Do Acupuncturists Have To Use EHR’s? (Part 2: Insurance)

Do Acupuncturists Have To Use EHR’s? (Part 2: Insurance)

  • Unified Practice
  • April 15, 2015
  • 4 Min. To Read

In our previous blog post, we introduced the question of whether or not acupuncturists have to adopt Electronic Health Records (EHR) for their practice and reviewed legislation and federal requirements. In this article, we’ll make the case for why you should consider making the switch to EHR regardless

We know there are many benefits to the use of EHR’s to streamline operations and improve patient care. Another compelling reason to consider adopting an EHR system is insurance billing. In fact, while legally you may not be required to use an EHR, if you bill insurance, you soon could have no choice but to use an EHR if you want to get paid.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but it primarily comes down to cost savings and efficiencies. Since healthcare reform went into effect, insurance companies are now faced with more patients and tighter budgets. Obamacare provided mechanisms for more people to purchase health insurance while also capping the amount of money insurance companies can use for administrative purposes. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can only use 20 percent of health care premiums to run the company and turn a profit. This is down from 40 percent prior to the law. In this new environment of more patients but less revenue, insurance companies have to cut costs and be more efficient.

Let’s consider some costs: TCM practitioners who do not use electronic health records or an electronic billing process at a minimum have to pay for paper, charts, and claims forms. Perhaps more worthy of our consideration are the labor costs. It takes more time and effort to prepare patient charts for the day, to fill out the necessary chart notes, and then prepare, print, and send off paper claims. For insurance companies, they have to spend additional time and labor to process paper claims, especially when it comes to entering the paper information into their computer systems. 

Integrated acupuncture EHR’s eliminate the proverbial “middleman.” No one needs to prepare charts for the day — chart notes happen automatically as a practitioner treats a patient and claims are submitted at the touch of a button to the insurance companies who can then pay on those claims quickly and efficiently. Labor costs drop significantly and the need for office supplies is virtually nonexistent. The savings for health care practitioners could easily be in the thousands every year, and the annual savings for the entire health care system could be in the billions. Indeed, states like Minnesota that have moved to requiring EHR’s have seen dramatic savings in health care.

We should also keep in mind that as insurance companies receive more and more of their claims electronically, the industry as a whole is going to support a switch to this model. For TCM practitioners, finding a program that allows us to keep health records electronically and incorporates insurance billings as part of a seamless process is of the utmost importance. It will save us money, time, and the inevitable headaches that will come as the requirements for EHR’s and electronic insurance billing increase. Regardless of how you personally feel about incorporating this technology into your practice, it is clear that acupuncturists who don’t make the switch will eventually be left behind. 

More patients than ever before have health insurance, and more of those plans are allowing for acupuncture. Patients are going to want to use their benefits, and it’s important that we are ready to accommodate them. Adopting an acupuncture practice management software like Unified Practice will allow us to focus more on patient care, rather than getting caught up in the insurance billing game or bogged down by unnecessary administrative costs.

Do you have to switch to an EHR? Perhaps not yet, but if you want to continue to grow and evolve your practice, now is the time to consider an upgrade to an acupuncture EHR for TCM.

Guest blog post by Thomas Meade
Updated July 2019

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