TheraPlan - Paper-Based Therapy Clinic

How to Make the Big Switch from Paper-Based Documentation to an EMR

As a speech, occupational, or physical therapy clinic owner, you understand that your therapists have quite an active job. With short, back-to-back sessions, documenting while with a patient is often impossible. This is especially the case for pediatric therapists, who deal with holding a child’s attention and often discussing the session with a parent simultaneously.

As a result, it can seem like taking notes on paper is the best option, and that there’s no reason to take on the intimidating task of switching to an EMR.

We would argue that this is faulty logic.

Moving your administrative tasks and documentation into an EMR doesn’t have to be intimidating at all, no matter how small or large your clinic.

The process may not be quick, but it can be straightforward. By following the steps outlined below, you can smooth the transition.

Step 1: Conduct a review of your electronic infrastructure. First, you’ll want to think about the quality of your internet connection. How is the strength of your WiFi signal? If you haven’t already upgraded to a business class package from your internet service provider, it’s a good idea to consider doing so before your clinic needs to rely on the internet for productivity. We also recommend that large clinics use multiple connections for any streaming media and guest access. For example, if you stream movies or shows in your waiting room on the same connection that your providers are using to access the EMR, this will result in a less than ideal connection speed.

Hardware is the second important factor in this review. Do your therapists have the necessary devices to complete their daily progress notes and evaluations? It may take time to acquire all the necessary technology, unless you’re using a web-based, mobile-responsive EMR.

Step 2: Organize pertinent paper-based records by treating provider, then by patient. You’ll need to scan documents like intake forms, PCP referrals, a patient’s most recent standardized tests, and current authorizations into your new EMR. Which and how many documents you choose to store electronically is up to you, so it’s wise to draw a proverbial line in the sand in this process. Decide which documents you’ll want electronic access to, and how many months of records you’d like to ultimately upload to create an accurate picture of a patient’s treatment history.

Step 3: Begin keeping all new documentation organized in PDF format. Organizing old documents is one thing, but the paperwork that keeps coming in presents another challenge. During the paper-to-EMR transition period, you’ll want to put any newly received documents, such as authorizations or denials, in electronic format and in clearly sorted folders. This way, you won’t have to go searching for them when you’re ready to enter the most recent details into your new EMR system.

Step 4: Compile your patients’ demographic data on an electronic spreadsheet. Rather than waiting until you’ve moved to an EMR to take on the huge job of entering patients’ names, dates of birth, addresses, and other details, it’s helpful to take the time to put them all in one secure place ahead of time. That way, you’ll either be able to copy and paste or upload the data straight into the system down the road. Some EMRs, like TheraPlan, will even do this part for you if you have your patient data ready to go!

Step 5: Educate providers about the upcoming change. Giving your therapists a heads-up about what’s to come is one of the most important steps. Send out a memo or call a meeting to disseminate the details, notify them of the first official day they’ll be free of paper, and be sure you mention any steps they’ll need to take to prepare. If you have providers who are not on board with the move to electronic documentation, giving plenty of notice is best.

Step 6: Pick EMR ambassadors. If you have a large clinic with multiple admins, we advise choosing one or two people to act as ambassadors: leaders who will guide the rest of your employees when the inevitable questions arise about using an EMR. These will preferably be the most tech-savvy members of your team.

Step 7: Identify the systems your clinic has in place, and whether the EMR you’ve selected can handle all the current tasks you do. Documentation is just one factor of adopting an EMR. Answering certain questions ahead of time about how it will affect your current routines and systems can give you peace of mind and ensure that nothing is overlooked. And if you don’t have systems, so to speak? Now is the time to create some, prior to the big change.

Making the decision to finally leave the paper behind is a huge leap forward! Follow the above steps leading up to the change to ease the experience for everyone involved.

If you’re unsure about moving your clinic from paper-based to an EMR, reach out and let us know what’s holding you back! We’re happy to discuss how TheraPlan can ease the process around your specific needs.