The practice of Thomas J. Overberg, OD, in Fremont, Ohio, (www.droverberg.com) has been paperless since 1996. Why did he make the switch so early?
“First, I could not read my own writing,” he says. “Second, I learned that if an insurance carrier audited your charts, you could be fined for the portion of your records that were not legible.”
Dr. Overberg’s start-up costs for both software and hardware were about$20,000. He realized a total return on that investment in the first year with increased efficiency, a more productive staff and fewer staff.
“Going paperless is the best business decisionI ever made,” he explains. “It drastically improved staff productivity and morale. My EHR system allows me to seamlessly integrate all aspects of my office from the second a patient walks in, to the dispensing of any materials. Documentation is always legible, spelling errors are minimal, patient records are never lost, and every insurance claim is submitted before we walk out the door,” he says.
Eliminating the Handoff
When Dr. Overberg was considering going electronic, he counted the number of times that a patient folder containing their records switched hands: 14. “The handing off of records from one employee to another ate up so much time,” he says. “Now my technician can spend that time teaching contact lens insertion, and my optician can talk to patients about high index lenses.”
Productivity has boomed. Dr. Overberg’s staff of nine has been reduced, through attrition, to seven, with no apparent negative effect. And while he once had two optometric associates, he now is solo. “I went from seeing 12 patients a day to 30,” he says. “Going to electronic records, I saved about 8 minutes a patient or 80 or more minutes a day, easily.”
Dr. Overberg reports that, with all records electronic, his pre-appointments have increased by 500 percent. Every referral letter is written and printed within 90 seconds, while the patient is still in the exam room. “Everything we do is noted in the patient’s health record,” he says. “We click the mouse and that information is sent immediately to our billing staff so nothing is missed.”
Dr. Overberg has added an automated phone recall system that dials patients with reminders of appointments—and integrated that with his EHR system. “We had a terrible time with that before because my staff was always being interrupted by the things that come up each day,” he says. “The more we can automate those task that keep getting interrupted and poorly done, the better.”
Training Aids Implementation
To introduce staff to the new system, Dr. Overberg closed the office for a morning and brought in a trainer. That afternoon the office scheduled only two patients to get some hands-on experience and see where the bumps might occur. The next day, the trainer returned, and the staff was off and running with the new system.
“We scheduled three patients in the morning and another three in the afternoon,” Dr. Overberg recalls. “The third day we jumped in with both feet and never looked back. Within a week everyone in the office was comfortable using the software,” he says.
Compliments on Being High Tech
Dr. Overberg notes that every day patientscomment about his high tech instruments and computers. Patients also mention thathe has very pleasant staff and that the office always is on schedule. “Surgeons appreciate that they receive notes from me the same day that I see our mutual patients,” he adds. “And labs never have to call my optician looking for missing information, such as PDs, SEG heights or adds.”
Cash flow is improved because insurance claims are submitted the day a patient is seen. All data needed for a claim are pulled directly from the patient demographic page and exam form. Double entries are never needed, eliminating busy work and possible data entry errors.
Can You Afford It?
Dr. Overberg is fond of telling colleagues who visit his office to observe his EHR system. “I tell them cost is not an issue,” he says. “With the increased income and smaller staff that my EHR system allows, I cannot afford NOT to have electronic health records.”
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