November 28, 2023 | Net Health

3 Minute Read

5 Keys to Choosing the Best Physical Therapy EMR Solution

How do I select the best physical therapy EMR?

Between countless clinical challenges and many operational needs and hurdles, clinicians and PTs rely on the right physical therapy EMR solutions to align and optimize the components of a successful rehab therapy clinic. But what happens as the PT clinic grows and works with more patients, professionals, and payers than ever before?

When balancing the many functions of outpatient or private practice rehab therapy, it’s essential to invest in an EMR system that can not only streamline current day-to-day tasks but scale with the operations of a growing clinic over the long term.

More evolved than the data collection and organization software of the past, today’s EMR systems include robust features that enhance practice management. From automation abilities that keep clinics efficient and productive to compliance and customization capabilities that simplify profitability, finding the right EMR solution can be a priceless endeavor. When choosing a rehab therapy EMR solution, consider not just your current needs, but the potential future needs of your rehab therapy clinic. After all, updating EMR systems typically costs time, money, and a lot of energy from staff.

Choosing the best physical therapy EMR solution

Whether due to cost, convenience, or the lack of due diligence, choosing the wrong EMR solution for one’s practice is all too common in the rehab therapy world. Forty-three percent of practices will switch EMRs three or more times in the pursuit of a solution that better addresses operational needs and expectations. This includes more than 4,700 practices that plan to switch EMRs this year alone.1,2

So, why is making the right choice on finding the best physical therapy EMR choice so difficult? In many cases, rehab therapy owners and managers simply grow disappointed in their physical therapy software’s ability to deliver on their outpatient clinic’s current needs while adapting to the changing needs of their practice.

The three most common areas of concern among those switching EMRs for physical therapy are:

  • Improving ease of use (38%)
  • Heightened customization (33%)
  • Enhanced billing capabilities (20%) 3

As they consider alternative options, clinicians are often drawn to off-the-shelf software solutions that address more immediate needs but are not suited for long-term growth. This can quickly lead to compatibility issues as the practice grows, changes, adds and enhances services, and encounters changes within the healthcare market.

Further changes can be costly, and many physical therapy clinics experience a 50% reduction in patient visits during the first few weeks with a new system. Avoiding multiple EMR changes is good for business and could be essential for a practice’s long-term survival.

To avoid such costly changes at your clinic, look for a solution that’s been created with the flexibility to fit your practice today and grow with it in the future. How can you be sure a particular solution offers these capabilities? To avoid accidentally overlooking critical features and considerations when choosing the most powerful EMR software for your business, consider the following five pillars that are critical for growing and evolving rehab therapy clinics.

Finding the best physical therapy EMR for long-term success

A powerful long-term physical therapy EMR solution is the foundation of every successful therapy clinic. And like every strong foundation, effective EMR solutions are built on pillars that provide reliable support for the clinic or even an outpatient or inpatient acute rehab therapy team. In particular, if you’re looking to identify the best physical therapy EMR solution for the long-term, which will grow and evolve right along with your PT clinic, search for one with features that align with each of these five key pillars:

  1. Enterprise scalability
  2. Revenue optimization
  3. Customized experience
  4. Process automation
  5. Patient engagement

It’s critical to select an EMR solution that offers features and provides optimization around all five of these pillars. Not only will this help ensure your EMR fully supports your needs today, but you can be confident the solution can and will adapt to all your evolving needs related to growth, locations, added services and specialties, and even future acquisitions and/or sales. Here’s a deeper look:

#1: Enterprise scalability

The best physical therapy EMR solution is one that can serve as a future-proof investment for smaller providers, allowing you to grow your business without concern for whether your EMR can keep pace. The ideal EMR for PTs should be an enterprise solution for an operation of any size, from single-site practices to regional clinics with multiple locations.

Enterprise scalability enables EMRs to continue to meet the performance needs of any therapy provider, supporting up to tens of thousands of visits per day across hundreds of sites. This pillar of a solid system enhances practice agility by enabling clinicians to rapidly adapt to changes.

Rather than altering clinic operations to conform with the operational limits of your EMR system, enterprise scalability empowers you to adapt the EMR software to work the way your team wants to work — not the other way around. Moreover, enterprise scalability infers that clinical and billing/administrative staff can utilize the EMR virtually anywhere, anytime, and on nearly any device. Cloud-based solutions offer greater accessibility so the EMR can remain flexible as you evolve and grow. And finally, if you foresee ever selling your clinic, enterprises that are built to scale are much more attractive to potential suitors.

#2: Revenue optimization

Though patient care is at the forefront of every physical, occupational, and speech therapy operation, ultimately, it’s revenue that keeps the lights on. That’s why the second key pillar of the best physical therapy EMR solution is revenue optimization. More specifically, the best physical therapy EMR solutions will provide tools, automation, and other guardrails that help ensure claim submissions are clean and you’re reimbursed promptly.

Imagine the value, for instance, of having access to a configurable coding and compliance engine that automatically applies optimal coding and modifiers for services and payers, claim adjustment reason codes, and more.

Are you concerned about the Medicare 8-minute rule or MIPS reporting? The best physical therapy EMR solution will offer automated features, such as note audits, that ensure the submission of accurate PT billing units and PT documentation with one-click clinical validation.

A quality system will help ensure that even inexperienced billers can remain compliant and strive for more timely reimbursement thanks to guardrails that tailor guidance to the specific care provided. Be sure this includes services for all rehab therapy disciplines, including physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), and speech-language pathology (SLP) services.

#3: Customized experience

No two practices are the same. That’s why an integral pillar on which the best physical therapy EMR solutions are built is the ability to customize documentation and workflows. In other words, the best physical therapy EMR should empower clinic managers and rehab directors to create truly customized and enhanced user experiences for their administrative, billing, and rehab therapy teams that align with the needs, goals, and workflows of the practice. Moreover, your current operational workflow is likely not the same as it was three years ago, nor will it be the same five years from now. So, selecting the best physical therapy EMR solution involves being certain it can adapt as you expand.

In particular, seek a solution with a system-wide configuration. This allows clinics to completely customize the system logic on multiple levels, including payer rules, documentation templates, user roles, biller roles, front-office workflows, and back-office workflows.

Documentation? That should be customizable, too.

The most effective solutions offer specialized documentation workflows and highly granular templates that provide compliant, customized therapy patient documentation for PT, OT, and SLP. This should apply to both general rehab therapy clinics as well as niche practices such as those that focus on lymphedema, vestibular issues, pelvic health, and pediatrics. The best physical therapy EMRs will simplify the task of creating complete, compliant, and personalized documentation.

A physician uses a rehab therapy EMR solution to help keep the focus on patient care.

#4: Process automation

Automation is a major supportive pillar of an effective, long-term therapy EMR that can drastically reduce the number of items clinicians juggle daily. Likewise, automation can significantly streamline workflows as a clinic grows at the front desk, billing, provider, and even executive levels. It takes the guesswork out of complicated, numerous, and ever-changing healthcare requirements for compliance.

Robust EMR solutions create automated productivity lists and workflows for every part of a growing business, from scheduling and collections to claims cleaning and clinical documentation. They enable efficient collections and account follow-up and track each touchpoint with payers.

Even more, the best long-term successful physical therapy EMRs provide actionable reports loaded with relevant tracking metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that focus on important actions your team can take to improve quality, productivity, and profitability at your practice.

Other must-have elements of process automation include:

  • Automatic application of optimal coding for services and payers, claim adjustment reason codes, and more.
  • Instant import of previous patient documentation from the current or other episodes of care.
  • Text shortcuts to allow customization of a clinical document with just a few letters.
  • Clinical knowledge which may come in the form of template libraries, which clinicians can add to a clinical note with one click.
  • One-click confirmation to add or delete template sentences into a patient evaluation.

Above all, process automation reduces the need to complete typical, repetitive components of patient care, and helps therapists, billers, and schedulers focus on the actual services at hand while helping minimize the hours they spend on “paperwork.”

#5: Patient engagement

Patient engagement is the true lifeblood of any rehab therapy clinic, particularly among outpatient therapy providers. The final pillar of the best physical therapy EMR system is the ability to ingrain patient engagement and physical therapy marketing directly into practice management.

Exemplary EMR tools come equipped with a patient engagement and marketing suite that can expand the business and boost revenue by enhancing patient acquisition and retention. They must include appointment reminders to boost patient acquisition and retention over time.

Patient messaging tools for email and SMS— all of which must be HIPAA-compliant — enable personalized patient communication that helps providers engage with patients outside of visits, strengthen the patient-therapist relationship, and keep patients motivated to complete their plans of care. Overall, patient engagement features help to enhance the general patient experience, and marketing abilities help turn positive experiences into five-star online reviews. Help your practice be chosen by prospective patients with reputation management and local search optimization capabilities.


  1. IBIS World, “Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Centers in the U.S. – Number of Businesses 2005-2027,” Dec. 28, 2021
  2. Medical Economics, “2020 Technology Survey: Physicians Rely on Telehealth to Keep Their Practices Afloat,” Nov. 6, 2020
Share this post

Subscribe and See More