We know that changes are coming down the pike for the Meaningful Use (MU) program. And the shift towards value-based payment systems and increased interoperability isn't far behind either.
The EHR has the potential to help with each of these changes – increasing reimbursement, minimizing time spent charting, and flowing data to complementary technologies for easier information sharing. EHR optimization is key though.
Here’s how to start the optimization process.
With our clients, before we even touch the EHR itself, we acquire a wealth of background information about the practice in order to determine overall needs.
We look at:
- EHR usage – When was this EHR implemented? Was onsite training offered and completed? If so, how long did it last and was it helpful?
- What’s working and what’s not working?
- Practice specialty, including the number of physicians, providers, and office staff
- Procedures completed in office – labs, x-rays, etc.
Evaluating current workflows goes hand in hand with looking at practice need. Since workflow patterns tend to naturally evolve within a practice – sometimes because they’re efficient and practical, other times because it’s simply always been done that way – this is an area where large gains can be achieved with a few minor tweaks.
It’s important to look at how the whole office functions as well as each individual contributor.
Some of the quickest ways to address workflow bottlenecks are to:
- Use the patient portal – Not only does this help meet MU requirements, it’s also a more efficient way for patients to input their health history. Plus, the chance of data entry error is decreased since a staff person isn’t copying the information from a form to the EHR.
- Maximizing non-provider time with patient – Having the nurse or medical assistant input as much relevant patient data into the EHR as possible saves the physician or provider crucial time. It’s also important to verify that staff are properly assigning EHR notes efficiently, including telephone encounters, labs, and other documents.
After the true needs of the practice are determined and current workflow patterns are noted, it’s time for the customization to begin.
It’s also at this point that physicians realize their optimization consultant’s true depth and breadth of expertise. The most effective optimizations – where you’ll get the most bang for your buck – require technical skills that may be beyond the capabilities of many consultants. That’s why it’s important to hire someone who has worked in the industry, ideally in the same type of facility in which the customizations are taking place.
It’s also critical that the consultant provides a detailed game plan before any changes are made. You want to ensure that the project goals are clearly defined. If not, things can get off to a rocky start.
That’s why we have a plan for all clients before going onsite, so that we can hit the ground running and start customizing and re-training right away.
Here’s a quick run-through of how the EHR can be customized:
- Edit defaults. Each EHR has preset defaults that can be edited so that they work better for your practice’s needs. This can be tough for practices to do on their own though, because the process isn’t particularly straightforward unfortunately.
- Scale down the “kitchen sink.” EHRs come equipped to serve many different specialties. But this overabundance of options is distracting and should be pared down for efficiency.
- Build a favorites lists. Perfect for things like frequently ordered labs or imaging, a favorites list simply puts those items in an easily accessible spot. No more scrolling or endless searching.
Our team specializes in the optimization of the popular EHR, eClinicalWorks. Check out two of our client case studies: Dr. Venuturupalli and Northwest Montana Surgical Associates. And if you’d like to see how we can help with your EHR needs, please contact us.
How have you customized your EHR? Has it been helpful? Please join the conversation below.