How an orthopedic practice saved $2K per month by switching to a new EHR

Practice Management

Panama City Beach, Fla.-based Panhandle Orthopaedics recently switched to a new EHR that integrated with its practice management system to streamline workflows and improve staff efficiencies.

Within three weeks of the transition, the practice reported saving $2,000 with automatic coding and billing.

Here, the practice's Daily Operations Administrator Nicole Mayo and Billing Administrator Samantha Childs discuss the change and what they're most excited about in the future.

Question: Why did you make the decision to switch to your new EHR? Who was part of the decision-making team and what factors did you consider?

Nicole Mayo and Samantha Childs: Panhandle Orthopaedics is a unique orthopedic practice, with workers' compensation and personal injury cases accounting for about 70 percent of our patient population. Our growing practice has three locations, so we knew it was time to look for an all-in-one orthopedic EHR system and orthopedic practice management suite, with a main goal to streamline our workflow and improve efficiencies for the staff.

We were the main decision makers in the process to find a new EHR system. Samantha had previously used a specialty-specific EMR in another practice and knew the vendor also developed an orthopedics EMR that she wanted the team to see. While attending American Academy of Orthopaedic Executives [conference] we were able to demo it at the Modernizing Medicine booth. We were impressed, so we quickly added to Modernizing Medicine to the list of companies to vet.

We chose Modernizing Medicine's orthopedic EHR system, EMA™, and Practice Management for the customizable and all-in-one system. We wanted something that worked seamlessly together to help streamline appointment scheduling, check-in, checkout and orthopedic billing processes. Our practice previously had separate orthopedic EHR and practice management systems, and various outsourced services that slowed down our entire workflow. We wanted to bring all of the orthopedic billing operations in-house, to reduce manual steps and errors, and to save time and money.

In addition, it would typically take our staff days to complete visit notes, and nurses would consistently stay after hours or come in on weekends. We wanted the new system to make our lives easier and allow the staff to have a better work-life balance.

Q: What were the biggest pain points for the staff members and patients when transitioning to the new technology? How did you meet those challenges?

NM and SC: Our practice has one orthopedic surgeon, two physical therapists, five nurses and over 25 administrative and office staff across three locations. With so many moving parts in our complex practice, implementation of the Modernizing Medicine orthopedic EHR took some time and effort. The main challenge of our transition was that our staff had used the old system for several years. On top of that, our practice has such a unique patient population we had many questions that related to our workflow specifically.

To meet these challenges, we cut down our patient load to allow more time for the transition. We also found a system that had a hands-on implementation team. In our case, there were on-site trainers that helped us every step of the way. Even after they left, the trainers were extremely accessible to answer all of our specific questions.

When adopting new technology, we highly recommend finding a vendor that has support both during and after the implementation process. After a short three-to-four weeks, we were up to full speed and were seeing our regular 55 patients per day.

Q: How has the switch to EHR affected your revenue cycle?

NM and SC: Samantha would say that the biggest advantage for our practice included eliminating outsourced coding and transcription services. The automatic coding suggestions EMA provides allowed us to move all of our orthopedic billing operations in-house, helping to us save about $2,000 per month and hours of staff time. Our billing team can now see the status of claims and A/R and sort claims easily. The claims management process — including submission, scrubbing by the clearinghouse, denial notifications and remittance advice — has been very helpful and easy to understand.
Q: What surprising benefits have you and your team experienced from implementing the EHR?

NM and SC: A surprising benefit was how quickly we saw this implementation enhance our practice. A goal was to complete documentation within 24 hours of a patient visit. We figured it would take months to achieve this goal, however, quickly after implementation we met this goal.

Secondly, our in-house physical therapy group has improved efficiencies with the implementation as well. EMA interfaces directly with the WebPT EMR that our physical therapy group uses, allowing orders and results to transfer electronically between the two systems. The notes from the physical therapist are automatically added to the patient's chart, which has saved time by eliminating the manual process of scanning and attaching them to the chart. Also, by having WebPT integrated with our platform, multiple members of a patient's orthopedic care team — from the surgeon to the physical therapist — can securely share information throughout the patient's care journey, reducing inefficiencies and redundancies in our orthopedic clinics and outpatient rehabilitation facilities. It was certainly a surprising benefit our team immediately experienced.

Q: What is your best advice for other groups considering the switch to EHR?

NM and SC: Our biggest advice would be to do your research, find an all-in-one system that is specific to orthopedics and your practice, find a vendor that is focused on customer success and most importantly, do not be afraid of change or the time involved to make the switch. Many providers report they fear losing business as a result of putting the right amount of time into deploying an EHR system. If your practice has been using the same system for a long time, providers worry that the whole switching process will lead to more burnout and unhappy employees. If you do your research, you'll see that there are vendors that invest heavily on the implementation process and can be relied on for all questions and assistance. A customer-focused vendor will work with you to understand your practice and collaborate for long-term success. Also, by having an all-in-one system that is specific to your busy orthopedic practice, you may ultimately save time and money, which may make the few short weeks of the implementation well worth it.

Also, we suggest choosing a vendor with whom you could build a long-term relationship. From the start, the team at Modernizing Medicine worked to understand the unique challenges of our workers' compensation and personal injury patient populations, answered our questions and collaborated with us to find solutions. They've continued to support our team and our practice every step of the way.

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