The American Chiropractic Association estimates that more than 30 million people seek chiropractic treatment annually.1
While the No. 1 goal with each of these patient-practitioner interactions is obviously to tend to an individuals’ care, the reality is that the basis of a successful chiropractic practice isn’t just how you help your patients. Rather, it is in how effective and efficient you are with regard to your office operations.
In other words, if you’re still doing everything without the use of modern- day options to assist you with keeping patient records, billing, scheduling, and all of the other tasks it takes to run a profitable practice, you’re likely missing out on a number of benefits. One such option involves using electronic health record (EHR) software.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) describe EHR systems as being “an electronic version of a patient’s medical history, that is maintained by the provider over time, and may include all of the key administrative clinical data relevant to that person’s care under a particular provider.”2 But how does this type of system benefit both you and your patients?
Neither you nor your patients can benefit from your services until you first find each other, and some EHR options can help make this initial connection. For instance, patients can “search for your practice based on their location, read your descriptions and bona fide patient reviews, see any new patient intro offers you may have, and book their first appointment—all in a few taps from their phone,” says Rick Stollmeyer, CEO and co-founder of MINDBODY, provider of an EHR app that has over 3 million users.
Once you do connect, Stollmeyer says that apps such as his can keep you in the forefront of your patient’s mind by enabling them to add you to their list of favorite wellness centers—right along with their preferred gyms, yoga studios, spas, and salons. “When your practice is in their ‘favorites’ short list, along with other wellness businesses they love, they will be subtly reminded to come back in and stay engaged with you,” he says. So you’ll not only connect initially, but you’ll likely stay connected too.
Time is money
Most patients lead extremely busy lives, so the quicker and easier you make it for them to do business with you, the more likely that they’ll choose you as their primary DC. Several HER systems help with this via features such as electronic sign-in when the patient arrives for his or her appointment.
For example, Michael Hughes, brand manager for Forté Holdings, reports that his company’s EHR system provides an iPad app that patients can use to conveniently check in from the waiting room. This can reduce their in-office time as they are able to notify you of their arrival even when your staff is busy helping other patients. Admittedly, this doesn’t always mean that you are going to be able to see to them faster, but at least they know that they are on your radar, which can ease stress and anxiety on their part, giving you happier patients in return.
As of spring 2016, Hughes says that patients will also be able to fill out their intake paperwork from home.
This enables them to provide their information at a time that is most convenient, whether it be at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m., decreasing the necessity of arriving early for their first appointment. While this may seem minimal, giving patients just 15 more minutes in their day shows that you care about their time, an attitude that isn’t universally observed in the healthcare system.
There are also timesaving benefits for you and your staff when you use an EHR system. For example, in addition to integrated billing services, emailed patient statements, Facebook marketing integration, and more, Hughes says that systems like his enable you to send automatic text and email reminders to patients. Think of how much time this could free up, allowing you to focus on extending your patients’ top-quality care and health management instead of being bogged down by paperwork and basic-yet-necessary office procedures.
Raising attendance rates
Another benefit of patient appointment reminders via text or email is that they help reduce the number of missed or forgotten appointments, leaving fewer holes in your schedule while also helping your patients adhere to their treatment plans. But how well do these systems actually work to get patients to your office at their prescheduled times?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that, according to research, “text messaging improves treatment compliance, including… appointment attendance.”3 That makes this a great feature for not only getting patients to show up but also for reinforcing their part when it comes to obtaining and maintaining better health.
Have you ever felt like you’re spending more time during appointments stuck behind a computer monitor reading a patient’s chart than you do interacting face-to-face? If so, you could be missing out on some of the advantages of engaging with your patients in a more direct manner.
According to the Ashton Insider, a publication of Ashton College in Vancouver, Canada, when you are able to interact visually with your patients, you have a better chance of picking up on their nonverbal cues while adding a personal touch; thus, this “sets the foundation for trust, and ultimately creates a better working relationship.”4
Using an EHR system that has tablet capabilities is one way to provide this type of relationship-enhancing service because you’re able to move around during your appointments and work more directly with your patients, while still having access to the information you need to effectively treat them. And while some EHR systems can be accessed on a tablet via your preferred Web browser, Lea Chatham, editor of the Getting Paid blog, a Kareo resource, says that systems designed specifically for the iPad are often better and easier to use.
Some of the features Chathan refers to that can enhance in-office patient engagement include an easy-to-read patient summary, appointment rescheduling, and patient education options. This is in addition to other capabilities this type of EHR system can offer, including “an end-to-end integrated platform that offers scheduling reminders, clinical documentation, claims management, and patient collections,” she says.
Many people take their privacy seriously. Therefore, something as simple as having patients put their name on a sign-in sheet that every patient who signs in afterward can see can be quite off-putting, even though HIPAA says that you “may use patient sign-in sheets…as long as the information disclosed is appropriately limited.”5
EHR systems can help alleviate this concern completely by allowing patients to sign in electronically, thus leaving no visible record for the rest of your patients to see. Additionally, by using a HIPAA-compliant EHR system, you can assure your patients that you take their privacy seriously. This is extremely important since almost 30 million patients have reportedly had their health records compromised since 2009.6
Karen Walters, DC, FACC, co- founder of MPN Software Systems, indicates that, for her firm, this means offering a system with specific features. These include the ability to “maintain extensive audit trails, handle electronic billing and remittance via ANSI 837 and 835 specifications, maintain a user permissions database that allows users to be restricted to specific aspects of the EHR, allow for database encryption, and use a patient portal for secure communications.”
Furthermore, although Walters generally recommends that DCs use a LAN-based system (one using a local area network), if you’re going to go with a cloud-based EHR hosting provider, she suggests that you choose one that is URAC HIPAA Security Business Associate accredited.
Regardless of which option you choose, making sure your patients’ information is secure can help you put their minds at ease by knowing that the private details they provide your office won’t fall into the wrong hands (while also potentially protecting you from an expensive lawsuit).
An April 2015 Gallup poll found that half of all Americans worry about money.7 However, by using smartphones and email to keep in touch with your patients, you’re able to get important information regarding their care to them in real time with minimal—if any—cost to them.
There are potential cost savings for your practice as well. One study found that the average healthcare provider spends one-sixth—or 16.6 percent—of their time on “non-patient-related paperwork, time that might otherwise be spent caring for patients.”8
Even if you free up just two hours a week (likely a low estimate), that is 104 additional hours a year that you could use to either see more patients and earn additional income, or have your staff perform other necessary functions, giving you a more organized and efficient office.
In the end, implementing and using an EHR system offers a range of benefits to both you and your patients.
Essentially, it gives you the opportunity to be a DC known for being competent and effective, two qualities that will not only keep current patients coming back, but also new ones walking through your door.
Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness and business marketing. She currently writes for ChiroNexus as well as other health-related publications. She can be contacted through christinamdebusk.com.
1 Sharecare. “How many people seek chiropractic care each year?” www.sharecare.com/health/chiropractic-treatment/how-many-people-seek- chiropractors-yearly. Accessed February 2016.
2 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Electronic Health Records.” www.cms.gov/ Medicare/E-health/EHealthRecords/index.html. Updated March 2012. Accessed February 2016.
3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Using health text messages to improve consumer health knowledge, behaviors, and outcomes.” www.hrsa.gov/healthit/ txt4tots/environmentalscan.pdf. Published May 2014. Accessed February 2016.
4 Ashton Insider. “The Importance of Face-to- Face Communication.” www.ashtoncollege.ca/ the importance-of-face-to-face- communication/. Accessed February 2016.
5 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “FAQ.” www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for- professionals/faq/199/may-health-care- providers-use-sign-in-sheets/index.html. Updated March 2006. Accessed February 2016.
6 Healthcare IT News. “HIPAA data breaches climb 138 percent.” www.healthcareit news.com/news/hipaa-data-breaches-climb-138- percent. Published February 2014. Accessed February 2016.
7 Saad, Lydia. “Americans’ Money Worries Unchanged From 2014.” Gallup. www.gallup.com/poll/182768/americans- money-worries-unchanged-2014.aspx. Published April 2015. Accessed February 2016.
8 EurekAlert. “Paperwork consumes one-sixth of US physicians’ time and erodes morale: Study.” www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-10/pfan- pco102314.php. Published October 2014. Accessed February 2016.