By April L. Jasper, OD, FAAO
Electronic health records make your practice more efficient—but they also allow you more time to discuss treatment plans and increase lifestyle dispensing.
The ability of electronic health records to make a practice run smoothly by giving staff instant access to patient records is well documented. But what many ODs may not realize is the capacity of EHR to enhance the patient experience. When EHR software is integrated with testing instrumentation the office runs so much more efficiently that the doctor is able to either take more time with each patient (if that is her goal) or spend more time in doctor-patient interaction.
Offer In-Depth Discussion of Diagnosis
Electronic records integrated with instrumentation allow the doctor to use a large screen monitor to show patients test results and discuss conditions and treatments. This in-depth discussion of diagnoses is a practice differentiator your patients may not find at the practices of your competitors. This time spent in what the patient considers value added time is a key way EHR systems can enhance the patient experience.
Maintain Eye Contact with Patient
The way you set up your exam room can make or break the patient experience after you implement EHR. It is mandatory to make every attempt to not spend your exam with your back to your patient. Some doctors will attach a monitor to the stand that holds the slit lamp so that they can always face the patient. Others use a tablet so they can hold the computer and face the computer, and another option is to use a scribe so the doctor does not ever have to be on the computer. Yet another option is to carry a temporary chart through the patient experience in the office and scribble any pertinent findings on that chart and then finish the record after the patient leaves the room.
Retain HIPAA Protections
One thing that is often overlooked when using multiple pieces of technology in an office along with the EHR is the need to encrypt workstations that hold patients’ personal data. Data breach is a very real concern and is something that is governed by laws that can vary by state. Each workstation that contains patient names and dates of birth and or social security numbers has to be encrypted so that this information cannot be taken by any third party. If you have a workstation or server stolen this is a necessary protection to keep you from having to then follow protocols fornotifying your patients of data breach.
Create Office Culture Focus on Patient Experience
Before you implement electronic records, prepare your staff by talking about how the change will affect the patient experience. As you review changes in work processes and protocol, point out how each change can benefit the patient. For example, you could point out how staff can use the records to enhance their conversation with patients. Thanks to easy access to records, the optician has a base of knowledge to start the conversation with. The optician, for example, can inquire how the patient likes the eyeglasses that were remade. One thing that many doctors and businesses don’t realize is that no change will be looked upon eagerly if your entire team is not in full agreement with the culture of the office. This story telling of how the change to EHR will make patients’ office visits more personalized can paint a picture of the EHR-enabled change you envision for the office.
It is very normal to be afraid of change as big as the transition to EHR.It’s helpful to talk to your staff about how this modern transition is no different from other cultural transitions like the mobile device revolution that changed all of our lives. Times change and we change along with them. We cannot let fear keep us from moving forward with technology that makes us better able to care for our patients.
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April L. Jasper, OD, FAAO, is the owner of Advanced Eyecare Specialists in West Palm Beach, Fla. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org.