Patient registration tablets or kiosks allow patients to register, pay their copays and deductibles, complete social and medical histories, and even fill out short patient surveys at the conclusion of their visits. All without the additional work of transferring information from paper forms to the EHR.
Kosiorek says that despite the supposed expedience of using mobile devices like laptops to chart patient notes, he's not seeing a major shift away from fixed computers. "I'm seeing more practices staying with fixed PCs because it's easier not to have to lug [the laptop] around. I'm not sure what will happen with tablets. I have a feeling that tablets might get more prominent use because they are lighter and easier to carry around."
Kosiorek says practices should be wired with Ethernet cables, which allow for greater and faster data transfer. Ethernet cables are also a much more secure way to move data than a wireless connection which could possibly be accessed by hackers; at least with current technology. For that reason Kosiorek recommends using fixed computers in exam rooms, rather than wireless devices, but suggests equipping the practice with a wireless network as well, if funds permit.
PATIENT PORTAL OR PHONE TREE?
Most experts will tell you that the advent of the patient portal was a game changer for physicians and their practices. In fact, Kosiorek says, "The portal is probably the most significant change to a practice work flow that I've ever seen." Prior to the implementation of portals, he points out that staff members were dedicated to answering, triaging, and returning patient phone calls. Now it is possible for patients to leave secure messages for their physicians and/or nursing staff using the portal, and to receive e-mail notification that their question or request has been answered.
However, not all practices have implemented a patient portal; they might be using an older EHR system that does not have that capability and do not have the funds to expend on a new system. Or, perhaps their patient population does not have access to personal computers. Whatever the reason, that means a large front office with plenty of room for telephone operators.
Most practices make use of an automated attendant to route routine calls to the prescription refill line or appointment scheduler; the rest are put in a queue to be answered by an operator. Depending on the number of physicians in your practice and the size of their patient panels, this could mean a lot of phone calls.