Management reports—make sure they are able to tell your story.
By Scott C. Spradling
Whenever we talk about electronic health records (EHR)/electronic medical records (EMR) in physical therapy, the conversation always seems to trend toward the complexities of documentation or scheduling and billing. A well-rounded review of any software out there should include a thorough demonstration of the practice management section. How capable is the software you are about to purchase (or already have) of accurately and easily reporting on all the data that is necessary to tell the story each month about the health and wellness of the practice.
Many of the products currently on the market offer a variety of canned reports. These reports are intended to provide you with instant information, already formatted and totaled. Just because a product has a larger variety of readied reports does not necessarily mean that these reports will be useful for you or your practice. Perhaps they are missing information, or calculating a number that is irrelevant to your practice. It is kind of like being on the new car showroom floor and the dealer says, “Just look at all the buttons and lights,” and you are thinking “Oh yeah, I have to have this one.” The reality is, once you drive it off the lot, all you really want is that one button that makes that one thing turn on. The key is quality over quantity.
I recently reviewed a report in a leading physical therapy software system that showed total visits per therapist and total units, along with an average units per visit—a common metric we look at. However, the average just seemed to be off. Upon further review, I realized that since it was looking at coding and units, it was calculating units for the nonbilled data codes—physician quality reporting system (PQRS) and functional limitation reporting (FLR)—as well as the actual billed codes. In a 30- or 60-minute session of physical therapy having three to five units averages out much differently than nine to twelve units. This is a simple example of how a readied report could provide less than accurate data. There is not much the end user can do about these reports, as they are preprogrammed. However, the key is to look to see if these reports can be exported either into “csv” or “xlxs,” both of which are accepted into Excel. Then you can adjust or extract only the data that is meaningful.
Some software systems will expand capabilities for filters such as date ranges, code sets, multiple or singular locations, and multiple or singular insurance carriers. The variables should be endless. One of the bigger variables that can make reports and data less accurate is date of service versus date of entry. It is important to understand which variable your report is pulling from and do you have the ability to change it. Date of service is important for such metrics as total visits per therapist, new patients by referring source, visits by insurance carrier, or total billed charges. However, if you want an accurate look at reimbursement per carrier, average reimbursement, or total collections per therapist or location, you will need to be looking at date of entry, considering that for most of us, a great deal of our monthly cash flow still comes from charges posted and filed three to four weeks ago.
These are just a few of the many scenarios administrators and/or practice owners should be taking into consideration about the many ways your physical therapy software system gives you the easiest and most accurate data. If you are getting ready to switch or upgrade, I would recommend making a list of reports that mean something to you or a list of reports that currently take you extra time to have to prepare and challenge the vendor to show you something of equal or better quality. Make sure if you are going to buy the package with all the bells and whistles that they actually make the noise you want when you start using it.
Scott C. Spradling is a member of the PPS Administrators Council and a certified administrator since 2011. He is the administrator of Movement Systems Physical Therapy in Seattle, Washington, and can be reached at email@example.com.