You might say pediatrician Alan Grimes is an IT visionary — at least in how he sees technology's role in medicine. His 11-physician Kansas City, Mo., practice has had an EHR since it opened in 2004, and today uses a patient portal, mobile devices, and even social media to better track and communicate with patients. Grimes is always looking for new and better ways to deploy technology.
"In the early years the whole point [of health IT] was getting data in — it's a way to do your records, it's a way to have legible notes, it's a way to do better billing," he says. "Now, in the past few years, the richness of it is getting data out."
Grimes' vision of EHR usage has changed in recent years. For instance, Grimes uses his EHR to more thoroughly track and monitor patients, identify high-risk patients, and attempt to improve care quality while reducing costs.
Like Grimes, many of you are implementing new technologies in practice, according to the results of our 2013 Technology Survey, Sponsored by ZirMed. But not all of you are as positive about the results, nor are you as actively exploring new and more advanced ways to use those tools.
To help turn those trends around, we asked Grimes, other physicians, and technology experts to weigh in. Here's how they said your practice can make the most of technology.
* Are you interested in finding out how your peers are using technology in their practices? Our 2013 Technology Survey, Sponsored by ZirMed, has the data.
Moving beyond the basics
Between 2011 and 2012, the number of practices that completed the EHR selection and implementation process continued to increase, according to the survey. Most of our nearly 1,300 respondents said they have a fully implemented EHR, or are using one provided by a hospital or corporate client. Among EHR users, most also have already attested to Stage 1 of the government's program for meaningfully using the technology.
Yet many physicians are not reaping the rewards of the transition. In fact, most EHR users in our survey said they have seen no return on investment.
Coastal Medical, Inc. a large multispecialty practice based in Providence, R.I., is trying to maximize its EHR investment by using it to participate in Medicare's Shared Savings Program. Under the program, if Coastal Medical provides high-quality care at lower cost to Medicare patients, it will share in the money that it saves the government. Its EHR plays a "pivotal" role in delivering on those objectives, explains pediatrician Edward McGookin, Coastal's chief medical officer. The practice uses it to monitor patients more closely, document care more consistently, and retrieve patient information more quickly. In addition, McGookin says, "The data that comes out of [the EHR] is delivered in a way that helps us recognize opportunities for improvement or see where we've already made them over time."
If using your EHR to help you provide "high-value" care seems daunting, there are some simple first steps to take, says Marcia Peterson, practice director of managed services at healthcare consultancy Beacon Partners. "What I find in a lot of practices is people truly aren't using the reporting systems within the products that they have, and many of them run just short of being able to deliver what we truly need when we talk about big data and analytics and the eventual predictive analytics," says Peterson. "A lot of them just need to start using the reporting capabilities of their systems to see what they're able to produce, what they're able to find, what they're able to identify, in order to determine what they need to take for next steps."