Artificial Intelligence, or AI for short, is capable of a whole slew of fascinating feats these days. One of the most useful ways AI can be utilized is to organize and analyze data, particularly when it comes to the mountains of structured and unstructured data that reside in EMRs. While AI in healthcare is certainly not new, it is just beginning to bring its powerful capabilities into the physical therapy space. Here are the top five ways AI-powered metrics can help you optimize your physical therapy practice.
1. Provide full visibility into practice operations
What makes AI truly unique is its ability to analyze, categorize, and organize data unlike any other technology and well beyond the capabilities of a human. The EMR is an absolute gold mine of data, and, until recently, all of that data sat trapped within the infinite walls of the clinician computer. Sifting through all of that data to find a golden nugget was harder than striking it rich during the California Gold Rush of the 1800’s. Not to mention, once you found pieces of data that felt like buried treasure, the greater challenge was understanding how it fit in with the bigger picture and was that all of the data, or was there more necessary to tell the full story?
AI takes all of the sifting, sorting, and guesswork out of collecting and understanding data to reveal the full picture of practice operations. The ability of AI to analyze every word of every sentence in 100% of charts in the EMR means no data gets left behind and you have complete visibility into every single metric across your practice, including documentation compliance gaps, copy forward rates, diversification of codes, patient retention, plan of care completion, and much more.
2. Make you more money
Making your practice more money is where AI’s super analytics powers come into play in a big way. Optimizing reimbursements is a major focus of physical therapy companies, even though in practice it can be quite challenging. In order to maximize revenue, therapists’ must understand all the ins and outs of billing and coding and then also implement best practices in order to minimize inefficiencies, all while remaining compliant. AI can give your therapists a serious leg up in this department. In concept, the process of identifying billing and coding inefficiencies is actually quite simple, at least for AI. If an AI knows all the ‘rules’ of billing and coding and what the ideal looks like, it is fairly simple for the AI to compare what actually exists in the EMR to what should exist in the EMR. For example, by evaluating the gap between charge capture and total minutes assigned to CPT codes, the AI can identify opportunities to improve coding accuracy and potentially increase the amount billed. Similarly, AI can track which therapists are using lower paying codes throughout a period of service, resulting in reduced reimbursement, and even recommend coding suggestions to ensure optimal diversification of codes and maximum reimbursement.
3. Save time
Another fabulous feature of AI is it can perform tasks at a much faster pace and in exponentially larger volume as compared to a human. Particularly when it comes to chart review, AI is a saving grace for physical therapy practices. Taking chart review off your staff and therapists’ (and potentially your) plate can save hundreds of hours and provides a more thorough and accurate assessment of the documentation. The typical physical therapy practice audits just 0.5% of their charts (approximately 10 notes per therapist per year, when the average physical therapist treats 2,500 visits per year), which makes sense given the amount of time and effort it would take a human to audit more than that. AI, however, can audit every single chart in the EMR in a matter of hours! Not only does AI save time, it also provides a more comprehensive assessment of your data so you can feel confident about your clinic’s compliance going into a Medicare Audit, a Due Diligence process, and even the day to day practices.
4. Create moments for targeted intervention
As therapists that spend their lives dedicated to others’ wellbeing, it is imperative that your staff keeps learning, growing, and perfecting their craft. However, it is impossible to keep tabs yourself on each therapist, how they are treating patients, and their patients’ clinical outcomes (not to mention, you will probably come off as a major micromanager if you are constantly popping in on your therapists during treatment sessions). This is another crucial way AI can help optimize your practice. Since AI is able to ‘monitor’ everything that is going on behind closed therapist doors (well, at least everything that makes its way into documentation that is), it can provide in depth insight into where your therapists are struggling, such as with over- or under-documenting certain sections of a note, retaining patients with a certain type of diagnosis, and even patient improvement over the course of an episode of care. These detailed analytics create incredible opportunities for targeted interventions with therapists. Therapists have the chance to see exactly where and why they are struggling through live examples and receive feedback from the AI on how they can improve. As a boss or manager, this also helps you maximize the time you spend with therapists during one on one meetings and training sessions to ensure you are targeting interventions that will make a difference to your therapists and practice.
A bonus to highly targeted interventions from AI is they are very objective. The AI, unlike you and your therapists, does not have any emotional attachment to a particular outcome or biases. Often, objective examples and feedback are much easier to both give and receive because it feels less personal - it just is what it is and the data tells the story.
5. Reduce staff burnout and turnover
Gathering data on your practice is vital to evaluating the health of the organization, but it can really burn you and your staff out! When we first began working with clients in the physical therapy space, one comment we heard constantly was that a lot of the data they needed existed, but it was such a pain to find it and organize oneself. Spending precious time and energy on this rather mundane yet important task was sucking the life out of physical therapy clinic owners and administrators. Utilizing AI to complete banal clinic to-dos is an excellent way to begin addressing the very real issue of staff burnout and high turnover rates in healthcare. This is especially true for physical therapy practices, where often therapists and administrators wear multiple hats. Therapists that take on extra roles within a clinic, such as owner, director, or supervisor, frequently work 50-60 hours per week and end up making less (on an hourly basis) than they did solely treating patients. It is no secret that the physical therapy industry is up against many challenges, particularly with high student loan debt, long working hours, and insurance reimbursement stagnating at best and declining at worst. In order to optimize your physical therapy practice, feelings of burnout must be addressed, and assimilating AI into the clinical workflow is one easy and quick way to do so.
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Incorporating AI into your physical therapy practice has the potential to be an absolute game changer for you and your staff. The best part is it is not expensive or difficult to add an AI tool into your practice’s tech stack. To learn more about how AI can optimize your physical therapy practice, reach out to our team here - we would love to help you!