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Following successful EHR implementation, a practice administrator shares how he and colleagues make good use of its rewards.
Take-home message: Following successful EHR implementaiton, a practice administrator shares how he and colleagues make good use of its rewards.
By Richard J. Daddona
Jacksonville, FL-Electronic health record (EHR) implementation is a large undertaking for any practice, and its success requires thoughtful planning as well as ample time and resources.
Subsequently, once EHR implementation is complete and staff members have become skilled users of the software, users are able to reap the true benefits of EHR.
After successfully overseeing the use of EHR at an ophthalmic practice with four physicians and 32 staff members, I have quickly learned how utilizing EHR as a communications portal allows us to thrive as a practice. This article shares these benefits.
One of the major benefits of successful EHR implementation has been better access to patient records. When physicians are on call, they are able to log on to EHR remotely so that they are fully prepped prior to contacting patients.
Improved access to patient records has also improved relationships with referring physicians.
Prior to implementing EHR, a referring physician would receive a delayed response when contacting the practice with a question about a patient. Often, the patient’s paper chart would need to be retrieved from off-site storage or the billing department.
Today, if a referring physician has a question about a patient, the scribe instantly accesses the patient’s record on the computer, enabling the physician to respond immediately to the referring physician.
As a result, relationships with referring physicians have become stronger as responsiveness has improved. Ancillary to these improved relationships is the increased productivity in the office from less disruption of business operations to source physical patient records.
The billing department now has a more integral working relationship with scribes and physicians. When billing staff members do not receive accurate information to code correctly, they are able to communicate more effectively with the scribe who is not recording testing procedures properly.
As a practice manager, I am now more aware of which scribes are weak and need additional training-something that was unable to be tracked before. This communication has enabled the clinic and billing department to work closer together and allowed the practice, as a whole, to streamline its coding process.
The ability to track patient flow has increased efficiency and improved time management. If a patient complains that he or she has waited too long, the EHR can be viewed to determine if the patient was greatly exaggerating or was, in fact, waiting too long.
The EHR tracks when the patient arrived, and at what point during the visit the patient may have been held up. Every few weeks, the templates and timing are reviewed to determine if adjustments need to be made to physician schedules so that they complement each other rather than conflict with patient, technician, and equipment schedules.
EHR is also being used to track patients’ progress following surgery with the femtosecond laser. Normally, a practice without EHR would insert patient data into an Excel spreadsheet and track patients over time.
Because all the data that is needed is in the EHR, the practice worked with the vendor (ManagementPlus) to find a way to pull the data directly from the EHR to track the postoperative results of those patients. Other studies are under consideration to track outcomes data now that EHR makes this much easier.
The most tangible benefit of implementing an EHR has been the ability to communicate with peers and staff in a way that was not before possible. There has been an increase in efficiency, time management, billing accuracy, and patient satisfaction.
Furthermore, EHR use is constantly evolving and has opened the doors to expand the practice by becoming involved in clinical research. Once the EHR was fully implemented, it offered far more benefits than paper records.
Richard J. Daddona
Daddona is practice administrator at Nicolitz Eye Consultants, Jacksonville, FL. He acknowledged no financial interest in the product or company mentioned herein.