July 9, 2018 | Net Health

3 Minute Read

Therapy Productivity Pain Points and How to Avoid Them

Therapy providers often share a common struggle: improving therapist productivity and efficiency, while still maintaining compliance. Much of the struggle centers around recurring training, time management, documentation and other issues that directly impact performance, documentation quality and revenue.

Here are four common pain points and how an EMR system can help you overcome them.

Pain Point 1: Lack of Training

While everyone has the best intentions, quite often, therapists don’t get enough training on how to document effectively, especially on an EMR system. In some cases, there is no training at all and therapists have to teach themselves, resulting in inaccurate or incomplete documentation.

To make a real change in this area, you have to invest in training and education. The upfront investment will pay off in the long run with improved reimbursement and fewer regulatory issues. However, your EMR vendor should be able to help offload some of this burden. Find out what type of training they have to support your needs, such as:

  • On-demand videos to help therapists refresh their knowledge or train new staff.
  • Free, ongoing training to get therapists up to speed when enhancements are made.
  • Support staff who are always available live by the phone for a quick resolution (hint: ask about the vendor’s average hold times, call resolution time and how many support cases are escalated).
  • Hands-on training with a sandbox. An EMR that provides a sandbox will give your team a chance to explore the system without impacting actual patient data. Once therapists are physically in the system working with libraries and content, they will be better prepared to hit the ground running from day one.

Pain Point 2: Time Management

A therapist’s time needs to be optimized down to the minute, but often it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. This could be due to a lack of visibility over patient/therapist availability and their activities. Without real-time insight into their time and the ability to make changes as needed throughout the week, providers could end up over- or under-scheduling therapists.

Make sure the EMR system you’re using provides intuitive scheduling, takes into account your staffing mix and supports the way your therapists work best. This includes:

  • Capacity calculations that allow you to allocate therapists’ time and associate them, as needed, to certifying documents like evaluations, recertifications and progress reports.
  • A built-in time clock that can track non-patient treatment activities, such as meetings, patient screens and travel, and calculate time for Payroll-Based Journal (PBJ) reporting.
  • Point-of-service documentation that allows therapists to document while they’re with the patient—when their knowledge is fresh—instead of relying on memory or notes.
  • An offline capability that lets therapists document at the point of care without worrying about retyping notes or losing documentation due to a poor internet connection.

Pain Point 3: Documentation Workflow and Quality

If documentation is cumbersome or difficult to follow, therapists can get frustrated—which impacts both productivity and quality. When you consider the complexity of changing regulations, payer requirements and CPT codes, this lack of guidance can result in documentation issues—which, ultimately, leads to lower revenue, payment delays, increased claims denials and higher auditing risks.

To prevent this, look for a system that guides your therapists with:

  • Guardrails and alerts within the software that ensure therapists provide all the right documentation every time.
  • Documentation workflows that naturally follow the sequence of how a patient is normally treated, making it easier for therapists to document in real time.
  • Built-in explanations. For instance, when scoring an assessment, therapists should be able to see what the results mean and what all of the choices stand for—without having to stop treatment, look things up and make sure they are documenting correctly.
  • A configurable system that streamlines documentation for each individual patient. For example, if a patient is experiencing pain, additional pain-related questions should follow to provide a complete picture of patient health. Conversely, if there is no pain involved, those questions would not be applicable.

Pain Point 4: Staffing Levels

One of the contributors to poor productivity and revenue could be related to staffing issues, such as not have a good therapist to assistant ratio or leveraging more PRNs than is necessary. Striking the right balance starts with having visibility over factors that impact revenue on a daily basis, and then being able to manage them with better clarity and oversight.

At a minimum, your EMR system should offer:

  • Real-time visibility over your staffing mix, so you can make quick adjustments before expense get out of hand.
  • Configurable alerts based on criteria you set. For instance, if a therapist isn’t available, you may want a notification of other available therapists within the same pay rate, so you can make staffing decisions on the fly.
  • Data analytics to help you track and report on expenses, staff productivity and make predictions based on current trends in your patient population.

For more information on how your EMR can address these pain points, find out how Athena Therapy saved $600K in two years and used real-time data to measure therapist productivity and outcomes through Optima’s Business Intelligence Tool.

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