Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have been touted as a solution for providing more efficient, high-quality, and cost-effective care. For many reasons, EHRs have not always lived up to that promise. A recent article in Fortune magazine detailed the trials and tribulations of health care providers as they navigate through EHR systems, including many of the top EHR vendors.
As the article points out, the systems are often confusing, and office staff and providers lack sufficient training on how the systems work. As the author explains: “It can be hard to tell where human error begins and the technological shortcomings end.”
While it is easy to become overwhelmed by all of the challenges in dealing with EHR systems, there is a broader point that we cannot ignore. EHR systems are here to stay. In order to provide the best care to patients, practices need to learn to make the most of their EHR systems and the resources to support them. If your practice is constantly wrestling with your EHR system, there are things you can do to make it easier for your providers and staff.
Leave Troubleshooting to the Experts
One item of interest in the article referred to an audit that looked at the code of an EHR – the set of written instructions that the application follows when a user navigates through it. Because EHRs have several different features, the list of instructions can be very complex. What matters to providers and staff is that the EHR features run effectively when used. However, this isn’t always the case.
Should providers or staff members be expected to troubleshoot EHR system problems when they occur? Absolutely not!
Many medical consulting companies have a tremendous group of help desk support specialists that can troubleshoot the problem and alleviate your issues. These help desks also work in direct collaboration with several EHR vendors, so practices do not have to spend time dealing with vendor issues. If there is a known issue that is affecting application functions, the help desk will communicate that information to you, suggest possible workarounds, and provide updates as they come in.
Build Better Workflows to Minimize Mouse Clicks
Another key point of the article was the frustration that providers feel when they have to navigate through the EHR system by constantly clicking the mouse just to complete a simple task, like ordering a lab test. There are many ways to minimize data entry into an EHR, allowing physicians to focus their time and energy on patient care.
If the practice uses the same structure for a particular kind of visit, EHR consultants can help build EHR templates that contain items that are often repeated, such as the chief complaint, present illness history, examination notes, assessments, and procedure codes. With these items pre-built before the visit, a provider can add items that are specific to the patient without having to enter common information for that visit, which is a big time-saver.
2. Virtual Assistants
Many EHR applications have a virtual assistant feature that allows users to verbally give instructions while seeing a patient (i.e., pull up the last visit, order a lab, look at the notes of a specific telephone call). This reduces the amount of time the provider has to spend in front of the screen.
3. “Favorites” Lists
If you prescribe the same medication frequently or have a set of lab tests that are commonly ordered, you can make that process more efficient by using the “Favorites” feature. EHR consultants can work with you to build a list of favorite medications, orders, or other items that can save time and mouse clicks.
EHR Continues to Improve
Even though EHRs have been commonly used in medical practices for the past ten years, there is still a learning curve that many practices struggle with. EHR vendors also have many challenges that they need to address in order to make their systems work better. While there is much work to do, progress is being made. And there are resources available to help.
At Medical Advantage, we can help decrease the degree of your EHR learning curve and help your practice run better. Please reach out to one of our EHR consultants to learn how we can help streamline and optimize your EHR so you can stay focused on caring for your patients.