Interview with Steven J. Kraus, D.C., D.I.B.C.N., C.C.S.P., F.A.S.A., F.I.C.C.
His vision to elevate the profession and increase chiropractic access
The American Chiropractor recently heard about a new Electronic Health Records (EHR)/practice management software product from Future Health that the company has decided to give away free. Like many of you, we wondered, “What’s the catch?” So we sat down with Future Health Founder and Chairman Dr. Steven J. Kraus (SK) to find out if “free” really means “free.”
Read on to learn why the owner of a software company insisted on giving his company’s latest software away free and why he thinks it’s a surefire investment in the future of chiropractic.
The American Chiropractor (TAC): Let’s start with the obvious question. Why would a software company choose to give their latest software away free?
SK: There are a couple of reasons we decided to give eConnect’s base software, which includes scheduling, documentation, EHR, patient education and billing, away free. But the main reason is because technology now allows for it.
In the past, we were bound by technology. Development and data storage were expensive, and products were too complex for the average user making training extremely difficult.
But now we can offer our base eConnect software free to the entire profession, then let each DC customize their free software for their practice by purchasing affordable Apps.
And though most people are just talking about the fact that it’s free, eConnect is really about much more than free software. It’s about simplicity, making the product much less complex, more intuitive and easier for DCs and their staff to use.
Personally, I want to get an EHR into as many DCs’ hands as possible, because it will elevate the profession like never before.
TAC: A lot of DCs know you as a health IT expert and an authority on the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act’s (ARRA) government incentive for adopting EHR. But as a DC, what led you to this point?
SK: After graduating from Palmer in 1988, I began practice in my hometown of Carroll, Iowa. I then started opening additional clinics throughout the Midwest during the ‘90s.
At one point, I owned and operated 18 different chiropractic clinics. And I quickly noted the importance of efficient practice workflow and systems to help drive the clinics.
I was continually frustrated with the software offerings for chiropractic practices. Either they didn’t integrate, causing duplicate work or they needed a lot of personalization and required a lot of set-up and time. Time that I could be using to see patients.
Having assisted more than 400 buyers and sellers of clinics over 10 years, I knew DCs across the country were facing the exact same problem.
At one point, I even offered to pay a leading software company to add the things we needed to our software. And they couldn’t do it. I then realized I had a big decision to make.
TAC: And that’s when you decided to start your own software company?
SK: Yes, we founded Future Health in 2004, an EHR/practice management software company. We’ve been fortunate to hire a team of top developers and industry experts.
My goal was, and still is, to offer an EHR/software package that increases productivity for providers and staff, reduces expenses, helps DCs get paid for the services they perform and provides professional documentation.
TAC: Documentation seems to be an important issue.
SK: DCs know we deliver great care, but many of us don’t take the time—or simply don’t have the time—to create appropriate documentation to justify the necessity of care according to the standards of modern day rules.
The problem is that we need a better methodology—and that is technology within an EHR.
TAC: As a DC, how did you become so involved in EHR technology?
SK: Through a variety of efforts. I made a point to seek out meetings at the Department of Health & Human Services in Washington, D.C. I met face to face with an Office of the National Coordinator medical director on EHR adoption, their policy analysts and with key politicians.
I’ve read the 864-page set of rules line by line and discussed these rules with leaders at CCHIT, ONCHIT and at HIMSS conferences, as well as a number of symposiums in Washington.
And I lecture to state association conventions on documentation rules and the relationship to EHR rules and present monthly webinars on the topic.
TAC: There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about the up-to-$44,000 EHR incentive. In your opinion, what’s the biggest misconception out there about the ARRA incentive?
SK: Perhaps the one that gets to me the most is people telling DCs that they aren’t eligible for ARRA incentives.
I want DCs to know that they are ABSOLUTELY eligible for up to $44,000 in government incentives for adopting a certified EHR. In fact, chiropractors are specifically mentioned by name as eligible providers in the July 13, “Electronic Health Record Incentive Program Final Rules” published in the federal register by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
The other two most common misconceptions are:
1) That the incentive is a reimbursement for what a provider actually spends on their EHR, and
2) That the incentive is per clinic rather than per doctor. Both are untrue.
TAC: You keep mentioning that DCs must have a “certified” EHR to collect incentives. What does that mean?
SK: In order to receive incentive funds, a provider must use a certified EHR as determined by the government. I know some companies are choosing not to have their software certified, either due to hassle or expense, but that will leave you empty-handed when you look to collect incentive funds.
But incentive funds aside, insurance and states may soon require you to adopt a certified EHR.
TAC: Between the benefits of adopting an EHR and the up-to-$44,000 ARRA incentive, adopting an EHR seems like a no-brainer. So why aren’t more DCs doing it?
SK: In my experience, there are three main barriers: 1) Software cost 2) The time and training it takes to get started and 3) Hardware cost and the expense of an IT consultant to service an office network.
eConnect virtually eliminates all three barriers, making it possible for every DC to own a functional, integrated EHR.
TAC: How so?
SK: First, a DC’s software costs are significantly reduced, because the eConnect base software is free. It’s fully integrated software that includes all the basics: scheduling; documentation; EHR; billing; and patient education.
Doctors can then choose to customize their free eConnect software with affordable Apps for things like efficiency, specialties, techniques and even ARRA certification. So the software grows with their practice. Plus installation, training and annual support are all free.
Second, set-up time and training are significantly reduced, because the base eConnect software is easy and intuitive.
We’ve created a library of recorded training ranging anywhere from only 23 seconds to under 4 minutes. The total time to watch ALL the recorded training is 40 minutes, 18 seconds and you and your staff are trained to use the software!
Third, hardware costs are reduced with eConnect, thanks to secure Cloud computing technology. With eConnect, doctors no longer need to purchase, or maintain a server, or hire an IT person to maintain their network.
They can download eConnect software on their office PCs, and access data through an internet connection. And Cloud technology is cost-effective! With eConnect, doctors will get three months of data storage, use of the high speed cloud servers, and security free, then they’ll pay $24.95 per month for up to 2 gigabytes of data storage. And if they need more, they can add additional gigabytes for only $7.95 per month. Most DCs will be in the $39 per month range for their EHR data.
TAC: Exactly what is Cloud technology? And how does it affect a DC?
SK: eConnect software uses Cloud technology for data storage, basically replacing an in-clinic server.
Doctors benefit three ways: 1) It eliminates the need to purchase and maintain a server 2) It provides data quickly 3) It’s easily accessible no matter where the user is at home, in the office or anywhere you have your computer and an internet connection.
It’s really cost-effective, which is why more and more companies are adopting it each day. The Cloud has quickly become mainstream, the standard for efficient and cost-effective data storage and security for business of every size.
TAC: Is Cloud technology safe?
SK: Absolutely. The Cloud can actually be safer than client server hardware in your clinic, because there’s actually a greater chance for losing data with a local system, and thefts and fires can easily destroy servers, not to mention paper files.
With the Cloud, your data is safe, secure and always readily available via an internet connection. Data is backed up in multiple locations with high levels of security.
Everything is completely password-protected and stored and transferred in an encrypted format. And perhaps most importantly, the technology is HIPAA compliant. Your information is still your information.
TAC: Reducing DCs’ costs seems to be a common theme. But how will Future Health make money?
SK: We’ve based the eConnect model on giving access to the entire profession, which we’re accomplishing by giving our base software away free. A large user base then allows us to divide all our development and programming costs across many more doctors, lowering the overall cost per doctor.
Basically, we’ll make money by continually developing affordable Apps that doctors find valuable and want to use to customize their software.
But more importantly, we’re getting an EHR into the hands of every DC! And the benefits to the entire chiropractic profession are going to far outweigh the benefits of implementing a single EHR or collecting incentive money.
TAC: How will the profession benefit from DCs adopting EHR?
SK: This is where it gets really exciting.
I personally want to get EHR/practice management software into the hands of as many DCs as possible, so chiropractic will be recognized as the leader in EHR technology among all health care entities.
Mass adoption will help establish chiropractic as a modern profession, especially as we interact with third-party payers and other providers.
And we’ll show our willingness to collaborate with the healthcare community for improved patient care. DCs can participate in their state’s Health Information Exchange and share patient data with other provider types. That’s a great way to get referrals and increase market share.
But it’s also a great way to demonstrate outcomes. Specialists and general MDs are going to see our outcomes and see the effectiveness of chiropractic care. And that’s going to help bring chiropractic into mainstream healthcare with more referrals and improve patient care overall with our safe and cost-effective approach.
TAC: Is that your vision for chiropractic?
SK: That, and more. You see, not only will other providers be exposed to demonstrated outcomes of chiropractic care. We know chiropractic works, and yet we struggle with a methodology to demonstrate outcomes to third-party payers who see chiropractic care as an expense.
That’s why I think eConnect came along at the perfect time. DCs can get FREE integrated EHR/practice management software, which they can affordably customize by purchasing Apps. Those who choose to pursue ARRA incentive money will have access to a certified EHR with meaningful use requirements built in by purchasing the eConnect EHR Certification App.
Software and har dware costs are slashed. Data storage and security become a FRACTION of what most DCs pay now. And the profession becomes the fir st to have the majority of its profession adopt new technology that’s top of mind for everyone in the healthcare community. And we get to demonstrate outcomes on a grand scale once and for all, which is going to shoot ch iropractic utilization into mainstream healthcare.
TAC: You mentioned doctors using eConnect will be eligible for ARRA incentive funds. Is that automatic once they start using the software?
SK: To collect up to $44,000 in incentive funds, a doctor must be a “meaningful user” of a certified EHR. We’re developing an eConnect EHR Certification App that will help users meet meaningful use guidelines and qualify for incentive funds.
TAC: It seems like eConnect is the culmination of a lot of your passions within chiropractic. You have to be happy about the prospects.
SK: Without a doubt. It’s an exciting time to be a chiropractor.
We have a chance to unite the profession with a universal EHR—based on the same database—to finally demonstrate the effectiveness and outcomes that our profession delivers on a global scale. That really is the vision I dream of daily. It’s going to happen. We just need to take advantage of the opportunities being handed to us.
For more information on Future Health software demo, call Toll Free 1-888-434-7347 or visit www.FHeConnect.com/1008.