With the implementation of the Affordability Care Act, also comes the hope that electronic record keeping (electronic medical records – EMR or electronic health records – EHR) might create a system that saves money and provides better client care. The economic savings and ease of these systems are hotly debated and the ease of use questioned. Whether or not clinicians like it there are growing pains with this change. Given our technologically dependent society, moving to EMR for health providers is inevitable.
It was this line of reasoning that started my quest to find an EMR/EHR that works for my practice. I was also tired of cobbling the many different parts of my business together. I had a calendar for appointments, a portal for insurance billing, and another website for my invoicing and billing. Additionally there were a number of paper forms for clients, and these required manual and extensive filing systems. These disconnected processes seemed to pull me in so many directions that I wondered if there was a way to do everything together.
There are over 500 EMR/EHR companies making their services available either as a 3rd party sales organization, or the actual software company. This felt incredibly overwhelming for me. Thankfully, most of these EMR/EHR companies are geared towards medical doctors and hospitals, which meant that I could just focus on counseling practice options. These doctor EMR/EHR companies were bulky and did not fit my needs as a mental health practician.
I wanted to find a practice management system that has a good reputation and has been around for a while (I did not want my data to be lost because the company went bankrupt). My goal was to simplify all the processes in my practice, so I looked for a system that was intuitively set up and was not going to take a lot of extra learning. I also wanted a company that had good customer care. One of the pitfalls of any electronic system is that in an attempt to “make things better” a company can actually make it harder for users. Having a company that will be responsive to customer feedback is really important.
After deciding on the EMR/EHR system, I loaded a couple of trial patients to see how things were progressing on the system I chose before I added all my clients to it. As new features arrive, I try them out on a few clients first to see what the unintended consequences might be. An example of this is that my system allows me to send text messages to remind clients of their appointments. What I found out was that I needed to be careful when creating appointments because if I mistakenly put a client’s appointment at the wrong time or date and then quickly changed it, an automatic notice was sent out the moment I changed the appointment. Thankfully this only happened once.