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Top 8 considerations for choosing an EMR for your home health agency or hospice organization

With the vast number of electronic medical record (EMR) software solutions on the market, choosing a new EMR can be intimidating. Plus, as the federal requirements change, reimbursements decrease and patient care and compliance are continually on the forefront, so the selection process can become increasingly complex.

Here are some considerations for choosing an EMR for your hospice or home health organization:

  1. Cost: Time/Money – EMR systems have numerous key benefits, including improvement in the quality of care through, care coordination, consistency in delivery of information, and improved efficiency. Though the upfront investment may be high, many EMRs provide long-term benefits that can significantly outweigh this expense – mainly through savings in billing errors, higher reimbursements and improved nursing time utilization and turnover.
  2. Compliance – Agencies that use a HIPAA-compliant point-of-care solution with built-in checks and balances that can help enforce documentation compliance have been able to significantly reduce QA staff time. These improvements to your everyday processes may support your organization’s efforts to achieve 5-Star ratings and The Joint Commission accreditation or certification. With increasing numbers of Additional Documentation Requests (ADRs) and Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) reviews, agencies are required to produce documentation in a timely manner to prevent claims denials or payment delays. Organizations that rely on paper-based documentation or have to search for information on disparate clinical and financial systems experience a dramatic increase in staff time, productivity loss and potential for penalties or take-backs. On the other hand, agencies that leverage a modern point-of-care solution that is seamlessly integrated with their back-office software have a greater assurance that the patient’s record and the agency’s record-keeping is complete.
  3. Capabilities and Features – When evaluating software for your business, it is critical to understand the capabilities and shortcomings of various platforms based on the distinct operational needs of the organizations. Since caregivers are mobile while the billing and operations functions are office-based, the optimal platform should effectively support both your back-office operations (e.g., billing, scheduling, reporting, etc.) and your clinical operations (e.g., delivering consistent quality care and complete documentation at the point-of-care). Given the innovative technological offerings available today, it is not necessary for you to sacrifice platform capabilities on one side of the business at the expense of the other.
  4. Communication – HIPAA compliant mobile messaging between clinicians and physicians or anyone on the care team can help ensure real-time communication when needed. With any time, anywhere access to patient information, it can be easy to coordinate care planning and comprehensive assessments. When documentation is more complete and is available for QA staff to access immediately after a patient visit, there’s less unnecessary follow-up with clinicians to get additional details or documentation on past patient visits. Plus, you can minimize mileage reimbursement by eliminating the need for clinicians to drive to the office to fix the documentation.
  5. Interoperability – As you may know, interoperability is the ability of systems and devices to exchange data and use it – and is becoming vital to the future success of your practice. Technology that shares clinical information, documents, clinical images, and diagnostic images among systems and caregivers allowing for improved patient care is at the center of healthcare transformation. Unfortunately, manual systems are unable to provide systematic and uniform search, data capture, reporting and analysis capabilities. Interoperability to enable data aggregation and data access are fundamental requirements to improve patient outcomes, streamline productivity and reduce costs. Quality is the name of the game in care delivery today – both for you and for your referral sources! Post-acute care providers must have interoperability strategies to connect critical patient information across all care settings to enable the best possible care for patients. Providers who can do this will reduce costs, improve outcomes and become preferred partners to their referral sources. Providers who do not embrace interoperability may ultimately be displaced.
  6. Training/Customer Support – Understanding the type of training and support you will receive. Some items to consider: Ensure the hours of support will fit your needs, as well as ongoing training on new features and offerings. Explore if providers offer online elements that will be accessible at all hours for your staff to become familiar with the new solution. Instead of just technical assistance, you may want additional assistance installing new features and upgrades, and fixing bugs.
  7. Culture/Change Management – Change is difficult, however, it can be exciting and empowering, as well. Workflow changes will most likely affect the majority, if not all of your staff. Encourage your team to ask questions, voice concerns and get involved, as the choice in EMR will impact their daily routine, their ability to provide the best patient care and, in some cases, their work-life balance.
  8. Data Reporting – Subscribe to this philosophy: If the information went in as a data point, it can come out in a report. Look for an EMR that allows you to leverage your data to pinpoint focus areas for reviews. Actionable intelligence from your data supports better decision-making. The goal is for your data to show that you are meeting all criteria, accurately, related to a specific diagnosis. Something important to consider here is where your staff is documenting. If it’s post-patient visit, the quality of documentation decreases.
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