October 26, 2011
With EHR adoption rates increasing across the country, government enthusiasm about electronic health records has increased as well. Anyone who knows anything about healthcare should feel the effects of government brainwashing by now: EHRs are the magical solution that will fix the healthcare conundrum.
Somehow, however, studies disputing government-sanctioned findings have found their way into mainstream society. There are also those heated conversations held in physician’s office regarding implementation failures, stories of physicians who bent over backward to adopt an EHR in their practice and in the end all they had to show for it was a broken back.
Doctors and government officials have had disagreements before, and the EHR situation is no exception. While many physicians may be sold on the potential benefits of electronic health records software, the fact of the matter is that many physicians are still wary about the impact the new technology will have on their practice. While the rest of the world has been digital for ages, digital medical office software is still new, and a lot of doctors feel that it is safer to just sit back and watch as the meaningful use program continues to unfold. It’s a lot easier to let someone else take the risks for you rather than take them yourself.
Some of those early EHR investors have nothing but good to say about their EHR experience. Now that they are digital, there is no way they would return to a paper office. However, doctors have a way of remembering those unfortunate practices that have nothing to show for their EHR adoption efforts, the ones that are left with a useless EMR that cost an arm and a leg.
This leaves us with a lot of confused doctors, unsure about what to do about this thing called meaningful use, and a government that is getting more and more pushy. The push for EHR technology isn’t going to go away, however; fence sitters are going to have to pick a side one way or the other.
The trick that a lot of doctors are missing, however, lies in choosing an EHR based on its ability to help their individual practice—not Joe’s in the adjacent county, or Jack’s in the hospital next door, but their very own—accomplish its goals. If an EHR will be a detriment to your practice, don’t buy it. Identify what you want to improve, and then find an EHR that will allow you to meet your goals. If you want to decrease time spent writing notes, choose an EHR with voice dictation and command functionality; if you want to meet meaningful use requirements, find an EHR that has a meaningful use guarantee. Make the vendor conform to you, not vice versa.
This puts a lot of pressure on the physician to choose the right vendor. Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution, especially for specialty doctors, I would recommend you look for three things in a vendor: (1) experience, (2) flexibility, and (3) certification. Stay away from typical point-and-click systems—those are the ones that physicians usually end up discarding.
The first few months of using an EHR are the most important: this is the time to master how to use the technology and to take advantage of expert training offered through your vendor. Assign someone in your practice to be your in-house expert. Do whatever it takes to make sure you are mastering your EHR. Your success will depend largely on the amount of work you are willing to put forth during those first few months.
In the end, EHRs are all about improving communication, increasing efficiency and accuracy, and improving quality of care. It may seem like a too-good-to-be-true solution, but if gone about the right way, EHRs can have a powerful effect on the everyday workings of a practice. Doctors and the government are working toward the same goals here.
Individualize your EHR—only then will it start to produce magic for you.