Liability Trust and MMIC to offer discounts for physicians that adopt EMRs. 
 
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.
 
These five tips help make the purchase of an EMR more compelling by making it more affordable, and the long term return on investment more tangible. What ways are you using your EMR to improve the profitability of your practice? Share your tips in the comments section below.