Physicians and their practices are becoming pretty comfortable using technology, according to the data from Physicians Practice's 2016 Technology Survey, which features 1,568 respondents from across the country. Apart from EHRs, which have made significant inroads into independent medical practice, there are a plethora of other technologies that can make a physician's life just a little bit easier and are increasingly being adopted into their practices.
Not surprising, a clear majority (78 percent) of practices say they use billing and coding software. Far more interesting, from our perspective, is that roughly a third of respondents say they use technology to conduct data analytics (33 percent) and manage their revenue cycle (29.4 percent), and 16 percent use technology to facilitate patient check-in and registration ( a 2 percent increase over 2015). While small, this number is significant given the fact that every dollar counts in medical practices, especially so for the smaller groups. In fact, when asked "What is your most pressing information technology problem?" after citing EHR-related problems, 8 percent of survey respondents said, "Costs to purchase and implement other technologies."
In this regard, solo physician or two-doc practices are less likely to purchase and use new technologies, according to consultant Laurie Morgan of California-based practice-management firm Capko & Morgan, yet paradoxically, she says they are the ones that stand to gain the most help from technology.
"I think that smaller practices in my experience have been reluctant to look at some of these tools, partly because if they have looked in the past they have found that it just isn't available for the platforms they are using, or maybe they thought it was it was too expensive," she says. "But actually they can benefit from it so enormously because they have smaller teams and everyone is trying to do multiple jobs, so this technology can actually help a smaller practice even more, potentially, than a larger one."
In an industry overwhelmed by government mandates, using front-office technology to help with data reporting just makes sense. And according to experts, the return on investment may be greater than docs think. If you are wondering which technologies would help your practice most, here are four that our experts say you should consider:
REVENUE CYCLE MANAGEMENT
The 2016 Physicians Practice Technology Survey indicates that 30 percent of respondents use some type of revenue cycle management (RCM) software in their practices. Tom Furr, chief executive officer at Patient Pay, a payment software company based in Durham, N.C., points out that RCM can mean many things to different people. The term can encompass patient insurance eligibility verification, medical billing, claims processing and follow up, and both payer and patient collections, typically using some type of billing software and a practice management system. Practices can also outsource some or all of those functions to outside vendors. "But at the end of the day… RCM is there to help you collect your dollars," Furr says. "The revenue cycle is the ability to capture dollars quickly and efficiently, and that is both insurance payments but also patient payments." That's why, he says, new high-deductible health insurance plans are becoming a game changer when it comes to spurring efforts to collect patient payments effectively.