Whenever someone calls you, it’s helpful to be able to figure out whether that call was made from a landline phone or a cell phone. Why?
If you can determine that it was a cell phone, then you can feel free to call back at any time of the day in order to leave a message. If it’s a landline, however, you might not want to call at certain times, like early in the morning or late at night, because the ringing of the landline phone might wake people up if the homeowners never turn off the ringer.
Another consideration is the other party’s cell phone minutes. That is, if you ascertain that a phone call was made from a mobile phone, you might choose to respond by sending a text message or by writing an email. That way, you don’t have to worry about eating up the other person’s valuable phone minutes if you’re not sure and want to be respectful of that.
Businesses can also benefit from being able to tell cell phone numbers apart from landline numbers.
If you run, say, a hair salon, you might be in the habit of texting your customers about upcoming appointments. However, you don’t want to be sending text messages to a landline number by mistake. Not only will text messages to landlines never get delivered (although some landline based VoIP numbers do accept text messages) you may still be charged a fee by your text message service provider for these requests.
In addition, many businesses and medical offices want to have a cell phone number for every one of their clients or patients so that they can reach them at any time of the day. And medical offices may qualify for EHR incentives if their phone number data is more meaningful.
Most schools want to be able to reach parents in case of any type of emergency involving their children and when filling out the school forms, occasionally parents don’t enter the right numbers in the correct fields. If school administrators call a landline number during the day when no one is home it can be useless, this wastes school administrator time and can cause your child undo anxiety.
If you manage a doctor’s office, and you are in the processing of switching from a paper filing system to an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, you need to input up-to-date information on the phone numbers of all of your patients.
How Do You Know if You are Calling a Landline or Mobile Number?
So how do you actually go about figuring out whether a certain phone number is a landline number or a mobile number? A company like SearchBug can actually do all of the work for you. In fact, the company’s phone number verification tools is among one of its most popular services.
So how does this system work? All you have to do is visit the landline or cell phone number tool and enter the phone number. Any valid phone number from the United States or Canada will work. SearchBug will then tell you whether that phone number is a landline number, a wireless number, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) number, or an unknown number (unknowns can be for a variety reasons such as the area code is invalid, or the area code and prefix do not match, or the number provide is not a valid number like the area code 555 is used for movies.
VoIP numbers by the way, are a system of vocal communications in which the sounds of people’s voices are carried over the Internet. VoIP numbers are typically sold in blocks of 1000s to VoIp providers from the major CLEC (Central Local Exchange Carriers).
That’s not all. SearchBug will also respond with the following pieces of information about that number:
- the name of the phone company or, in the case of VoIP, the name of the local exchange carrier
- the city or town where a landline phone is located, or where a mobile phone owner lives
- the area code local
- the local time zone for that number
You can find out all this information for free, too. SearchBug will even let you search for up to five different phone numbers a day. And for a nominal charge, you can find out if the phone number you searched for was ported – meaning whether that number was transferred, say, from a landline phone to a mobile phone or from AT&T to Verizon for example.
For an extra charge, you can learn the name of the person to whom that phone number is assigned if you need that sort of information. That can be a valuable tool in case, for instance, someone keeps calling you and hanging up whenever you answer.
Basically, everything you do for a patient is recorded in that patient’s EHR. So if you give a patient a certain vaccine that only needs to be administered once during a person’s lifetime, and she then moves to a different city, her new doctor won’t give her that same vaccine because a piece of paperwork was misplaced. Instead, this new doctor can read everything she needs to learn about this patient on a single screen.
In short, EHRs can save lives, time and money. They are especially helpful in the following areas:
Prescriptions become safer and more efficient with EHRs. In fact, the local pharmacy can receive your prescriptions electronically as soon as you make them. That way, your patients may leave your office and head right over to the pharmacy, and there’s a good chance that their medications will be ready by the time they arrive. You don’t have to worry about a pharmacist misreading any of your prescriptions because of messy handwriting, either. You can even use an EHR system to write an emergency prescription for one of your patients when you’re at home or on vacation. On top of all that, prescriptions become much harder to fake. That’s an important societal benefit given the rampant problem of prescription drug abuse.
An EHR system becomes crucial in emergency situations. If you’re eating at a restaurant and a fellow patron collapses, the person he was dining with can give you his medical information so you may access his EHR through a mobile device. That way, you can find out what his specific medical issues are and how you can best provide treatment on the spot. And if you have to give someone medicine right away in an emergency, that person’s EHR will alert you to any medicinal allergies she might have, so you can avoid administering medication that could inflame an allergy and make the situation worse.
EHRs provide an efficient means for physicians, hospital employees, lab technicians, nursing home employees, rehabilitation specialists and patients themselves to share vital information instantly and in a secure manner. Having a patient’s complete medical history at your fingertips allows you to make the most accurate, most personalized decisions and evaluations. That is, you’ll be able to provide the best prognoses, the most realistic health goals and the most helpful dietary and lifestyle recommendations. And if a patient is staying in an assisted living home or a similar facility, her EHR can even alert staffers whenever she needs to take certain medications or whenever she has an appointment with her physician coming up.
Electronic Health Records help doctors’ offices manage all the financial matters that keep a medical office running. A patient’s EHR will keep track of what she has already paid, how much she still owes and when her next payments are due. If you have to file a claim with an insurance company, you can use your EHR system to do that as well. Getting rid of all of those sheets of paper makes the accounting process faster, simpler and more streamlined, and mistakes become much less likely to occur.
At-Home Use for Patients
Patients can access their EHRs at home, too, sometimes with lifesaving results. If you provide complicated instructions for managing a chronic illness, it might be hard for a patient to remember all the details on a day-to-day basis. But on his EHR screen, you can list step-by-step daily instructions which the patient can read each morning and follow all day long. And if a patient notices any oddities one day – a clump of hair falling out, for instance, or a change in his regular sleep pattern – he can make note of it on his EHR. In doing so, he won’t forget to mention that issue to you the next time he sees you.
As with any electronic system, people may fear that their data will end up hurting them if the wrong people see their EHR but doctor patient privileges still apply to EHR’s.
Electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems are revolutionizing the medical profession, so much so that the federal government has decided to reward doctors who set up these systems and punish those who do not.
For the rest of this post, we will use the term EHR and not EMR, as EHR systems are more comprehensive, and they include EMR systems. EMR systems, which predate EHR systems, are simply electronic versions of patients’ medical information: health charts, results from checkups, and all of the other items that doctors used to store in office file cabinets before the advent of computers.
On the other hand, EHR systems are sophisticated, secure databases which include all of those EMR records, but which also let doctors, lab technicians and healthcare providers manage and share information with one other. As such, a patient’s EHR records will stay with him or her from infancy to a nursing home, no matter where he or she might live in the interim.
What is the Benefit to Doctors Using the EHR System?
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, popularly known as “the stimulus,” provided monetary incentives to doctors all over the country to buy EHR systems. This has come to be know as EHR and EMR incentives. More precisely, doctors need to purchase an EHR system and then be able to prove that they are using it in a significant way.
Of course, as a doctor you are responsible for paying for the initial cost of setting up your EHR system; you are only eligible for stimulus money after this system is up and running within your practice.
If you applied for one of these reimbursement packages in either 2011 or 2012, you were eligible to receive up to $44,000 from Medicare, or up to $48,400 from Medicare if you work in a region that is impoverished. Or you would be eligible to receive $64,000 in EHR reimbursement funds from Medicaid.
These payments would come in five installments, one installment per year for five consecutive years. For example, the $44,000 package from Medicare would be broken down as follows:
- $18,000 the first year
- $12,000 the second year
- $8000 the third year
- $4000 the fourth year
- $2000 the fifth and final year.
These financial incentives are decreasing every year, however. So if you apply for the Medicare EHR program in 2013, you only receive $15,000 the first year, and if you apply in 2014, the initial payout shrinks to $12,000. And as of the start of 2017, these reimbursements will no longer exist.
If a doctor chooses not to implement an EHR system in his or her office, he or she not only misses out on this reimbursement opportunity, but also risks financial penalty. That is, if a doctor is without an EHR system, the government will take a way one percent of his or her reimbursement from Medicare, thus missing out on any EHR and EMR incentives.
Come 2016, the government will withhold two percent of Medicare funds from EHR-less doctors, and three percent in 2017. In 2018 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will look into how many doctors have EHR systems in place. And if fewer than 75% of American doctors are using this kind of a system, then a full five percent of Medicare funds may be withheld from the doctors who are not participating.
Fortunately, converting to an EHR system does not have to be difficult. There are several companies that specialize in software for EHR and EMR incentives. MedicalRecords.com, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one such provider and can help obtain the right software.
In upcoming posts we’ll look at this conversion process, how you can implement an EHR system in compliance with the federal government’s recommendations, and specific benefits an EHR system can offer you and your patients helping you qualify for EHR and EMR incentives.
Searchbug offers some missing pieces to the puzzle and helps make patient phone numbers even more meaningful thereby making the EHR and EMR incentives even more attractive. If you’d like to find out how the Searchbug phone identification service can help make your medical records more meaningful please feel free to call us at 800-990-2939 and ask about our phone number ID service.