When Practice Technology Fails, It's Time to Go Back to Basics

August 15, 2011
Melissa Young, MD

Sometimes when your practice technology leaves you disconnected, the day becomes longer and the solutions need to come faster to get patients the care they expect.

Just when I was worried that I would not have a topic for my blog this week, something just fell into my lap. Or more appropriately, it came crashing down on my head. 

It was a typical Friday morning. Friday is our "short day" - we start late and finish early. That gives me time to catch up on paperwork and phone calls. Alas, this time, it was not to be.

I went to work early like I normally do, switched on my tablet computer and much to my dismay, was unable to connect to our network. I tried another tablet. Same thing. Tried a desktop - no problem. I called our EHR support and got voicemail. I left a message. I called our IT people. Same thing. I did a little work on the desktop, then realized it was getting close to time for the first patient. I called EHR support again. I called IT again. During all these calls, I had already done the tried and true - turn it off, unplug it and turn it back on - to no avail. I called IT and finally got a human. We tried to fix things. We did the unplug/replug thing again. We clicked, we pushed buttons, and we waved magic wands. When it was obvious that things would not be resolved immediately, I decided to leave IT guy to his own devices while I went and saw patients and gasp wrote my notes on paper.

Since the desktops were working, I had my staff print out the patients' last progress notes and most recent labs. I was unable to see my "tasks" - my electronic to-do list - so I periodically asked my staff if there were any urgent messages.

I was more than a little perturbed by the whole situation, but once I resigned myself to the idea of coming back to the office after picking up the kids and dropping them off at their designated after camp activities, I was calmer. Once I was done with patients and my MA left, I took over her desktop and took care of the most pressing messages. I picked up the kids, dropped them off, came back to the office and started tackling entering my notes and caching up on other tasks. I didn't quite finish before it was time to pick up the kids again, so I had to finish the rest at home. It was well after 10 p.m. before I called it quits.

And what happened with our wireless? We thought it was fixed, but it's not. My husband/biller/plumber/electrician/all-around-emergency-helper spent a significant amount of time this weekend wiring our exam rooms with Ethernet cables. I still want the wireless fixed, but since we have patients starting at 8 a.m. on Monday, I know it won't be ready in time.

Funny, I found out last night that a friend of mine had phone troubles yesterday. They couldn't make outgoing calls from his office all day. It wasn't Friday the 13th. Maybe it was the full moon.

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