How can independent physicians leverage search engine optimization (SEO)?

What exactly is search engine optimization (SEO) and why would an independent physician be concerned about it? Although physicians are focused on treating and ensuring the health of their patients, their practice is a business and that business must be promoted to entice new patients and, subsequently, to grow and be successful. SEO is, quite simply, a tool that enables new patients to find the practice when they search online.

Independent physicians typically have a web page for their practice. New patients who have just moved to the area or who want to find a new physician will typically first use a search engine such as Google to investigate their options. They may put in keywords for their search, such as “family practice,” “online appointments,” or “electronic health records.” If the physician’s website contains enough of those keywords for the search engine to find them, the practice will appear toward the top of the results for that new patient.

SEO seems simple but in many ways it is not. Search engines use algorithms to determine which sites rank in what position in their results. Keywords are one factor. Overloading the site with keywords will backfire, however. They should be used strategically and naturally in the description of the practice, the staff, and the provider. Refreshing content regularly will also improve search results.

Links are another factor in SEO. Internal links from blog posts back to the original site are helpful. External links to and from other sites also work well for SEO. The independent physician might have a business or community organization provide a link to the practice from their website.

SEO can also be key in social media posts, although the algorithms for social media platforms can change fairly often. Essentially, though, employing keywords relevant to the practice will rank the posts higher in a potential patient’s feed.

When considering SEO, the independent physician should think about the keywords that a potential patient might use to find the practice when searching online. Using those keywords appropriately, refreshing content regularly, and including links to and from other sites will boost the SEO and boost the number of new patients who find the practice in their search results.

Nick Dealtry
August 14, 2018

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5 reasons why there has never been a better time to switch your EHR

An electronic health record (EHR) solution for your independent practice should be designed to help you provide higher quality care for your patients and to optimize your practice management. There has never been a better time to switch your EHR because:

  1. EHRs have improved and evolved. Just as computer technology has improved drastically over the past decade, so have EHRs. More features that are more easily accessible now enable the independent physician to review complete patient data with the click of a button.
  2. You have more options than before. As the population ages, more patients will experience chronic and complex conditions. This means that collaboration with other providers will become essential. Coordinated care is made much more seamless with new EHR options that are now available.
  3. Value-based care demands an EHR. The transition to value-based care means that independent physicians must have the tools necessary to care for patients appropriately and to report on that care electronically. For example, certified EHR technology is a requirement for Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs) in order for the physician to qualify for added incentives.
  4. It could save your practice money and make your practice more efficient. Time spent on searching through paperwork or waiting on faxed information from other providers can make a practice inefficient and can be potentially dangerous for the patient who needs immediate and suitable care. An EHR designed for the independent physician’s needs can optimize practice management and ensure patients are treated in an appropriate and timely manner.
  5. Switching is not as difficult as you think. In fact, Elation migration is easy. Your time is valuable. That’s why we’ve designed our Clinical EHR to take less than an hour to learn. Receive one-on-one implementation support from our dedicated team. We take the time to understand your practice workflows and customize your Clinical EHR to suit your specific needs. There’s no need to reduce your patient volume or shut your practice doors while adopting Elation — we make it easy to switch.

Nick Dealtry
August 3, 2018

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10 marketing ideas for your independent practice

When you set up your independent practice, you have a lot of business tasks to handle beyond the basics of caring for patients. One of those tasks has to be developing marketing ideas for your practice. Just like any other business, your practice needs the right amount and the right kind of exposure so new patients will find you. You will also want to maintain a positive image in your community and marketing can help you reach others with that message as well.

Marketing your independent practice does not require expensive advertising. Rather, follow these ten tips to promote your business and generate a professional image in your community and beyond:

  1. Create and maintain a polished website. Use real photos of your staff and office. Include information about your practice as well as about yourself and your staff, so new patients can get to know you.
  2. Create social media accounts and maintain them consistently. Post questions, trivia, or contests to generate responses. Reply promptly to any comments or questions posted on social media. Remember to maintain privacy and security around any specific patient information, however.
  3. Build a brand, including a logo and consistent colors. Use your brand consistently on the walls in your office, on your website, on social media, and even on business cards and letterheads. You’ll want your brand to become recognizable as a professional independent practice.
  4. Monitor and maintain review sites. Yes, patients review medical practices online. Sites like Yelp are consistently checked for reviews. Again, respond to both positive and negative reviews promptly and professionally and keep responses within HIPAA regulations.
  5. Reach out to local companies to let them know about the services your practice offers, emphasizing your convenience for their employees.
  6. Offer to speak to community organizations on health topics that are your specific area of expertise. These speaking opportunities should not be sales pitches but should be informative and educational.
  7. Alert the media if you or a member of your practice wins an award, successfully completes training or a certification program, or achieves any significant accomplishment.
  8. Send regular e-newsletters to your current patients, with informative and educational articles. Include a call-to-action for them to share the newsletter and refer new patients to your practice.
  9. Promote the fact that you use the latest technology in your practice, including electronic health records that enable you to efficiently care for and communicate with your patients.
  10. Market consistently. Marketing is not a one-and-done event, but rather an ongoing process to promote your services and to promote the positive image of the practice.

Roy Steiner
July 30, 2018

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The importance of reliable and responsive customer support for independent physicians

Just as patients expect a positive experience when they visit their independent physicians, those physicians also expect reliable and responsive support from their EHRs. Running an efficient practice is crucial to being able to provide quality care in a healthcare setting. Time spent chasing down suppliers or getting answers from vendors, particularly when implementing new technology or resolving issues with equipment, can take away from the valuable time spent with each patient.

Independent physicians who want to streamline their practice through the use of an appropriate electronic health record (EHR) solution expect prompt customer support from their provider as well. From the initial installation or transfer to a new system through to questions and even urgent requests, independent physicians depend on responses that will enable them to continue seamlessly providing quality care to their patients.

Elation Health provides just that level of reliable and responsive customer support.  With our extraordinary 24/7 support, your urgent requests always get a response in 30 minutes or less. Our goal is to make Elation so easy to use, you won’t even need to contact us; however, when something does go wrong, we are here to help. We go above and beyond to support your practice, so you can stay focused on your patients.

If your practice is switching to Elation’s EHR, we will be there for you throughout the entire process. We can import all the data from your old EHR, no matter the brand, with exceptional results. Unlike most vendors, we can integrate full patient charts, including old notes, into your new Elation experience. We have experience with many vendors and can work with whatever system you may have.

Customer support is crucial for independent physicians, both as you provide support for your patients and as you expect support from your providers. Elation is about building – and supporting – a technology platform that doctors and patients use because they want to use it. Because they trust it. Because it improves the quality of care. Because it makes them more productive and more effective. And most of all, because it deeply respects that the heart of healthcare is the doctor-patient relationship.

Nick Dealtry
July 24, 2018

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Driven by value-based care, independent small and solo practices are on the rise

After several years of decline in the number of independent practices in the US, a recent study has shown a recent increase. The study, conducted by Black Book Research, found that “independent and physician-led group practices began to rally back up to 72.0% in 2017.” Previously, the trend had been toward independent physicians moving to hospital employment or employment in a practice with only some ownership.

Doug Brown, Founder of Black Book Research, states that the recent trend is probably a result of population health and value-based care models “driving more coordinated, integrated and consumer-centric physician organizations.” Brown adds that “Physicians not affiliated with hospitals are recognizing there are long-term savings if they assume risk and manage population health in the same way as a hospital in an ACO.”

To that end, however, many independent physicians are hiring consultants to help them determine the requirements and benefits of joining an Accountable Care Organization (ACO). When asked about the move to value-based care and how it would affect their practice, many stated they have “no strategic plan activated for transforming population health management or value-based care solutions end-to-end to confront known deadlines because there are no internal experts identified.”

Very few of those physicians surveyed have begun value-based care software vendor selection activities. Of the 900 physician organizations that participated in the survey, “95% of group practice and large clinic Chief Information Officers state they do not have the information technology or staff in-house needed to transform value-based care end-to-end as their physician and or executive team envisions.”

Overall, the research indicates that while more physicians are choosing to remain or to become independent because of value-based care initiatives, they continue to need expert help in understanding how to benefit from the population health and value-based models.

Roy Steiner
June 29, 2018

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Independent physicians seek EHR systems that meet their unique needs

Independent physicians know what they want – and they want more – from their electronic health record (EHR) systems, but many are underutilizing their EHR’s current features. These are the findings of a recent study conducted by Black Book Research that included larger practices with a dozen physicians and more, as well as smaller and solo practices.

According to the study, “93 percent of practices use the three basic EHR functionalities most often: data repository, order entry and results review.” Among those larger practices, with 12 or more physicians, 30 percent expect to replace their current system within the next three years.

The Black Book study found that a significant majority of independent physicians “are looking for cloud-based and mobile tools that offer on-demand data and visibility into financial performance, compliance tracking and quality goals” as well as “speech recognition capabilities and support for telehealth and virtual care.”

Even though independent physicians indicated in the poll that they want more out of their EHR, most of the smaller and solo practices are “still under-utilizing advanced features such as electronic messaging, clinical decision support and patient engagement tools.” In addition, those providers still see interoperability as a “sticking point.”

Independent physicians may need to ramp up their use of advanced technology, including cloud-based EHRs, as younger patients see those aspects of a medical practice as a growing need. A similar study of consumers, also conducted by Black Book, found that “a commanding 91 percent of patients younger than 50 said they prefer tech-savvy practices with advanced capabilities and connectivity.”

Smaller, independent practices will have to make that investment in EHR capabilities that will benefit their patients as well as their practice to continue to be successful. Elation Health is focused on helping those independent physicians by building a powerful technology-driven ecosystem that will become the home base of every patient’s health, and eventually transform the delivery of healthcare itself.

Nick Dealtry
May 29, 2018

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What is a web-based EHR?

The choice of an electronic health record (EHR) solution can make a significant difference to an independent physician’s practice. The EHR is designed to ensure the physician has access to patients’ medical information, can collaborate with other physicians, and has the communication tools necessary to follow up with patients after the visit. The choice also involves deciding whether the independent practice will use a web-based EHR.

The web-based EHR is cloud-based, meaning it does not use an internal server. With cloud-based EHR systems, data is stored on external servers and can be accessed with any device that has an internet connection, while server-based EHR systems store data within the practice on a personal server.

Cloud-based EHR systems actually solve many of the issues that independent physicians may be concerned about when choosing to adopt an EHR system. In server-based EHR systems, thousands of dollars are often spent to install and implement a server, hardware, and software. Additionally, regular maintenance and management from a local IT department is also needed. In contrast, web-based EHR systems are already established by a software as a service (SAAS) provider, meaning the expense of money and time diminishes dramatically.

As a recent article in the AJMC points out, “With cloud-based systems, physicians don’t have to worry about system meltdowns, natural disasters or weather patterns that can literally crash systems in a horrifying blink of the eye. Backup requirements, protocols and capabilities with traditional EHR/EMR systems are not always as secure nor provide safeguards. Patient data stored on the cloud will always be there, accessible from anywhere and at any time.”

Security concerns, particularly about patient confidentiality, are addressed by the cloud-based server’s careful and tactical efforts (such as conducting risk analyses, encrypting data, etc.) in order to assure that a patient’s medical data is kept safe and private. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) helped to insure and protect the confidentiality and security of healthcare information. Included in this “healthcare information” are patients’ electronic protected health information (ePHI). Consequently, this type of data must be heavily safeguarded.

The convenience of a web-based system manifests itself in the independent physician’s ability to access patient data from virtually anywhere. Cloud-based EHRs offer a range of advantages for independent physicians who would rather focus on patient care instead of having to worry about hardware and software issues.

Roy Steiner
May 22, 2018

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The impact EHRs have on patient engagement and satisfaction

Patients want the option of being able to communicate with their independent physicians electronically. In a recent Black Book industry survey, 84 percent of those responding “asserted they are seeking the most technologically advanced and electronically communicative medical organizations available for their healthcare alternatives.” Most of those surveyed who were in the under-40 age group also stated their dissatisfaction with the current level of technology capabilities among their healthcare providers.

Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book Research, says that “Healthcare consumers more frequently interact through electronic media in 2018, and while they value contact with their providers, they don’t have the patience for lacks in hospital interoperability, incorrect billing and access to scheduling and results.”

Patients under 40 who participated in the survey indicated that they wanted more electronic options for accessing medical records and even for accessing their healthcare options, often preferring technology-based choices such as telehealth. Brown adds “Involvement with healthcare consumers through technologies is proving to be a significant element of patient satisfaction.”

Electronic health records (EHRs) are key to communicating with patients, providing patients with access to their own medical records, and engaging those patients so that they become more participatory in their own healthcare. Face-to-face time is still important and effective for the independent physician, but technology options that enable electronic engagement before and after the visit will prove invaluable in keeping those patients engaged.

Interoperability, the ability for EHR systems to “talk” to each other is also becoming increasingly important for the independent physician. Interoperability provides the physician the ability to electronically share patient information between different EHR systems and healthcare providers, improving the ease with which doctors can provide care to their patients and patients can move in and out of different care facilities.

As technology advances, patient engagement and satisfaction depend more and more on the independent physician’s ability to communicate electronically and to take advantage of the advanced features of a top quality EHR system.

 

Tyler Comstock
May 8, 2018

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Tips for retaining patients at your independent practice

An independent physician’s practice is much like any other business, in that it must attract and retain customers – in this case, patients – to remain financially viable. While attracting new patients is largely a matter of marketing and ensuring that the community knows about you and your services, retaining patients at your independent practice involves a slightly different set of activities.

Communication is key. Before, during, and after the visit, you and your staff should communicate with the patient in a manner that is customer-focused and informative. Be available to answer questions and to ensure the patient understands follow-up instructions.

Schedule the follow-up appointment. As the patient is checking out and is still in the office, schedule an appointment for the next well-check or to follow up on the current visit. Be proactive rather than relying on the patient to call back and schedule an appointment.

Emphasize prevention, regular visits, and checkups. Helping patients understand that “prevention is better than cure” can not only help you retain those patients but can also benefit the patients themselves. As one expert put it, “youngsters and healthy adults often don’t value this message (and) are reluctant to go for regular visits to their doctor.”

Use the latest technology to maintain patient data. Electronic health records (EHRs) enable you to track your patient’s medical history and input visit notes easily and seamlessly. Less time searching through paperwork means more time to spend with the patient.

Ensure the patient’s total experience at your independent practice is positive. From the initial phone call to the time the patient leaves the appointment, everything affects how that patient views your practice. Front office staff should be customer-focused, meaning pleasant and courteous. Wait times should be at a reasonable minimum. The visit with the independent physician should be informative and productive. And the check-out process should be easy and likewise customer-focused.

Retaining patients is crucial to the success of an independent physician’s practice. Everyone on the team can participate in making it happen. A bonus for the practice with satisfied, returning patients is that they will quite often share their experiences with friends and family, who may become new patients!

Roy Steiner
May 1, 2018

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Tax-filing tips for independent physicians and practices

The new tax plan, passed at the end of 2017, does not impact taxes that will be filed this year for 2017 income. Most of the significant changes in the tax plan will take effect with 2018 income. However, there are some timeless tips that independent physicians should note, when filing tax returns for themselves and for their independent practices. Of course, it is always best to consult a professional to ensure the tax filing is legitimate, accurate, and appropriate for each individual physician and practice.

  • Making the maximum contribution allowed to an IRA may help reduce the amount of taxable income for an independent physician. The amount of the contribution and qualifications for deducting the contribution vary.
  • An independent practice is a small business. There are a number of business deductions that can help offset income. Equipment, travel expense, professional development costs, and other business-related expenses may be deductible.
  • The practice, as an established business, may be a pass-through entity if it is a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or S-corp. As a pass-through, the business income is essentially the independent physician’s income.
  • Charitable deductions for 2017 can still make a difference for the independent physician. One financial advisor suggests that “most physicians forget that they can also donate securities from their taxable accounts.” This type of donation also enables independent physicians to potentially avoid capital gains taxes.
  • Investing in a 529 fund, a college fund for an independent physician’s children, may qualify the physician for a state tax break, depending on the state and other factors.

In 2018, some of the allowable tax deductions will change and the standard deduction on a tax return will increase. Many independent physicians who receive a paycheck from their practice will see more money in that check and, in fact, probably already have early in the year because of tax plan changes.

Planning throughout the year for possible tax deductions and liabilities will help offset the time and stress involved in gathering all the information at the end of each year for the tax preparer. Strategies planned consistently throughout the year may also help the independent physician see a healthier financial picture for the practice.

Tyler Comstock
April 10, 2018

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