We get this question a lot from provider groups in the middle of a growth phase. Often, they are already using systems for billing and electronic medical record (EMR), and they are not sure what processes could be improved, and if there is a business case to improve them.
Over the years, we’ve identified a number of clear indicators that it’s time to invest in technology. This can be in the form of implementing a pre-existing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), implementing a platform solution, or developing a custom software solution. We’ll elaborate in an upcoming post on which of the 3 solutions is the right fit for you, but for now let’s focus on the “smell test” of determining if there is a need. Some are oblivious, while others are more subtle.
1. Mountains of Paper
If your processes involve a lot of data collection via paper, and then workflows on that paper, it’s time to look at a solution to reduce the volume. This is very common with practices where the provider is seeing the patient without access to a computer or tablet.
- Errors – Any paper-based data collection is prone to errors and omissions.
- Redundant Data Entry – Some or all of the data collected will need to be digitized.
- High Cycle Times – Your process only moves as fast as paper.
- Labor Intensive Reporting – If your work orders are on paper, someone has to manually count them every time you want to know how many are open.
- Lack of Visibility – Until the information gets into the system, it might as well not exist, which means management is always a day behind in a real-time world.
- HIPAA Risk – access control can be a real problem if your records are stored in a paper format. Rarely do you have an “access log” of employees looking up records in a file cabinet.
2. Field Employees Stuck at Desks
A company pays field employees, such as nurses doing home health care, to be in the field. If they’re wasting time trudging back to a computer to do double bookkeeping, they’re wasting double money.
- Errors – Working after the fact from memory or handwritten notes inevitably leads to bad data.
- Morale – If they came to work for you in the field, they’re probably happier and more productive there than riding a desk.
3. Email is your electronic Order System…Wait, What?
One thing we actually like about paper is that at least you know there’s one copy of Order #89348. When everything is ‘electronic’ but sitting on a File Share you have all the problems of paper and even more problems with version control. We see a lot of organizations that have grown up using email to move documents around and rely on convention to know where the right versions are. This works alright for a small team where everybody is on the same page and knows the conventions perfectly, but it doesn’t scale, doesn’t support automatic business logic, and doesn’t support real-time data analysis.
4. Administrators Don’t Have Real-time Access to Key Performance Indicators
If a department head can’t see the RVUs being produced or the office manager can’t easily see how much of next week is booked up then we have a problem.
5. Siloed Software Systems
Using an EMR for tracking patient records? Great! Have an awesome online appointment request form? Fantastic! Using an accounting system that most CFOs would drool over? Awesome! Are they connected? If not…
- See Paper List Above – You are now subject to some or all of the issues with paper-based processes.
- Conflicting Data – Does the data in your systems match? Oh, you need three days to reconcile? It’s okay, we’ll wait, but will your competition?
- Morale – Nobody enjoys spending 10 hours per month turning timecards from your Operations system into identical invoices in your accounting system.
Note: Use of MS Access databases tend to result in very siloed systems. When you have a small workforce these databases are invaluable but as the business grows, the Access databases tend to grow very poorly with it.
6. Cost and Revenue Grow at the Same Rate
If a practice has a goal to double revenue, it is reasonable to expect approximately a double in the amount of cost of providers to create that revenue. In addition, in an organization where the processes are manual, also expect to have to double overhead/support labor. It’s this latter cost that can be contained via better technology.
We hope this gives you some things to think about. If there’s anything we can do to help, don’t hesitate to reach us here!