Today, physicians have access to more data than ever before, and complying with new quality programs and pay-for-performance initiatives requires doctors to aggregate that data in various ways. Physicians and their office staff now spend a significant amount of time sorting through data in order to satisfy all the checkboxes—leaving them overwhelmed and dissatisfied.
But there are tools that can streamline patient care and payment workflows in the electronic health record (EHR). By dedicating time and effort up front to optimize the EHR, physicians can get relief from administrative tasks, reduce duplicate entry of data, and save time by not having to search for records in multiple places. Effectively maintaining an EHR is an ongoing process—the industry offers near-constant improvements—but the reward is a better work-life balance.
Enhancing the EHR means focusing on these four top areas:
When optimizing their EHR, physicians would benefit from working with an experienced consulting team that understands the tools available as well as the flow of the practice. An outside firm with wide knowledge and perspective on the industry and various EHR systems will be most aware of the optimization opportunities available. The firm might also be able to use economies of scale to integrate the EHR systems of multiple practices within a physician organization, physician-hospital organization, CIN, or accountable care organization through a HUB or HIE—increasing the flow of data or decreasing cost. The EHR vendor will often be involved in the optimization process, but an outside consulting firm should lead the project.
Many EHR vendors offer a complete EHR solution but are ineffective at optimizing workflow during implementation. And once the EHR is implemented, an inexperienced office manager may be charged with managing the vendor relationship remotely to ensure the full functionality of the EHR. At this point, the office manager or physician may not be aware of the full capabilities of the EHR and may not be equipped with the questions to ask a vendor to determine if the vendor can help the practice get the most out of the EHR—or if it’s time to hire a consulting firm. Here are the questions a practice should ask the vendor:
Ultimately, when an EHR system is optimized, physicians can focus their time on caring for patients and maintaining a good work-life balance.
Take the example of Michael Little, MD, a pediatrician in Clinton Township, Michigan. Dr. Little was staying at his practice until late at night to enter data due to an inefficient EHR system that caused him to take notes by hand and then enter them manually into the EHR. By working with an outside consultant to redesign workflows, optimize templates, and complete a HIPAA analysis, Dr. Little reduced the amount of time he spent entering data from 30 minutes per patient to 2 to 3 minutes. He now has more direct face-to-face interactions with his patients and no longer stays late to update his charts, providing him more time at home with his wife and small children.</p
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider in light of all circumstances prevailing in the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.