Driving Urgent Care Efficiency during COVID-19 Crisis: The EMR Features that Matter Most

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By Kim Commito

Electronic medical records (EMRs) serve as the nucleus of healthcare technology, but not all EMRs are created equal. Now more than ever, the coronavirus outbreak has the country’s healthcare professionals leaning heavily on their technology platforms and partners for support. For the fast-moving and rapidly evolving urgent care space, providers and staff working on the frontlines of the pandemic depend on EMR and other HIT functionalities that enable more speed, efficiency and accuracy to treat patients as seamlessly and safely as possible. 

During these unprecedented times and when the stakes are so high, urgent care providers look to their EMR platforms and vendors for new, responsive technology solutions and services that support efficiency in a rapidly changing environment. Those key components and attributes matter more now than ever.

EMR Adaptability and Flexibility

To meet the rapidly evolving needs of urgent care providers, healthcare technology and EMR vendors must adapt and react quickly when serving those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. During these difficult and unpredictable times, agility and innovation are essential to adapting rapidly to the fluid situation.

For example, online patient engagement tools have long been a central application for urgent care providers. However, to better manage the influx of COVID-19 patients in need of care or tests- triaging patients before they arrive at a facility so staff can appropriately assess COVID-19 risk became a top engagement function for U.S. clinics. 

When an EMR platform is built with customization and modification in mind, enabling off-the-cuff solutions, like patient triage, is easy. An effective urgent care EMR interface should be user-friendly, fast and convenient. Choose an EMR, ideally tablet-based for mobility, built for your service line with options for further customization. 

Built for Coding Compliance and Accuracy Through Changing Regulation

It’s understandable that appropriate coding may not be top of mind for clinicians as they navigate the demand for care during the pandemic. And while it can be difficult to stay on top of updated coding requirements, it’s important for providers to document services accurately and to bill consistently. For proper reimbursement and so patients do not receive a bill inappropriately, it is imperative that the diagnosis coding be correct for all COVID-19 related services.

On March 31, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule called the Medicare and Medicaid Program; Policy and Regulatory Revisions in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. This rule offered guidance for coding the new types of services that clinics are having to perform for access to care.

It’s important that EMR and RCM platforms and vendors can update billing processes in a timely manner so meeting important regulatory changes is seamless and easy. For optimal efficiency and accuracy, EMRs are built to accommodate CMS billing and coding changes and automatically provides reliable E/M code suggestions based on visit information. This purpose-built functionality helps streamline workflow, reduce rejected claims from incorrect coding and maintain a healthy revenue stream in parallel to maintaining healthy patients.

Easy Integrations and Enabling Interoperability

EMR platforms shouldn’t hoard valuable patient data and should be easily integrated when necessary for changes in the healthcare system. Ensure your EMR can interface with outside labs, radiology centers, health systems and pharmacies, using APIs to provide better care continuity for patients. Interfacing should have bidirectional data sharing capability, so when a patient’s information is updated in one system, the change is also recorded in the interfaced system. When COVID tests are involved, this digital connectivity is essential for eliminating duplicate testing and ensuring appropriate, informed and timely follow-up care.

Partners That Support Your Business

Lastly, understanding who you work with and how you work with them is as important as the EMR you choose. It is the vendor organization that becomes your partner and pillar for support, and that is vital during uncertain times like these.

You must be able to lean on your partner for the support you need to drive your on-demand healthcare business all the time, with additional insight and flexibility when its needed most. EMR vendors are most valuable when they listen to your needs and deliver software and services that meets those needs, when you need them met. Not months down the line. And as they should understand your unique business needs and goals, they should also understand your revenue cycle and provide support and guidance to be sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your clinic in good financial shape, even when that falls down your priority list.

Remember, partnership doesn’t end with EMR implementation. It’s only the beginning of a relationship that grows with time and benefits both parties. Ask yourself, can my partner make my growth as painless as possible and adapt as you adapt? Innovation done in parallel with your clinic’s evolving needs is key to valuable partnerships. 

At the end of the day, the EMR partner you choose will play an integral role in ensuring your staff can work as safely and efficiently as possible. If your partner supports you with constant adaption, flexible solutions, expert council and rapidly responds to your evolving needs- your clinic will be in the best position to care for its patients now and in any situation that might come next.

Kimberly Commito is the senior vice president product management at Experity, the leading electronic medical records (EMR) and practice management (PM) platform in the urgent care space. With nearly three decades of industry experience, Kim has watched the healthcare market evolve. In her role at Experity, she’s taking talented, product-focused people and helping them work as a dynamic team bringing innovative solutions to the urgent care market.  

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