Physicians can use EHRs to dramatically increase their efficiency.
While electronic health records (EHRs) are a significant source of much physician frustration, optimizing them can improve their efficiency and support physician work flow, says Mary O’Brien, FACHE, national practice director for Patina Solutions, a professional services organization in Chicago, Il.
While it’s common for physicians to associate their EHRs with decreased productivity, she says with a few simple strategies, physicians can dramatically increase their efficiency.
To begin, she says physician practices and hospitals should appoint what she calls a physician champion whose role is to support improvement in the utilization of the electronic health record through education, advocacy and training.
“There needs to be physician involvement in the design of workflows, in the design of how clinical decisions can be made. Physicians always have to be talking to their administration about staying up to date on what their EHR’s highest capabilities are.”
This person can advocate for some key strategies to improve physician utilization and satisfaction of their EHR.
The physician champion will want to begin by making sure the EHR’s settings are personalized to the physicians using it. “It’s very important that physicians can decide on their own what kind of alerts they want, what kind of education can come up next to some documentation or order they’re putting in,” she says.
Ideally, O’Brien says, physicians also have within their practice or hospital what she calls a clinical informaticist, someone whose role it is to make sure that the information available in the EHR is actually utilized by the physician in the care of a patient.
As an example she refers to an epidemiologist caring for a patient with diabetes. “The EHR needs to be capable of bringing up a patient’s past glucose level or past clinical visit.”
This is where those personalized settings are especially key.
Not every practice will have such a person on staff, however, so for smaller practices or private practices, she recommends partnering with other physician groups or large hospital systems or health plans to share services.
Add in automate documentation tools
Next, she says, physicians should learn how to use the automated documentation tools within their EHR such as being able to send texts, voice to text dictation tools for documentation, which can even include mobile device documentation tools.
These tools can reduce the amount of time the physician spends facing the computer instead of the patient, limiting the need for a scribe.
Lastly, O’Brien emphasizes that no amount of tools will make an EHR more useful without training, O’Brien says. And given how frequently the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) update rules and regulations for EHRs (such as Meaningful Use and MACRA), it’s equally important that physicians have training resources available to them at all times to keep their knowledge and education about their EHR up to speed.
While most EHR companies put out regular addendums whenever new rules are released, she says it’s better to have someone who can stay on top of these changes just in case.
“All these new regulations require physicians to be trained constantly in how to use the technology to provide those metrics to the appropriate organization. Constant training of physicians is very important,” she says.