Physical Therapy Software – How Technology is Changing the Industry

Digital Directions

File cabinets with keys have given way to an entirely new system of retrieving, storing and sharing data

By Daniel Morrill, MPT

iPads, smartphones, tablet PCs, ultra-mobile laptops, desktops – oh my. Health care IT is in the middle of a revolution, and it’s proving to be bigger than the move from paper billing to electronic billing. Where are we? Where are we going? And most importantly, will it work?


The Current Landscape

The digital era encompasses our entire lives, both personally and professionally, and maybe in ways we don’t quite fully understand yet. Electronic records are the hot topic, and we know they are here to stay because they have already been given acronyms.

As we all know, only the good things in medicine have acronyms, and the space of medical records has already reserved a few. EMR, HER and PM are just a few abbreviations to add to our list of medical words made smaller. Out is the file cabinet with keys taped to the side; in its place is electronic data stored for easy access.

Tasks such as faxing, note copying, and chart audits can all be done with a few click of the mouse or a touch of the screen. In fact, some systems are even intuitive enough to send a plan of care directly to a physician for a signature as soon as it is completed. The power and the potential of this new way of doing business is simply amazing – and we’re just getting started.


Future Direction

Technology companies are currently developing solutions for the health care market. Information technology companies are working very quickly to partner with health care systems to create central databases and applications to drive the health care business.

The choices are growing for any type of practice in any setting. The federal government has even passed legislation to improve health care through electronic recording and management, though most private rehabilitation facilities have largely been excluded.

The movement to improve health care communication and record organization across the country in the form of an electronic health record may be possible. The stars may need to align for a national health record to happen at a grand scale, but there has been some progress in reducing the amount of paperwork that changes hands on a daily basis.

Software and hardware developers have always looked at ways to improve the speed in which to enter data into computers and software. Early computers had keyboards, then the mouse; today we have voice recognition, touchscreens and tablets with pens. If developers can continue to improve data entry technology and speed, the impact on usability will become even more efficient, which in turn will both save time and reduce errors.

Apple products and the soon-to-be-released Microsoft Windows 8 are taking direct aim at the health care market by promising easier-to-use table devices with point and touch accuracy to deliver a better user experience. Smaller, more powerful mobile devices are beginning to help shape how health care professionals will deliver care.


Data, Data, Everywhere

Databases of patient information can be anywhere now – the cloud, hosted, onsite, or even a combination of all locations. The Speed and technology behind the internet has created possibilities that simply were not available 10 years ago.

Data can be stored onsite or online, and accessed through apps, browsers and installed client software, which ultimately gives consumers lots of choices. This will allow consumers to find the right solution that meets their business and clinical needs.

The challenge is to protect all this personal health information (PHI) that we create on a daily basis. HIPAA has given health care providers the responsibility of protecting PHI, and this task can seem overwhelming. In earlier days, we had that file cabinet with keys. Now, we have the internet, usernames, passwords, VPNs and a whole lot more. We have mobile employees with increased access to data. We also need to make sure that we have secured data, whether it’s on the premised or in the “cloud”.

Owners and clinic administrators need to work with their vendors, staff and other professionals to make sure their data is protected at all times. The consequences of a data breach can have a severe negative effect on your business.


Do your Homework

Plan, prepare and continue to improve processes in your facilities to protect data. Leverage resources such as your electronic medical record or practice management software vendors to learn about the safeguards and security policies.

Develop your own policy and procedure manuals to guide you through and situation that may arise. Prepare your staff through education programs about security and the protection of the PHI data that we must be vigilant to protect.

The electronic revolution is well on its way. Some may have already embraced what it can do for rehabilitation practices, while others are just beginning to look at making changes.  The bottom line is that centralizing data, along with the evolution of software, will improve health care.

We are starting to see concrete evidence that the investment made in technology will improve clinical and business processes if the solutions are properly implemented and everyone is on board. The positive effects technology will have on clinical and business processing will prepare your facility for the health care changes ahead.