Compiled by Rehab Management staff

The space between therapists, patients, and business operations are dissolving as new features in the software used by rehabilitation providers bring these stakeholder groups closer together. These gaps will increasingly narrow as therapists gain the ability to document more efficiently and patients gain a more direct voice in their interaction with providers. These trends and many others are analyzed by representatives from some of the nation’s leading manufacturers of software used by rehabilitation facilities nationwide. And, as the first trade shows and professional meetings of 2020 take place, these manufacturer representatives share tips about how to maximize the value of hands-on software demonstrations on exhibit hall floors.

Participating in this roundtable are Sharif Zeid, Business Director, MWTherapy; Steven Presement, President, Practice Perfect EMR + Management Software; Michael Huber, Sales & Marketing, Raintree Systems Inc; Doug Cundiff, MPT, MPH, Vice President, ReDoc; and Russell Olsen and Adam McCoy, WebPT.

What does your company consider the “hot topic” in clinic management software for rehab facilities in 2020? What challenges or opportunities does that topic present for your software?

Sharif Zeid, MWTherapy: Efficiency and profitability are top of the heap for 2020. With several changes either here or looming, including the new PTA modifier and associated payment reduction and an 8% reduction payment looming, practices will need to become even more efficient to thrive. MWTherapy was built for efficiency and profitability from day 1, so 2020 presents more opportunities for our clients to continue to thrive and get ahead, rather than just survive. Our free blog on our website has tons of resources, too.

Steven Presement, Practice Perfect EMR + Management Software: Now that most EMRs are doing at least the basics of billing, scheduling, and clinical documentation, our attention turns to enhanced business metrics, revenue opportunities, client-self service, and engagement. Therapists are dealing with a squeeze in funding from Medicare and insurers, while at the same time operating costs are on the rise. As a result, clinic owners need to run a tighter ship — and they will require the tools and reporting to do so that should be provided by their software. Productivity, client retention and cancel/no show rates, all by therapist, will demonstrate weak links in the chain and opportunities for revenue growth or expense reduction. Should therapists be working smarter? Should clients be attending longer? What cracks are in the foundation? Automate, automate, automate. Whatever a computer can do that will free up admin time and costs should be implemented. Client self-registration, client self-booking, client check-in, and client engagement are all examples of things that the computer can do for a lot less money than an admin person.

Michael Huber, Raintree Systems: One of the biggest “hot topics” for 2020 is patient engagement. Patients have different expectations of healthcare providers than they did even 5 years ago. Therapy clinics and practices should be actively looking to engage with their patients in the ways that their patients want — ie, texting, emails, apps, etc. Research has shown that when patients receive active communication and engagement with providers, they have better outcomes, are more likely to complete treatments, and in general are more satisfied with their experience. This directly translates to more revenue for practices because patients are more likely to complete their plans of care; and with the focus on merit-based outcomes, practices have a financial incentive to make sure their patients complete their treatments and have better healthcare outcomes. Raintree has built-in functionality with many patient engagement tools. In addition, we have partnered with additional software platforms that offer complementary solutions to enhance the capabilities of Raintree.

Doug Cundiff, ReDoc: Without question, we consider MIPS the hot topic of 2020. Rehab therapy is taking a data-driven approach to care, with negative, positive, or neutral payments being tied to performance. Positive outcomes are a must! Clinicians will need tools that allow them to dig into the data to understand factors impacting performance and proactively monitor their MIPS score throughout the year. This is where our software will truly shine and meet the needs of PTs, OTs, and STs participating in MIPS.

Russell Olsen, WebPT: The hot topic this year in rehab clinic management software is the sheer pace of innovation. 2020 will bring many technology advances and evolutions that might not have been possible or practical last year (think intelligent analytics [AI/ML] payments, eligibility verification, task/workflow automation, documentation advancements, etc). At WebPT, we’ll remain focused on evolving to our platform to allow for more interoperability, open the way for new partnerships, and bring new capabilities and workflows to our users in meaningful and impactful ways.

Patient/client portals seem to be gaining traction. How might their role develop in the coming years?

Sharif Zeid: Patient portals are very important for two reasons. First, they allow practices to streamline and be more efficient by off-loading some tasks directly to the patient. This saves time and adds accuracy. Second, they give patients flexibility and freedom to patients to do things on their own time. Their importance will only continue to grow as patients’ expectations for on-demand service grow.

Steven Presement: Patients, especially younger ones, don’t like making phone calls and playing tag to book an appointment. They want to book their appointment on their time, on their own, potentially after-hours. Patient portals give instant access and, more importantly, instant gratification to those new and existing patients looking for treatment. All things being equal, the clinic that is more accessible, more “online,” will win the battle for new patients. Furthermore, patient portals reduce admin time, let the patient book their appointments, and enter their own demographic info. This will make that first appointment much more effective, will reduce admin time requirements for new patients, and will even free up your clinic’s phone lines. These portals will evolve into full communication, record-retrieval, and financial tools in the coming years, and clinics without will look old-school and outdated. It will become part of the clinic’s outward image and potentially the first impression a patient will have of your clinic, its “face,” as it were. That “face” better be smiling.

Michael Huber: Patient portals are a great way for patients to take an active role in managing their healthcare experience. Therapy practices should look to include patient portals into their workflows to help with patient communication and engagement. By offering a single source location for everything from intake forms to patient statements, patient portals can streamline many back-office workflows while simultaneously offerings patients an additional way to engage with their therapy providers.

Russell Olsen, WebPT: To date, the biggest success with patient portals has been for bill pay — that is where we have seen the most traction. In the coming years, as we move toward virtual care, there will be more user adoption. As virtual care options like home exercise programs and telemedicine expand, portals will turn from a tool for bill pay to a core part of connected care. The key is, for patient portal use to grow, it has to truly provide value and be impactful for patient care.

Patient/client retention is also generating buzz. What tips would you offer to your customers to help strengthen their patient-retention efforts?

Sharif Zeid: The number one thing that practices can do is have an efficient and effective communication strategy to keep in touch with patients. Software is key in maintaining engagement before, during, and after care. A good strategy will result in retention and higher incidence of returning patients when additional care or services are needed.

Steven Presement: Keep your clinic top-of-mind. Stay in their face. Appointment reminders via text or email along with birthday greetings, tips-of-the-day, post-discharge surveys, and congratulations at specific treatment intervals. If a patient hasn’t attended for a while, they should be contacted, religiously, be it via phone or automated text. If a patient has cancelled and not rebooked, reach out. Set timelines for these, and automate wherever possible. And all of those texts should be two-way so the client can reach you easily (and you don’t have to divulge your cell phone number to do so). Remove roadblocks and create the path of least resistance by employing online booking. Stop giving your patients reasons to not come back.
Michael Huber: A simple and effective way to increase patient retention is with coordinated and systematic use of text messages. Studies have shown that only 27% of patients fully comply with their treatment regimens, but 40% believed they could do better if they receive timely reminders and advice from their providers. Timely reminders…a perfect use for text messages. By actively using text messages for appointment reminders, therapist check-ups, reminders about exercise plans, etc, practices can quickly increase retention, improve treatment-plan compliance, improve patient outcomes, and increase revenues.

Doug Cundiff: We believe transparency, engagement, and shared decision-making — all backed by data — are the keys to retention. One tip we suggest is using a no-show/cancellation report to identify and track trends that demonstrate the currency and frequency of cancelled appointments; this will help minimize no-shows and self-discharges that can be costly to facilities. Another tip is using an outcomes management system like FOTO to map out the patient’s road to recovery using comparative data based on patients like them who are in the database. That way patients know how many visits to expect from start to finish.

Adam McCoy: Improving patient retention requires a dedicated strategy for improving patient loyalty and service. This strategy should include the use of Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) surveys to collect meaningful patient feedback. This real-time feedback will provide insight into issues from dissatisfied patients, allowing for prompt improvements. A strong patient retention strategy also requires the use of an automated patient engagement system to prevent patient dropout.

Trade shows in 2020 will offer new opportunities to evaluate the latest clinic management software. How should rehab facility managers and directors prepare for those opportunities?

Sharif Zeid: Trade shows are not inherently useful for evaluating clinic management software. Seeing a system for 5-10 minutes in a busy hall provides a brief introduction at best. Practices should look to schedule a one-on-one no-pressure demo to really evaluate a system. We offer such demos every day.

Steven Presement: Its always good to look around and see what’s out there, something newer, better, and maybe even less expensive. Changing clinic management software is always initially disruptive — there is no way around that — but the short-term pain is usually worth the long-term gain if you find something great. The best way to approach shopping is to prepare a ‘blue-sky’ list, an itemized account of all of your hopes and dreams for your practice management software. First, this list should be reviewed with your current software provider — many times users aren’t aware of everything that their existing software can actually do! Then, take this list with you to the various trade shows — it will help to weed out the software that doesn’t do the trick quickly without going through long demos or sales pitches.

Michael Huber: When evaluating any new platform, it is highly critical to understand “why” you are looking for something new. Too often practices start looking for new software without understanding the needs of all parts of the practice (front desk, admin, clinical, billing, etc). When starting the process of reviewing new software, one of the most important questions rehab directors and managers can ask is, “What problem am I trying to solve?” Often by asking this simple question, it will reveal the true problem, and this will allow you to start creating lists of requirements.

Doug Cundiff: With value-based care on every clinician’s mind, it’s a must to ask the software provider how they can support MIPS. For instance, an outcomes management system that’s integrated with a QCDR (Qualified Clinical Data Registry) for MIPS reporting can help rehab clinics manage performance — making it easy to proactively monitor and manage scores before the reporting period ends. Just like any supply and demand business, it’s important for software providers to stay ahead of the curve and fill the needs of their customers — and right now, they all need an interoperable MIPS-reporting solution.

Adam McCoy: Trade shows are a great way to not only learn about products, but also get to know the vendor and how they do business. There are numerous techniques for evaluating both the strengths and weaknesses of clinic management software. Regardless of the technique used, an organization should fully understand its key software needs and then work to evaluate each product’s ability to meet those needs as well as how it integrates with other existing tools. It’s also important to evaluate the entire product portfolio of competing products. Bundled packages often provide discounts for the use of multiple products within a suite. This can help organizations improve their bottom lines.

How important is it for rehab facilities to think about updating their software training or doing “refresher” training? What options are available?

Sharif Zeid: Practices should always be looking to improve their knowledge base and make sure that they are taking full advantage of any tools that they have available. MWTherapy regularly offers such resources to help practices to do just that, and that can come in the form of manuals, training documents, webinars, and more. Practices should not underestimate the importance of training staff on internal policies and procedures. These items are just as important as the training provided by an EMR vendor.

Steven Presement: One of the biggest struggles we face is that 80% of our clients utilize 20% of our application. Why? Staff changes, improper succession training, and compartmentalizing of tasks — ie, “That’s not my job.” As a software provider, we don’t know where the client’s knowledge may be deficient. Upgrades are generally included in software licenses these days. But it’s always key to be on the latest and greatest. Some methods we employ to keep our users up-to-date include no-charge seminars, quarterly newsletters, and our online University, which contains links to all of the above plus dozens of tutorial videos. In our case, a refresher training is always available, if required.

Michael Huber: Training and “refreshers” are important in any business but even more so in healthcare. With evolving regulations and requirements, it is often a good idea to have regular training and education sessions for your software so that people can learn new ways to do existing tasks and review current processes with regard to compliance. Another good reason to do “training” is to identify current processes and workflows that may be inefficient, outdated, or unnecessary. Raintree offers multiple levels of education and training. We offer simple webinar sessions and daily/weekly training on specific topics to highly tailored, multi-day training sessions individualized to specific practices.

Adam McCoy: There is a rapid pace of innovation and change occurring within any quality software platform. If you implemented your software more than a year ago, you may be unaware of new features and updated capabilities. There is huge value in taking a fresh look at the software through training videos, knowledge bases, and webinars to learn how you can take advantage of new rollouts and improvements. If you haven’t done this yet, you might not be getting the most value out of your investment. RM