When providers purchase an electronic health record (EHR) system, they are hoping to benefit from features within the system that will increase efficiency and produce cost-savings while improving patient care. Most physicians fear a productivity loss during the implementation process that could eventually lead to a reduction of their practice’s profitability. However, when paper processes are replaced with an electronic solution, productivity tends to increase, along with overall profits.
The key to creating a successful electronic practice is to focus on how your practice can use technology to complement your practice instead of using technology to completely change your process. The return on investment (ROI) is going to start with the initial phases of the EHR roll out. Training sessions can seem overwhelming and time consuming; however, proper training of all staff members is necessary if you want to make the most of your new EHR system.
Prior to actually learning the application of your EHR system, sometime should be spent familiarizing the entire staff on their basic responsibilities and/or tasks within the system. Evaluate what each staff member is doing now on paper. What are their day-to-day responsibilities? What are they documenting when the patient comes in? What about when the patient leaves? Who is responsible for making sure the patient is charged correctly for their visit? Your existing workflows should be outlined so your trainer can come up with a customized solution in the EHR software to work with you, not against you. This may seem like a minor step in your implementation, but you will be surprised how many steps are carried out mentally or are not being documented that can now be put into the EHR.
As for documentation, some parts of the EHR software will allow for a free text area while others will be structured data. When it comes to running reports on your patients, you will want to include information in the system as structured data. If you plan on meeting Meaningful Use criteria you better get your structured data in your EMR. Because every physician has a preferred method of documentation (dictation, structured data, free text, voice recognition technology), it is important to educate physicians on the benefits of capturing structured data elements while still having that flexibility of different input sources within the EHR. Perhaps a hybrid approach is needed to create the blend to get the patient record fully completed.
Now that we have covered how you will set up the software for your practice and how you will use it, let’s focus on what you will do when you can’t use it. Your trainer has been on-site and things seemed to make sense, but now you are on your own seeing actual patients with no one looking over your shoulder to check your use of the EHR system. You aren’t drawing a blank on what to do next, but you’re getting an error when you try to ePrescribe. What do you do now? Are you familiar with the support process? Is your support ticket going to be taken care of immediately so you can get back to your patients or are you going to be digging through a user manual for the next 2 hours looking for a solution? Good support isn’t just about being available, but it is also about being knowledgeable. The support is a constant reminder of your investment and is going to be a key factor in your practice's success.
In short, an EHR won't create the perfect practice but if you take these few things into consideration during the initial phases of implementation you may be surprised with your success.
Written by Kathy Kuhn, EHR/RCM Sales Consultant for GroupOne