Independent Medical Practices often don’t have the resources or IT infrastructure found in larger healthcare establishments. With a smaller staff and less patients, they don’t have the need for complex technology.
Nevertheless, in today’s technological world, a handful of practices are finding it difficult to reduce paperwork, increase patient face time and improve outcomes without the help of some digital technologies.
Current Independent Practice Landscape
In recent years, a drop in the number of physician-owned independent medical practices has been at an all-time low. In fact, according to a 2016 American Medical Association study, only 47.1% of physicians had ownership stakes in a medical practice. This marks the first time that physicians are not majority practice owners.
To compare, this number was at 53.2% in 2012. This can be attributed to the fact that an increasing number of doctors have been joining larger practices, as well as health systems actively acquiring physician practices.
Some of the reasons for these changes has been linked to the introduction of new payment models, augmenting compliance costs and the requirement of information technology that is up-to-date with government regulations. These demand costly assets for independent practices, who are increasingly selling to larger systems.
Regardless of the size, there are still digital health technologies that can augment an independent practice’s offering and that won’t break the bank, allowing them to scale over time according to their needs and budget.
Essential Technology for Medical Practices
The technological needs of an independent medical practice continuously change over time. By implementing various technology that helps staff scale in terms of efficiency and cuts costs, the needs shift from a basic to optimization level.
The technologies that are important in the starting phase of a medical practice are the following:
- Electronic Health Records (EHR)
- Practice Management System
An EHR will allow practices to digitize records, streamline communication, provide patient scheduling and order lab and prescription orders. A practice management system, often integrated within an EHR, allows staff to ease operations and monitor their practice’s revenue cycle, among others. A billing system will remove the burden of staff needing to oversee the billing process, submit claims and answer denied or rejected claims.
As your practice gains efficiency and staff are freed up to tackle other tasks, independent medical practices should look into integrating technology that helps shift them into the growth phase. These will ultimately lead to your practice reaching the optimal level of staff and workflow efficiency, which include:
- Patient Portals
- On-Demand Communication Tools
- Clinical Reporting Tools
- Patient Relationship Management
Patient portals provide a great gateway to better patient engagement and are often the vehicle behind online appointment bookings, secure online messaging and prescription renewals. Depending on the sophistication of the software your practice implements, these portals could also include telemedicine features.
Patient relationship management, on the other hand, is technology that enables a practice to capture valuable information such as patient feedback and monitor a practice’s online presence. As patients increasingly consult the Web to learn about doctors and available services within practices, maintaining strong patient relationships will be key to staying afloat.
Regardless of the technology an independent medical practice chooses to implement, it’s important to look at the vitality of it as a means to upgrade and improve current processes rather than simply monitor them. In doing so, practices can help improve the way they deliver care through easier data collection, access to actionable information for clinicians, better patient experiences, and implementation of efficient operation models.