Our post this morning comes from Charles Settles, a product analyst at TechnologyAdvice. As a product analyst at TechnologyAdvice he understands some of the pain points that healthcare providers run into when shopping for new technology and software solutions. When it comes to practice management software, overhead and costs are often top of mind.
Medical practices of all sizes and specialties, including optometry, are facing competition, regulation, and decreasing reimbursements, all of which have forced providers to cut costs. The right optometry practice management software can help.
Medicine, already one of the most highly controlled industries in the U.S., has seen ever-increasing regulation as more processes and reporting are done electronically. And, incentive programs, designed to increase adoption of technology and improve care outcomes, have left many providers disillusioned. One provider, interviewed off the record, confessed that the incentive programs made him feel like "an over-educated, glorified data entry specialist."
The estimated costs of various health initiatives also have many smaller, independent providers questioning how they'll pay for it all:
- ICD-10 Conversion Cost (per office): $1,960 - $5,900 (AHIMA.org)
- EHR Implementation Cost (per provider): $15,000 - $70,000 (HealthIT.gov)
- EHR Annual Maintenance (per provider): $17,000 (HealthAffairs)
Beyond these costs, the additional time needed to capture data for these health initiatives has many providers questioning the value proposition of incentive programs. Do the costs of participation outweigh the incentives and potential improvements of care outcomes?
Why Your Old Optometry Practice Management Solution isn't Going to Cut it Anymore
Optical providers, in particular, are feeling the crunch. Not only do they face the costs outlined above, but they are seeing increased competition from retail medical clinics, hospital-based groups, and online retailers. The economies of scale provided by the consolidation of services and support at retail clinics run by corporations such as Walmart or Costco allow these organizations to operate on thin profit margins.
Hospitals and practice brokers circle seemingly like vultures, ready to buy out those providers who are nearing retirement, or who no longer want the frustration and responsibility of managing their own practices. Some providers interviewed by TechnologyAdvice when shopping for electronic health records feel trapped - simultaneously unable to afford the costs of compliance or noncompliance with various incentive programs or reporting initiatives. This is especially true now that penalties to Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements are beginning this year and increasing to as high as 5 percent by 2018.
Many practices are therefore seeking to reduce overhead. For some, this means ceasing to accept Medicare. Others are ceasing to accept insurance entirely, preferring to take cash-only patients. For others still, it means needing to boost productivity or take the unfortunate step of reducing staff. Thankfully, the right practice management software can help in all cases - particularly if you're already properly using integrated EHR software.
Healthcare providers have been using various forms of software for practice management since the 1980's. Unfortunately, many of them continue to operate the same systems they've had since the 80's, and therein lies the problem. Practice management software today, when implemented correctly, is sleeker, faster, and provides a wider array of services than comparable systems from the 90's or 00's. Beyond simple scheduling and billing, today's PM software offers innovative, patient-facing features such as online scheduling, online payment portals, pre-registration, automated email or SMS appointment reminders, and other self-service features that can reduce the workload of front desk staff.
If you do participate in Meaningful Use, many PM systems include features that, when properly integrated with your EHR, provide a full-blown patient portal that will likely be able to help you with requirements for view/download/transmit usage for Stage 2, and whatever requirements CMS settles on for the patient-generated data in the recently proposed rule for Stage 3.
Whatever happens, this much is clear; medicine in the U.S. is changing. Whether participating in incentive programs or not, our data shows patients value electronic services provided by all healthcare professionals, regardless of specialty, particularly Millennials and Gen X'ers. For those ODs who have held out on adopting a system, there's never been a better time to look into new, cloud-based practice management and EHR. You won't need an on-site server, all updates are automatic and included, and implementation fees and other up-front costs are usually minimal. You'll also gain access to new patients from accountable care organizations (ACOs), or patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs) - eligibility in these organizations requires certified EHR usage. The potential for a data breach with cloud-based software is a concern for many providers, but cloud-based systems actually provide better security than comparable on-site systems. Additionally, the onus for security lies more upon the vendor and cloud provider, than the individual practice.
While there's no blanket recommendation or solution for every provider's needs, all in one, cloud-based practice management and EHR software is often the best for smaller, independent practices. But to make sure, you need to ask the right questions when speaking with software vendors. Download our list of questions so you can get the full picture before you make your decision.