Expert Rosemarie Nelson explains how to make the most of the technologies you already have.
What do practices want from technology? In a word, “efficiency.” We want to be able to do things better, with less effort and more accuracy, and do them only once. There are lots of technology solutions specific to tasks such as managing phone calls, determining patient insurance eligibility, scheduling appointments, tracking patient services, ordering supplies, and storing patient information.
What ability is central to all these wants and the technology solutions that address them? Keyboarding.
Yes, the typing skills that many of us failed to pick up in high school can play a huge role in being able to maximize current technologies. Think about it: All of a practice’s staff members must feel comfortable using PCs and be able to type with some degree of efficiency to enter data you will need to retrieve again and again.
Therefore, the first technology add-on I recommend for any practice is a typing/keyboarding skills software application. Enroll your staff members - clinical and administrative - in a class or an online program to help them develop and practice their keyboarding skills. Allot time during the workweek for all staff who must use PCs in the course of their duties to actively participate in the program. You will reap the benefits garnered from such an investment for months and years to come as your group adopts additional technologies (perhaps even that EMR) that require all staff to spend more time with their keyboards.
How can something as simple as keyboarding hold the key to helping your practice access the latest technologies? Consider this: If you have one, your network server essentially operates as a central file cabinet for your staff. Each PC connected to your server can access a variety of folders in which you can store commonly used forms for ready use. Any staff member with network access can easily fill out individual forms and print clean documents as needed. This is quite an improvement over photocopying a photocopy of a form that ultimately produces a document of such poor quality it becomes illegible.
Your server can hold a plethora of information: phone lists, spreadsheets indicating which labs are associated with which payer, phone numbers for local pharmacies and testing centers, and contact information for referral physicians. Make such information even more readily available by placing Windows shortcuts on the desktop of each staff member’s PC, negating the need to search your virtual file cabinet for regularly accessed items.
Here are some additional simple, inexpensive technologies that can help your practice run more smoothly:
Bottom line: You don’t need to invest a lot of money in technology add-ons to increase your office’s operational efficiency. You
need to use what you have, and that may mean some staff training. You may also need to add more PCs to your nurse stations to support new functionalities. If your staff starts battling for computer time, that’s a true measure of how much they have adopted technological short cuts to increase their efficiency.
Rosemarie Nelson is a well-known healthcare technology guru and principal with the Medical Group Management Association’s Health Care Consulting Group. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2006 issue of Physicians Practice.