South Florida Hospital News
Monday June 17, 2019
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March 2019 - Volume 15 - Issue 9

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Technology Trends for Physician Practices: Looking Beyond EMRs

For several years now, physician groups around the country have focused on the introduction and deployment of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) solutions. Indeed, most large practices have deployed some sort of EMR capability within the last few years and continue to roll more and more business operations into these solutions. While EMR adoption is important, it’s equally important to remember that other technology advances and trends are also underway. More than ever, physician groups need to keep up with these trends and not overly focus their attention on EMR deployments. So what other technology trends are relevant for physician groups and why are they important? Let’s look at a few trends and see how they can fit into the overall technology landscape of a modern physician’s practice.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Streamlines Repetitive Processes
This is often called Intelligent Process Automation (or IPA), probably so people can avoid using the scary Robot word. So, what is RPA/IPA and why does it matter? Put simply, these tools automate recurring tasks within a business process. For example, many physician practices repeatedly move data from one information system to another by having a staff member log into System A, create a report, and then entering the data from that report into System B. This often involves getting data out of, or into, your General Ledger but applies to any manual process where you get data from one system and manually enter it into another (including getting data into or out of your EMR or moving data from your scheduling system to your billing system are other concrete examples). These tools record how the human performed the task and then replicates those actions on a scheduled basis. For those of you who used to record Excel macros, this is a very similar concept...just more advanced. What’s different is the ability of the tool to log into a system, perform a series of tasks, and then take other actions based on the nature of the output it generated. Some of these tools also use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to make decisions based on the previous actions it just took. But by and large, most RPA/IPA involves moving information between systems. 
 
Automating these processes offers many advantages; it eliminates the errors inherent in a manual process, is much faster than a human, and can be scaled to perform many tasks at the same time. For example, maybe you need to retrieve financial data from different office locations and manually load it into your general ledger. Instead of doing this for each office separately, you can have the robot retrieve the data at the same time for each office. This can greatly improve your understanding of business operations, reduce errors, and augment your staff by letting them focus on higher-value tasks. The key here is doing more and doing it better.
 
Collaboration and Productivity Tools Easily Connects Staff
Within the last few years, collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams (two leading solutions but not the only ones) have become ubiquitous within businesses around the country. They offer topic-based chats, discussions, and file-sharing organized around specific groups of people. From a physician practice context, they allow your staff to easily collaborate both within offices and across geographic locations regarding the myriad of issues that crop up during any given day in the life of the practice (scheduling, billing, staffing etc.). So, what’s different? These tools get your staff off from using email as a primary channel of communication and make collaboration between people easier and more productive. They also offer a way to find the information they worked on at a later time … in context. In fact, many businesses are using Slack or Teams as their Intranet because of the ability to store documents, integrate other apps, and communicate with geographically dispersed staff. If you’re looking to improve collaboration and productivity within or among your offices, you should seriously look at these tools. When selecting any tool, make sure it fits into your core IT backbone. If you’re already using Office 365, make sure you evaluate Microsoft Teams; it’s part of the Office 365 family of applications and can be bolted on to your existing subscription (potentially at an added cost depending on what your subscription covers).
 
Putting it all together: RPA and modern collaboration tools solve different problems. But as you continue modernizing your IT systems, don’t forget the world is bigger than your EMR system; keep your eye out for other innovative tools that can greatly improve how you run your business, and ultimately, how well you serve your patients.

For more information, contact Dale Tuttle, Partner and Practice Leader, Withum Digital at (240) 406-9931 or dtuttle@withum.com or visit digital.withum.com.

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