Choosing, buying, and installing EHR software is hard enough. Then there's training staff and making sure patient data is secure. And for practices that choose to take part in CMS' meaningful use program, learning to use the EHR as efficiently and effectively as possible is crucial.
"This is not an easy task," Steven Waldren, director of the American Academy of Family Physicians' Alliance for eHealth Innovation told Physicians Practice. "We've struggled to help our members with this." Nonetheless, he has some practical advice. "Keep in mind that the goal is not just to automate your practice, but to make it work better. In order to do this, you have to think outside the box."
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Here are some ideas to get you started to get the most of your EHR to meet those meaningful use requirements:
• Examine work flow.
In order to best use your EHR, you may need to step back and get your nose away from the computer screen, so to speak. Waldren suggests doing a very basic analysis of your practice, looking closely at work flow. Ask yourself: Where are people stumbling? Who is struggling to get work done and who has extra time? Waldren gives an example from the early days of electronic records: "Back when e-prescribing first came along, if a doctor decided to prescribe a new drug for a patient, the doctor then had to figure out what pharmacy the patients used, which location, and so on. It quickly became clear that things went much more smoothly if all this information were gathered at intake. By studying work flow and observing how patients are moving through the system, you can find ways to make the process go more smoothly."
• Have a practice powwow.
Don't try to figure this out all on your own. Brainstorm with everyone in your office. Your staff will often have good ideas. They know what's slowing them down and very often have good ideas about what can be done to fix the problem.
• Reach out to peers.
Brainstorm with other doctors as well. "We're trying to pull together innovators and disseminate information about what they are doing," said Waldren. Meanwhile, ask other doctors you know what has worked for them and let them know what's working for you.
Don't be overwhelmed by the challenges of integrating this technology into your practice. "Little steps make a big difference," said Waldren, "and you'll have more success in the long run if you consider this another quality improvement practice."