When Dr. Thomas Miller, a family physician and owner of Family Medicine in Arlington, Texas, started using EHRs, many other practices were still using paper records and operating their practices without the benefit of much technology.
Miller was an early adopter when he set up his first EHR for his solo practice in 2003.
“Eventually the solution I was using at the time, SOAPware, went out of business,” Miller recalls. “And so I was looking for a new system. However, I not only wanted a new electronic patient and care records system, but also a solution that would allow me to run my practice smoothly.
“I practiced freelance for almost exactly 30 years,” he continued. “I only have two staff – someone at reception to run the practice and my nurse. So I’m really relying on technology to help us keep running.”
On another note, Miller was having issues with the billing software he was using. He wanted to mitigate this because it was so complicated, requiring staff to double-check requests and manually add information. For this reason, it was also important for Miller to ensure that this aspect of the business was enhanced with whatever technology or set of technologies he would adopt.
Miller turned to vendor AdvancedMD in part because it offers what is for him an all-in-one package.
“They offer the practice management solution, EHR, billing, patient portal – literally everything I need to run my practice,” he explained. “I even use them to fax documents. This is quite amazing considering the tendency of early practice management solutions to be fragmented. They were an ideal replacement due to the comprehensive nature of their offering.
“My advice to anyone in independent practice is to try to stick to one platform.”
Dr. Thomas Miller, Family Medicine
“Also, I’m happy to say that patient billing is now much better,” he added. “Our previous solution wasn’t as automated as it should have been. There were always issues, and sometimes it took a lot of extra time to get properly reimbursed.”
The new system sends all complaints automatically at 7:00 p.m. every night, and the whole process requires a lot less staff work. Information from the EHR automatically flows into the practice management system, and what staff need for reimbursement is there.
“Everything is streamlined and requires less manual work, which for a small firm like mine saves us money and time,” he noted.
There are a wide variety of electronic health record providers on the market today, including Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Epic, Greenway Health, Medicomp Systems, Meditech, Medsphere Systems, and NextGen Healthcare.
TRY THE CHALLENGE
The new system is highly adaptable and works well with others, Miller said.
“For example, in March 2020 when the pandemic hit, I was seeing far fewer patients in person,” he recalls. “I quickly adopted a telemedicine solution, Doxy.Me, because it was quite affordable and available on all app stores. Although it is not an AdvancedMD offer, I had so little trouble implementing telemedicine in my practice which, two years later, I still see patients virtually.
“Telemedicine gives me a chance to see patients who can’t or won’t come to the practice,” he continued. “And it also allows me to see patients when I’m at home, using virtually any device. It’s been a great source of convenience and new revenue for us – and it makes delivering patient care much more flexible.”
Miller can then see the patient virtually and do what he always does: add their information to the new system, attend to them, and bill normally.
“It’s been a big change, but since my practice is going well, I’ve weathered the downturn in the pandemic much better than others,” he said. “I plan to stay independent forever.”
Miller’s practice is small and he doesn’t have time to delve into things like difficult success metrics, he said.
“But what I can say is that I no longer work evenings, except on rare occasions,” he noted. “I leave the office earlier, I have more free time and overall the practice is running better. This means that I am able to do what I do best, which is to treat my patients. Ultimately, this is the goal of any independent practice, and any technology a practice adopts should facilitate that goal.
“My staff are also less stressed,” he continued. “They have less work to do because everything from initial planning to invoicing is handled entirely through AdvancedMD, and all of their offerings speak to each other perfectly.”
Miller has seen some of his patients for many years. He says they are much happier because they are spending more one-on-one time with him and can schedule appointments online through the patient portal, complete all necessary paperwork advance and not have to wait once you arrive at the practice.
“Everyone is happier, and I can really live up to the family medicine name of my practice,” he said. “This is hugely important to me as it becomes increasingly difficult to stay independent – with small practices like mine stuck in the middle and forced to join larger groups.
“Efficiency matters,” he added. “And so is the happiness of the only doctor who sees patients, not to mention my nurse and my administrator, who help me keep this practice on track.”
TIPS FOR OTHERS
One thing Miller learned the hard way is that if you have a billing or practice management system that isn’t compatible with an EHR, even if things are working, one day, all of a sudden, those systems will no longer be compatible, he said.
“Good luck with customer support, because each system will just blame its competitor,” he said. “So my advice to anyone in independent practice is to try to stick to one platform.”