By James Kirchner, OD
You can improve your transition from paper to electronic health records by carefully researching EHR software, and making strategic plans to implement the one you choose.
1. Once you decide what features and functionality you want in the software, compare vendors side-by-side at VEE, VEW, SECO, AOA or state association conventions.
2. Talk to current users.Ask: What do you like best? What would you change?
3. Once you select a software package, make sure your computer hardware effectively supports the software. A common mistake is to try to savemoney on the hardware side, resulting in frustration because the software is not performing up to expectations.
4. If wired, where are the monitors and keyboards? If wireless, where are the chargers?
5. Plan your implementation. Dry run with staff or family members.
6. Make sure you understand the software support packages.
7. Have a plan for converting paper records to EHR.
8. Plan for ongoing training. How will a new staff member get EHR trained?
9. Have a plan if the system crashes.
10. Go. Implement. Make it happen. Do it. Jump in. Work through the struggles.
—Mark Wright, OD, ROB professional editor.
Step 1: Choose from among EHR-certified software. Not just any EHR software will do. You need to choose from the software providers whose products are certified through the HITECH Meaningful Use program. The following web page provides tools for you to begin the EHR software shopping process[U1]: http://onc-chpl.force.com/ehrcert.
Step 2: Make a list of features and functionality that you would like your EHR software to possess. For example, what do you want the screens to look like thatyou will interact with to input data?Ask for a demo of the software to determine if these screens seem intuitive to you.Some feature drop-down menus. Will that be cumbersome for you and your staff to use?Since your staff also will use the software, ask them to test the demo, too. Determine how many “clicks and screen changes” it takes to enter patient data. Also find out from the vendor about the software’s Meaningful Use reporting capabilities. Does the system allow you to storemedical images and scanned images of documents within patient records?When you input data, what are all the ways the system can dissect and organize the information for you? For instance, will the system effortlessly and proactively assist you in the billing and coding process?
Step 3: Whittle down based on functionality combined with cost. There is a tremendous variance in system functions and hardware requirements among the many providers of EHR software.Make sure that you determine what your needs are and then find the vendor thatbest satisfies those needs. Your choice will dictate what your costs will be.The costs for an entire system including hardware will run the spectrum from under $5,000 to over $50,000.So it’s critical that you take extra care at this stage.
Step 4: Make a plan to implement the software. You will need to set up training sessions with the vendor for yourself and your staff, and think about–and plan for–how use of the software will change the work flow of your practice. In the exam room, for example, data input occurs while you are communicating with the patient. The software should prompt you for information ranging from your general impressions, diagnosis and treatment, assisting and driving you through coding and billing for reimbursement. The good news is that the information you input during the exam should be used by your system to populate other areas of the software, such as automatically feeding information regarding contact lens and ophthalmic lens prescriptions directly to dispensary and/or contact lens staff. Today’s EHR systems are being developed to represent best practices workflow.This does require some adjustments in the way you have been doing things.As health care moves forward in the engagement of EHR, there is a need to standardize software formats.These changes should be minimal, but are necessary. We can’t expect EHRs to be completely modifiable to reflect the way we have always done things. Change is a part of life and should enhance your practice, not hinder it.
The transition into electronic health records should be a fairly short process.The first week or two are the most uncomfortable, but that discomfort will quickly subside. Full engagement with electronic health records should occur within athree-month period.But remember, you must be dedicated to the training process, engage all your staff, be patient with the learning curve and keep your end goal in mind throughout the transition period.
[U1]There is no chance that anyone is using certified software if they haven’t made a choice and already upgraded.
James K. Kirchner, OD, is chief professional officer for Eyefinity/OfficeMate. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org
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James K. Kirchner, OD, is chief professional officer for Eyefinity. To contact him: email@example.com