Name a good time to install a new EMR system — or switch to a different one. You can’t. Each day poses unique challenges to you and your practice. Add to that the time, effort and adjustments that introducing a new workflow software will require, and you may begin to think you can’t possibly accomplish either goal.
The clear advantages of an EMR system, however, make it one of the single best ways you can improve your practice’s efficiency, staff retention, patient satisfaction and profitability — notwithstanding that Meaningful Use likely requires adoption of some type of EMR system.
As a result, even if you have an EMR system in place, you will need to constantly monitor whether your solution gives you the maximum possible benefit. While no perfect time to change your infrastructure exists, assessing your situation and making any necessary changes before the New Year has several distinct advantages.
Anyone can do the math. If you want the maximum return in the new year, you need to get results every month. You can achieve this if you start your new year with an effective strategy already in place. You can wait, but you might have to play “catch up” all year long. So get you and your practice ready to have a great month every month next year.
Putting a winning strategy in place will, however, cost you up-front. While a well-chosen EMR system will save you money in the long run, shopping for an EMR system will draw on your time now, even before the installation and ramp-up phases begin. You won’t want to delegate one of the most important decisions concerning the health of your practice, though.
To switch by New Year, start the selection process as early as possible in the year and dedicate time to it even during periods with high patient volume. While you may reach a decision readily, finding the right choice for your practice may take a while.
If you don’t feel you can chart a course before year’s end, ensure you take steps early in the new year for a successful implementation by the close of the following year.
Plan to give yourself more time than you may think necessary. You will want to meet with as many vendors as possible, deeply assess your needs and reflect on which features will have the biggest impact on your practice and which you can forgo.
The holiday season provides one of the most opportune times to launch — or re-launch — your new EMR platform. While the cooler months offer numerous advantages to individuals considering cosmetic treatments, many will delay their decision until after the holidays. As a clinical practitioner, you don’t have down-time, only busier and less busy times. You and your practice can invest the extra time you might have around the holidays in an implementation, training or re-training program for your new EMR system.
In addition, a slightly decreased patient volume over the holidays means you can make system and workflow adjustments before you return to a higher-volume patient load. Also, your EMR implementation team can address any unforeseen problems before your busiest months. If you require data conversion during your transition, that can also quietly occur and upload in the background, mitigating impact on your patient work, and allowing ample time for quality control.
Many tax credits and incentives await practices who initiate a new EMR system or switch to a new one.
Currently, practices may write off hardware and software acquisitions for three to five years under US Tax Code, according to one healthcare tax expert. Practices can qualify for hardware purchase credits of up to $500,000 — which they can write off in year one — and also for software and training credits whose values vary. Certain restrictions do exist, however — for example, if a practice designs its own software, credits do not apply — but those instances occur rarely.
Additionally, states offer their own tax credits on top of Federal credits which can further mitigate start-up costs. Those credits, offered by multiple states, can partially off-set a practice’s re-training costs for software swap-outs or upgrades.
Heading into the New Year with a well-planned strategy can make the difference between another average year and your best year yet. By giving yourself time to get as much information as possible, cut through the hype and deeply assess your needs, you can empower yourself to make the best decision and give yourself a decided advantage. Also, by planning your workflow and technology improvements when they can cause the least disruption and capture the greatest amount of your attention, you can increase the likelihood of a smooth transitional phase and long-term operational success. Whatever you do, don’t wait. While initially time-consuming, an implementation that fits your needs will reward you year after year.
If you have considered installing a new EMR system or switching your current one, or have more questions, call PatientNOW today at 888-644-2987. Our team can help you to create a customized, end-to-end patient engagement software solution that will boost your practice’s efficiency and profitability and provide you value in the coming year and for years to come.
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