How to deal with EHR implementation

Afraid to face the inevitability of EHR Implementation? See the best ways one doctor dealt with it.

When it's time for you to purchase your electronic health record (EHR) system, remember that knowledge is power.

"Once you've narrowed it down, get a feel for how [implementation] went for them," he says. He advises against making any purchasing decisions without first doing research.

So how has he managed to survive the implementation of his athenahealth EHR? Two part-time staff members who worked for him long before he began using his EHR have helped immensely.

Typically, patient information is added to the system before a visit, but including details about histories and immunizations is time-consuming. "In a lot of cases, I'm still adding the [information] as they come," Denham says. "There's no way to dump all the data into the system, because I wasn't computerized in the first place."

Eight months after the process began, Denham says almost all of his patients' information is in the system. "I work full time doing medical research, so it's 'catch as catch can' right now," he says. "I'll put a chart or two of information into the system on weekends, evenings, and during the day when work is slow, to catch myself up."

At first he struggled with how to get the system set up the way he wanted it. But that was no reason to get discouraged.

"It gets easier as you get more comfortable with it," Denham says. "You've got to plow through it and develop a comfort level with it."

He admits that learning how to use an EHR in front of your patients requires time. "There will be a period of time when [doctors] will need to schedule fewer appointments," he says. "But once they get more comfortable with the EHR, they will pick up speed and get back to their normal schedules."

After all, he says, "[Implementing an EHR] is one of those things that you're going to have to do one way or the other if you're going to stay in the game and get paid to be seeing patients."

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