The success of your urgent care business lies heavily on the electronic medical record (EMR) and practice management (PM) solution you choose. Its functionality and integrability are directly tied to how many patients you can see, how well patients feel taken care of, and your ability to grow and improve through other tools.
Many vendors purport to have ambulatory EMRs that are well-suited for the urgent care environment, but the reality is that urgent care is a unique setting that requires its own set of technology needs.
We’ll break down exactly how this software is used in urgent care and the functionality that is most important in an on-demand healthcare environment.
In healthcare, practice management is a broad term that applies to managing the day-to-day operations of a medical practice. Administratively, it refers to the tasks that are completed by professionals who are not providers or practitioners. Technically, practice management is the software that enables staff to accomplish these tasks efficiently through a single workflow.
The purpose of practice management (PM) software then is to not only streamline patient registration, scheduling, tracking, accounting, and reporting, but also to integrate clinical data that the practitioner provides through the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) tool.
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In healthcare, there are generally two kinds of electronic records that providers use to store and access patient data: Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR.) Choosing to track and chart electronically rather than manually has many benefits. While your urgent care PM system will likely be integrated with an EMR, it’s beneficial to understand the difference between the two electronic records. Here’s a quick overview of the differences between EHRs and EMRs.
While the terms EMR and EHR refer to health information about the patient, they are used to describe the software that stores the electronic records. Learn more about the benefits of these systems in this blog >> EMR vs EHR: Understanding Electronic Health and Medical Records
At the core of any successful urgent care is a powerhouse front desk staff. Get tips on hiring and interview questions to land the right candidates. And learn how to help them be as efficient as possible — so you get more, happier, patients through the door and ensure cleaner claims.
Given the nature of urgent care, clinics use EMR systems to chart and do not typically deal with EHRs. As mentioned above, a PM system is usually a combined EMR/PM solution, which is how most EMR solutions are packaged. Integrating the two tools eliminates duplicative tasks and helps ensure accuracy for a more efficient workflow.
An EMR/PM solution should also help you run better as an urgent care business. Whether you’re transitioning from paper records or replacing your current EMR/PM, here are some common pain points a new system (and vendor) should address.
Your EMR software should streamline your workflow, not slow it down. Urgent care software is not labor-intensive — it requires few clicks when charting and allows more than one person to be in a chart simultaneously. All of this helps you maintain a workflow that keeps urgent care urgent.
Your ultimate goal is to ensure every patient that comes through your door has the best possible experience. Quality software helps you:
Accurate coding can be complex, but it’s essential to your urgent care’s financial success. Your software should work with you to simplify the coding process and suggest accurate E/M codes based on each patient encounter. This prevents you from missing revenue opportunities and delayed payments because of incorrect or incomplete submissions.
There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for help and support from your software and services partner. The right vendor will have a responsive support team who cares about uptime and network glitches. They’re available for help beyond traditional work hours. Technology support when you need it from knowledgeable professionals who understand you and your challenges will keep you running smoothly.
When you choose a software company instead of a technology partner, you miss out on the benefits that come from working with a team of experts that understand urgent care, not just clicks or reports. A partner will work with you to discover answers to your questions and solutions to your challenges. Together, partners contribute to finding better ways to provide the exceptional care patients want. A true partner will help you meet — and surpass — your business goals.
Our RCM experts have found in over 400 billing audits that clinics are making the same mistakes in their revenue cycle — and have no idea there is so much room for improvement.
Take this 10-question self-evaluation to see what you’re already doing well and where you may need to improve for optimal revenue.
When you search for an EMR/PM vendor, you’ll find that many systems are built to be used in hospitals. If you are a hospital or larger healthcare system, then you need one of these bulkier systems to meet your needs.
In urgent care, however, using a hospital EMR could mean you’re paying for something that will actually slow you down. Urgent care is very different from other forms of healthcare, and your EMR should be designed for those differences.
Here are six core features to look for when choosing a new EMR/PM for your clinic(s):
We mentioned coding earlier, but let’s get more specific. An EMR that’s built for urgent care should automatically recommend accurate codes as the clinician documents the patient visit so everything is coded correctly. A well-designed EMR will alert the clinician if there are issues with documentation that might affect billing to prevent potential claims denials.
You could invest in a medical coder instead of an urgent care EMR, but in 2022, the average medical coder (both certified and non-certified) earns about $54,797 annually. Imagine the potential cost savings your urgent care center could see simply by using the right EMR.
Just getting started in urgent care? Here are 10 Questions to Ask Before Starting an Urgent Care >>
Charting Templates Designed for Urgent Care
An urgent care visit is unlike any other type of patient visit, which means you shouldn’t use the same charting templates that a primary care practice or an emergency department does. Using an EMR with a documentation system that’s not designed specifically for urgent care is like trying to dig a hole with a pencil. It’s simply the wrong tool for the job. An urgent care EMR will have charts designed for a typical urgent care visit. Spend one day treating urgent care patients, and it’ll be incredibly easy to spot the difference between urgent care charting templates and everything else.
Specialized Practice Management Software
One of the most crucial system integrations your urgent care EMR must have is with your practice management (PM) software. Your practice management software needs to support the nuances of an urgent care practice, such as checking in patients for episodic, walk-in visits instead of only supporting the scheduled care.
You should also make sure your practice management software supports services that are typically seen in an urgent care center. Can it handle occupational medicine services; integrate with online check-in and patient self-registration systems; and automate the billing of case rate contracts, which are common in urgent care but essentially non-existent outside of urgent care?
Ultimately, you’ll want to find an integrated EMR/PM system designed specifically for urgent care for a more seamless experience for your registration, clinical and billing staff.
The ability to share data between systems is crucial. There are specific system integrations that an urgent care EMR needs to have to ensure an urgent care practice runs efficiently and profitably:
Much like the integrated EMR/PM system, these system integrations will ensure a much more seamless experience across multiple departments in your urgent care center.
Occupational Medicine Functionality
Many urgent care centers add OccMed services because it complements the urgent care model so well. While urgent care visits are episodic, OccMed visits can be scheduled so they fill non-peak periods, using a center’s labor more efficiently throughout the day.
Most non-urgent care EMRs don’t have built-in occupational medicine functionality, making occupational medicine and employer-paid services a manual process for staff. An urgent care EMR needs to have this functionality built right in so your staff can communicate electronically with your center’s business clients, eliminating the need to print and scan records and respond to copious company inquiries. The advantage this will give you over your competition will help you bring in far more OccMed patients and build strong relationships in the business community.
If you don’t know how your urgent care center is performing, you won’t be able to correct any issues before any long-term damage is done. A good urgent care EMR/PM will have robust reporting that will help you monitor the health of your urgent care center, including your billing, collections, marketing and operations.
Good reporting will help you negotiate with payors for better reimbursement, know whether you need to extend or shorten your center’s operating hours, and even determine whether your marketing methods are effective. If your current EMR doesn’t have robust reporting, it’s time to look into one that is giving you the reports you need to run your center more effectively.
You can also integrate with an urgent-care-specific Business Intelligence tool that simplifies data for clear action >>
This resource page covers high-level functionality and benefits of core tools that urgent cares use to:
Thanks to technology, the majority of your staff and patients are accustomed to using tools and shortcuts in their everyday lives. Your EMR/PM should reflect this expected convenience. If your tools don’t evolve to keep up with technology, your process can come across as archaic – and simply inconvenient — which may undermine the credibility of your providers.
Dive deeper into urgent care tech advancements in our blog: 5 Modern Must-have Features in Urgent Care Technology >>
Need more tips on must-have EMR features? Dive into extra help distinguishing between a system that’s right for you and one that isn’t. Also, learn how to make the most of your EMR — get best practices on how to create processes that will ensure efficiency for your staff and allow for more patients to be seen.
Urgent care medicine isn’t like other disciplines — and the demand has never been greater. The Experity operating system, with a powerful EMR/PM at its core, provides the holistic support you need to elevate your practice and patient satisfaction.
When you spend less time documenting, clicking, and processing claims, your team can focus on what they do best — providing exceptional patient care. Click the button to learn about a built-for-urgent-care EMR/PM.