What to Look For in an EMR for Physical Therapy

Author: Adam Peacock

If you’re managing a physical therapy clinic, you’ll know there’s a lot to handle besides patient care. 

Clinicians need to document every plan of care. Patient intake coordinators and administrators are busy with patient intake, scheduling appointments, and trying to reduce cancellations. Meanwhile, it’s part of everyone’s job to ensure your clinic gets reimbursed for treatments. 

But with tasks getting lost between workflows, and reimbursement claims all too often getting denied, you’ll also know that it’s tough to handle all this by yourself. 

In this article, we’ll outline the key features of an EMR for physical therapy—an electronic medical record that meets your clinic’s specific needs. Throughout, we use our software, StrataEMR, to illustrate how the best EMRs can help you manage patients, make sure everyone in your team is on the same page, and get paid.

How your current PT systems are letting you down: 2 common scenarios

Physical Therapist and Patient in the Office

You’re on the hunt for an EMR for physical therapy. That means you’re probably experiencing one of these two scenarios right now:

  1. You’re trying to manage the tasks in your clinic using a mix of different tools and systems—perhaps even pen and paper.
  2. You’re already paying for an EMR software, but it isn’t working for you.

Whichever it is, you’re not getting the results you need. 

1. You’ve got an unwieldy mix of systems and tools

Many clinics we talk to are juggling a range of tools and systems to handle different tasks in their practice, from pen and paper to multiple systems for individual operations (such as patient engagement and scheduling). 

As you’ve grown or encountered new needs, maybe you’ve added a new application to manage the process. But there comes a point when:

  • Data entry gets duplicated. Maybe you’re typing up the answers to your patient intake questionnaire, or scheduling multiple appointments by hand. Or you’re inputting data into separate systems for documentation, billing, and scheduling. 
  • Patient information is difficult to access and share. It’s not just patients and their clinicians who need visibility on PT examinations, healthcare treatment plans, or test results. When your practice is using multiple tools from different providers, it can be difficult to share this with referring physicians, administrators, and auditors.
  • Key tasks are falling between the cracks. Maybe plans of care need to be signed off and submitted by different people in your physical therapy practice. Without a single system to manage and streamline these tasks, they’re often not getting done on time.
  • You’re paying more for multiple tools. With every new tool—whether it’s a revenue cycle management (RCM) software or a workflow management system—you’ve got something else to pay for. And if they’re not actually helping you get paid more, that means your margins are getting smaller.

2. You’re using an EMR that’s not working for you

Alternatively, you could be using an EMR system for practice management already. If you’re looking for a new one, it’s probably not doing what you need it to. Perhaps:

  • It’s not a good fit for your physical therapy clinic. For example, the software that’s right for large hospitals often won’t be best for an outpatient PT clinic. We all know how high rates of cancellations and no-shows can be for PTs. And if your EMR can’t help you manage patient satisfaction, it’s not doing you any favors. No two PT clinics are alike—if your EMR isn’t customizable to your specific workflows and processes, you’ll be stuck with roles and tasks that aren’t relevant.
  • It’s great for documentation… but not much else. EMRs are typically built for documentation first. But you’ll also want a system that helps you manage your practice in general, including task management, patient experience, and billing.
  • You’re not getting paid. Most EMRs for physical therapy aren’t built primarily to improve billing processes and reimbursement. We regularly speak to physical therapists that are missing out on 20%—even50%—of their insurance claims and their current EMR isn’t helping. 

The worst part is that most PTs have come to expect a loss of revenue and accounts receivable that are piling up. But it doesn’t have to be that way. At StrataPT, we help all our PT clients get a >99% reimbursement rate

No matter what physical therapy software you’re currently using, there are better ways to improve how you manage your practice. 

We built StrataEMR after experiencing the problems of billing and over-complex workflows firsthand—while working in a PT clinic. In the next section, we’ll show you the key features we included to help you run your clinic, reduce cancellations, and get paid. 

What do you really need from an EMR for physical therapy?

EMR systems aren’t all built the same. And the one you choose will affect the success and profitability of your PT clinic

When looking for your own EMR, these are the 5 fundamental features to look for:

1. Effortless, automated, and shareable documentation

To comply with the law—and ensure patients are receiving the care they need—accurate and compliant medical documentation is a must. Yet, too many EMRs are clunky, rigid, and fail to give clinicians the functions and insights they need. 

Instead, choose a documentation software for physical therapy that will help you:

  • Visualize and update your patients’ treatment, insurance, and payment information all on one screen. With StrataPT, all your patient information from referring providers and intake questionnaires is automatically collected in one place. That means less admin for clinicians and a better service for patients. (Plus, patient evaluations and treatment plans can easily be sent out to external clinicians, if needed.)
  • Use preset templates to speed up assessment and treatment documentation. For example, select from different treatment protocols for the plan of care to be automatically populated. Clinicians can select between treatments and by insurer.
StrataEMR: Choose Your Responses and Edit Selections
  • Adopt a proactive approach to your insurance claims by ensuring that what’s being prescribed can be reimbursed. Rather than issuing a treatment and finding out only afterwards that it can’t be billed, StrataEMR puts that information front and center. This way, clinicians have guardrails so they’re certain that the treatment they provide will be reimbursed.

We call this the Billing Plan of Care,and it’s specific to every patient. When a clinician completes their documentation, they’ll receive an alert if they’re billing something that won’t be reimbursed. Unlike other EMRs, we put billing at the heart of our documentation.

2. Billing processes that actually get you paid

Billing is a major headache for physical therapists. We’ve met PTs who aren’t being reimbursed for over half of their insurance claims. For a $250,000 per year practice, that means leaving $125,000 on the table. 

So, while it’s great to have compliant documentation and up-to-date records, you’re still being held back by a growing accounts receivable (AR). 

Medical billing is often treated as an afterthought—and this is partly the fault of EMR systems. They let you schedule patients, collect demographics, and keep your records on point. But it’s only after creating a plan of care that clinicians find out certain CPT codes are out of scope, or there’s an error in your submission. 

This creates extra work while affecting your monthly revenue.

That’s exactly why we built StrataEMR with billing at its core. We make sure that physical therapy clinics get a 99.999% reimbursement rate. We know that sounds less than believable, so below we’ll outline how we make that happen:

  • We put billing at the center of your operations. From the moment an appointment is scheduled, StrataEMR is working to help get you paid. By setting guardrails throughout all of the treatment and documentation processes, it ensures that your claims are clean, compliant, and complete.
Patient Sophia Donner
  • We ensure you file reimbursement claims that are always compliant. You’ll know that every insurer has different rules, codes, and processes that are changing all the time. But with StrataPT, you can put that out of your mind. Our team does the heavy lifting to keep StrataEMR up-to-date, meaning every bill is accurate and compliant—before you submit it to the insurance company. 
  • Our team pursues every denied claim. Conventionally, if your reimbursement claims are denied, your team has to spend time to find out why. At StrataPT, we’ll handle that for you. You don’t just get the StrataEMR software, but a complete billing service. If your billing claims are denied, we’ll follow it up to find out why. We’ll pursue every single denied claim, so nothing gets left on the table. 

    As an example, one PT clinic started working with us after using a different EMR. At the time, they had 65% of their accounts receivable older than 90 days. That added up to over $200,000. After working with StrataPT, less than 4% of their AR is older than 90 days.
  • See exactly how your practice is performing. You’ll get complete clarity on your financial performance, with metrics including accounts receivable, average units per visit, and reimbursement averages by payer. 
Financial Metrics: Billed Visits and Billed Units, Billed Dollars, Average Units Per Visit, Insurance Payments, and Patient Payments

3. Transparent, customisable, and straightforward workflows

Managing therapy documentation, billing processes, and chasing down unpaid claims is a lot of work. With everything else you have to stay on top of in your clinic, an EMR could provide the support you need. 

StrataEMR offers an all-in-one tool that gives your clinic transparency over all your different tasks and workflows. All the processes can be customized to your clinic’s specific needs.

  • Real-time workflows for a live picture of your clinic. The first thing you’ll see when you enter StrataEMR is the workflow dashboard. This gives everyone a live overview of what’s happening in your clinic, including patients who have checked in for their appointment, therapy sessions in progress, and any administrative, clinical, and patient engagement tasks that need to be completed. 
StrataPT One System to Manage Your Entire Practice Screenshot
  • Transparent and automated task management. Click through to tasks and you’ll see workflows with specific tasks that need to be completed.

    When one is done, the next task in the process will automatically be triggered and the right team member will be alerted. It gives you complete transparency over what tasks need to be completed and prevents things falling through the cracks. 
StrataEMR Interface Dashboard and Patient Information

Again, these workflows can be entirely customized to fit your clinic and support you when you scale. 

For example, one client in California came to us as a single clinic with one therapist. StrataPT helped him to grow his business to 12 clinics and over 100 staff, all of which are using StrataEMR.

  • Notifications system for key tasks. Let the system inform you of impending deadlines, authorization expirations, or non-compliant billing submissions. As it’s completely automated, all you have to do is focus on the tasks at hand.
  • A single system to keep all of your data. With StrataEMR, all of your critical information is kept in one system—from patient records to billing protocols. This way, you keep data entry to a minimum and everyone has visibility on what they need. 

4. Patient scheduling and experience

The right EMR will make your work easier to manage, but it will also improve the experience of your patients, too. 

For example, with StrataEMR, you can ensure that new patient intake is as smooth as possible, while giving them all the information they need on payment and scheduling. This way, you can reduce cancellation rates and grow your clinic. (In fact, some practices have been able to reduce their cancellations by over 50% using our EMR.)

StrataPT helps you deliver a better experience for your patients with the following features:

  • Automated electronic intake questionnaires. Get all the information you need from your patients before they arrive, while making the experience as effortless as possible for them. You can send them an email or text message with a link to access all of the documents they need to complete, and allow them to sign electronically. 
Example of Client View: Consent and Policies, Benefits Confirmation, Patient Registration Form, Health Questionnaire
  • Electronic scheduling and appointment reminders. StrataEMR automatically sends patients appointment reminders to reduce cancellations and keep your schedule full.
  • Financial clarity on billing. With the patient interface, show your patients exactly how much they owe and let them easily pay. This improves the patient experience and boosts your collections. 
  • Patient engagement and satisfaction data. Want to see how patients feel about your practice? Automatically send them a satisfaction questionnaire that they can complete at home, and bring all that data together into one place.
StrataPT EMR Patient Satisfaction Dashboard

5. Clear and actionable analytics and reporting

Finally, your EMR should be providing you with all the information you need on your practice’s performance—whether that’s your overall financial performance, your billing data, your patient satisfaction, or your ability to fill appointments. 

  • See every transaction in our Clarity Panel. This gives you a play-by-play record of everything that’s going on in each patient account. How many times have they visited and how much is each visit worth to you? Are claims being processed correctly?

    Here, you’ll be able to see every single claim, as well as the information on all of the treatments and transactions relevant to each patient.
Clarity Panel with StrataPT
  • Keep cancellations to a minimum with patient scheduling data. Data on patient schedules lets you get clarity on the number of no-shows and cancellations. This can help you understand why patients are canceling and which clinicians are suffering the most, helping you take steps to improve.
  • See where your patients are coming from with marketing data. What is your main source of patient referrals? Which marketing campaigns are bringing in most leads, and what are the conversion rates? This data can be used to help you grow.
Dr. John Smith Marketing Metrics: Conversion Rate and Top Referral Types

Choose a physical therapy EMR system that puts billing first

The right EMR can help you manage your clinic’s workflows, fill all your available appointments, and ensure your documentation is complete, compliant, and secure. 

But if there’s one place where conventional EMRs are letting physical therapists down it’s billing. By treating billing as an afterthought, a lot of EMRs are putting the burden of managing, submitting, and chasing reimbursement claims onto clinic managers. And the result too often is that you end up leaving money on the table. 

At StrataPT, we do things differently. We put billing and revenue cycle management at the heart of everything our EMR does—making it easier to submit claims and get paid. 

Schedule your free demo today.

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