When talking about electronic health records with physicians, a great deal of the conversation has been focused on their frustrations with the technology. Many doctors have reported finding EHR / EMR software difficult or cumbersome to use, to the point where it interferes with their productivity.
Survey after survey reports physicians feeling as though EHRs cause them to spend more time on documentation than on seeing patients, and that they were able to see fewer patients as a result.
While in the early days of EHR adoption, this may have been the case (as providers learned the new workflows), the fact is that healthcare software can be a useful tool for improving physician productivity. Electronic documentation is here to stay, so it only makes sense for physicians to identify the solutions that will help them use their EHRs more efficiently and, simultaneously, improve the quality of care they provide patients. With a few changes to how they work with their EHR software, most providers will find this to be an achievable goal.
Improvement #1: Use a Scribe
One area where providers have had many complaints is the time that it takes to actually enter documentation into their system. Rather than interacting with the patient, physicians find themselves entering information into the computer, which detracts from the doctor-patient relationship. For those who opt to take notes and then enter them into the EHR after the appointment, the task adds extra time to already long days.
One way to solve this problem is to use a scribe. While hiring a medical transcriptionist specifically to take notes for you during patient visits may be impractical, you may be able to enlist an assistant or other staff to help with documentation. Voice recognition software is another option; when you simply speak to your computer, you reduce the amount of typing you need to do.
Improvement #2: Customization
Most healthcare software applications offer some level of customization, allowing you to create templates with your notes and orders how prefer them, as well as create lists of frequently used orders.
By spending some time customizing your EHR to your preferences, you can reduce the number of clicks you need to make in each record and save time. In fact, research shows that those physicians who use templates can reduce their documentation time by almost 17 percent.
Improvement #3: Focus on Scheduling
Productivity with an EHR isn’t always only about getting documentation done quickly. Often, productivity is determined by scheduling, and how efficient you are with your time. Physicians who have made small changes to their scheduling protocols, such as having two patients ready to go when the office opens and giving patients an arrival time of 10 minutes prior to their appointment, can help physicians see more patients each day.
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In addition, studies have shown that trimming just 30 seconds from each 15-minute patient appointment can allow you to see at least one more patient per day. When you are prompt with your scheduling and trim time from documentation, this can become a reality.
Improvement #4: Delegate
Managing electronic medical records becomes much easier when you delegate certain tasks to your staff. Staff should be cross-trained to complete certain tasks for providers to ensure a smoother flow throughout the day.
For example, staff can be trained to input intake data, vital signs, and patient history and complaints, so the provider can spend more time meeting the patient’s needs than entering data. In some cases, you may even be able to allow certain staff members to enter orders, which you can later sign off on.
Improvement #5: Add a Patient Portal
Patient portals not only give your patients a greater level of access and control over their information, but they can also serve as a form of delegation. Whenever possible, ask patients to access the portal before their appointments to update important information, explain their ailments, and note any questions or concerns.
This can save time during the office visit, and help maintain documentation. Patient portals can also be used for prescription refill requests, lab orders and results, and referrals, saving everyone time and improving patient engagement in the process.
Improvement #6: Go Mobile
According to Beckers, more than 90 percent of physicians are interested in mobile EHR options. With a mobile EHR, physicians can potentially write prescriptions, access records, order tests, view results, and update medical records from anywhere.
While currently, most mobile EHRs are designed to allow providers to see information, rather than enter it, there is work underway to allow mobile EHRs to allow for data to be both created and seen on devices. Most providers agree that such a development will change the overall experience in the exam room, improving their productivity and ability to provide excellent care.
Because electronic medical records aren’t going away, it’s time for providers to change their focus away from their frustrations and toward finding new ways to make their experience more productive. By fostering teamwork between themselves, their staff and their patients, customizing their experience, and changing their approaches to scheduling, it’s possible that the right EHR product can actually increase efficiencies significantly.
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