February 6, 2013
Imagine conducting a consultation with a patient, and instead of jotting down chart notes on a form attached to a clipboard, you instead jot down chart notes with a stylus pen on your tablet that is displaying an electronic version of your form. Or, instead of waiting to find out from insurance companies whether a patient is or is not actually covered, your staff could verify the patient’s current insurance eligibility & benefits with the touch of a button. These are just a couple of simple features every healthcare provider should come to expect from their electronic health records & practice management system.
However, many doctors hesitate making the switch from pen & paper to touch-screen tablet or laptop due to fear of abandoning their familiar routine for a new one. Under federal law (HITECH Act of 2009), nearly all healthcare providers across the country must convert to a certified electronic health records system by the end of 2014, literally forcing many medical practices to go paperless, whether they want to or not. While making such a transition can be intimidating, healthcare providers should understand that EHR systems cannot be effective and one-size-fits-all at the same time. Rather, healthcare providers should seek out an EHR system that is customized to fit the way their practice already operates - patient intake, scheduling, clinician data, chart notes, ePrescriptions, coding, billing, accounting, and reporting.
But even with an EHR system that is customized to fit the existing workflow of your practice, the transition can still be a significant change. Medical practices should seek out EHR providers who offer hands-on training and transition support to ensure their entire staff is comfortable using the technology, ideally at no additional charge. Further, medical practices will inevitably have questions along the way, or evolving changes to their workflow, etc. They should seek out EHR providers who are responsive to their questions and requests for further optimization - again, ideally at no additional charge. Why? The goal of the EHR provider should be the same as that of the medical practice - to enable the medical practice to successfully transition and continue to utilize the EHR system long-term.
Another issue to consider with the transition to an EHR system is how to leverage your existing data from your current billing software or EHR software. Medical practices should seek out EHR providers who have the skill to export your existing database of data, and import that database into their EHR system so you can hit the ground running with your entire database of patients in the new system.
Finally, don’t ignore data security as the costs of a medical record breach can be enormous. Medical practices should ensure they ask prospective EHR providers about their data security methods, and if they have completed a credible 3rd party validation of their network & data security architecture.