EMRs: Worth the Pain?

By Seth R. Eaton, M.D.

Maryland providers are faced with the difficult task of selecting and implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) to improve and engage patients in their overall care. A large percentage of providers continue to operate with paper charts, which are neither efficient nor safe. With the various government incentives available to encourage adoption of electronic records, medical professionals understand the advantages and care improvements that EMRs supply, although most are unequipped to adjust to the inevitable hurdle of a significant practice workflow transformation. Implementation of an EMR can be a challenge at first; however it is well worth the investment in the end. A practice’s return on investment (ROI) depends upon choosing a solution that is a fit for the practice. To ease the difficult selection process, Maryland’s Health Information Exchange (HIE) provides support and recommendations for a select number of EMR vendors.

Support from CRISP and HIE networks

Chosen as Maryland’s Regional Extension Center by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, Chesapeake Regional Information System for Our Patients (CRISP) helps achieve improved outcomes and practice efficiencies. The program helps healthcare providers in Maryland implement and use EHRs efficiently and share clinical data across the state.

EMR Selection

Developing a plan and asking the tough questions is a vital first step in selecting an EMR vendor. First, identify your practice’s goals and objectives. Next, speak to fellow colleagues and other medical professionals for recommendations on EMR vendors. Selecting an EMR system that associates are using will assist in the initial learning curve and implementation process. Certain platforms will be easier to implement, so check before purchasing to see which system has the serviceability needed. Additionally, EMRs will provide the tools to integrate with health information exchange networks. After evaluating various systems, conclude which solution best fits your practice’s goals.

The path to fully implementing EMRs can be a bumpy one. Many practices face difficulties for at least six months while everyone from providers to the front office staff adjust to the change. However, after climbing over the initial speed bump you will see a return on your investment, quality improvements throughout your practice and improved care between primary, specialty and hospital systems.

Quality Improvements after Implementation

Different EMR systems and different offices experience varied adoption rates. Hopefully your practice will experience a rapid adoption by providers and deploy after only a short period. Once it is complete, the clinical quality of care will improve immediately; patients will have the tools to communicate with specialists and physicians will have more information to coordinate and improve care. Records will be readily available and better communication with specialists will enhance care.

Other advantages experienced with robust EMR systems are:

  • Legible, thorough and accurate progress notes
  • Fast receipts of and easy location of test results to improve communication with patients
  • Letter generation and mailings, calls and electronic messages for more efficient follow-up care
  • Patient records available over a secure network, improving coordination of care during after-hours on-call, hospital rounding, and other times when the provider is not at the practice site but needs to render medical judgment
  • Easy and secure access to lab results, medication refill requests and referral management when patients access the patient portal

 

Patient Engagement

The key goal of an advanced EMR system is to improve the patient’s experience. The patient portal allows patients to communicate with their doctor and access important information over the Internet. It facilitates preventive care, providing patients 24/7 access to medical information from the comfort and privacy of their home or office. It gives patients the tools to better manage their health by:

  • Requesting and creating appointments
  • Request prescription refills
  • Pay bills online
  • Receive health maintenance reminders

National Recognition

MedPeds, LLC, selected eClinicalWorks in 2004 because it was the most user-friendly and intuitive EMR with the fastest learning curve.  eClinicalWorks provides the tools to further enhance the practice’s ability to engage patients and families and support the medical home model of healthcare delivery. In December 2010, MedPeds was recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) for achieving Level 3 Physician Practice Connections®-Patient-Centered Medical Home™ (PCMH) status. PCMH is a model of delivering primary care that is accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family –centered, coordinated, compassionate and culturally effective.

Seth R. Eaton, M.D., board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, started the MedPeds, LLC practice in Laurel in 1982. Contact him at setheaton@me.com.


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