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Thanks in part to meeting "meaningful use," I've begun upgrading our practice technology to better serve patients and increase staff job satisfaction.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act has enabled medical practices to gain access to needed funds to purchase EHR software and equipment. In mid 2011, my medical practice successfully attested to using our EHR software in a meaningful way and the direct result was a deposit of $18,000 in our bank account compliments of Uncle Sam.
The first purchase I made with the initial lump sum payment was to upgrade our EHR database server. This server upgrade was the third database upgrade I have made since starting my private practice in late 2003. The obvious benefit to my practice was implementing a robust server that allows my staff to access our EHR database in a very efficient manner. Our office staff greatly appreciated the improvement in performance that was noted after the upgrade. The result has allowed me and my two nurse practitioners to complete patient notes in the office in a more efficient work flow.
The next purchase made was to replace the aging desktops in my practice. The old desktops were Pentium-based Windows XP workstations and even though the server upgrade allowed my staff to use their aging workstations more efficiently, the implementation of newer quad core processors utilizing Windows 7 64-bit processors has been a very welcomed upgrade. Windows 7 allows my staff to use their applications much more efficiently and we have noted fewer crashes compared to the aging XP desktops.
Now that most offices are utilizing EHR technology, it is very important to keep the IT infrastructure up to date. Nothing can be more frustrating than software lock ups, computer crashes, and the like to disrupt the patient work flow. Another important upgrade has been implementing dual monitors for the staff. My employees can use one monitor to complete tasks such as patient information entry, word processing, etc., and utilize the second monitor to run our EHR's tracking board software so that they can be instantly notified to new patients entering the office, new orders from the physician to be handled, and other important work flow processes that cannot be efficiently completed by using only one monitor.
The next step in updating my IT infrastructure will be to replace our aging tablet PCs. At present, our tablets are from the 2008-2009 era and while they are adequate for doing the job, the newer quad core processors utilizing Windows 7 64-bit software will greatly improve data entry and improve the work flow in the office.
At present, I am updating our IT equipment on a three-year cycle. The money received from the successful attestation of meaningful use has allowed me to stay current with the three-year replacement cycle and I have been able to purchase more powerful and more efficient workstations to complete the patient care duties.
Reliable hardware performance is absolutely vital to providing reliable software use. Now that the IT equipment has been upgraded, we are able to more easily complete the daily patient care duties and the decreased frequency of hardware crashes and lock-ups has provided for higher staff satisfaction and an overall positive mood in the workplace.
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