Dear Technology: Aren’t You Supposed to Make My Life Easier?

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. Its purpose is to help us increase productivity, organization, and timeliness. However, many physicians are still struggling with technology and refuse to embrace it in regards to their practices. Yes, I am referring to Electronic Health Records (EHR). According to a 2013 survey by Medical Economics, 20% of physicians have not implemented an EHR system into their practice. Of that percentage, 34% don’t ever plan to. However, it is crucial to note that this lack of acceptance can be a hindrance to our practices.

Still, I realize that with the implementation of an EHR comes a few headaches such as sizeable upfront and yearly costs, the need for IT assistance, and time spent on training. I have personally heard from those who grew up before “the age of computers” that EHR programs are hard to navigate and even after two years of using said programs, they still do not understand them. That is why it is so important to keep the following things in mind: 1) we need to be open to change, and 2) we need to find a solution that fits our specific needs.

Times are changing; our society is shifting almost entirely to the internet and communicating through the use of devices. Most aspects of daily life—banking, shopping, and more—can all be managed through technology. Similarly, patients’ medical records can now be managed electronically as well. In a nutshell, the goal of EHR programs is to help providers easily document payments and other records at the time of service. Whether or not we like the shift towards EHRs, we must embrace it with open arms. To refuse technology is to move our practices backwards. We then become outdated, which will, in turn, cause patients to become turned off to our practice.

There are a multitude of EHR systems to choose from, and many can be customized to fit specific guidelines. If you are looking to make the leap to an EHR, then it is important that you find the one that best meets your needs. In fact, it is beneficial to interview several companies and request demos while you find the right match.

Here are some important things to consider when looking for an EHR:

  • Does the program help you become more compliant in your documentation? Some EMR programs offer templates that encompass all elements of a compliant note. However, is there any flexibility in this? Do you only have the option to pull canned statements, or can you free text and make it your own?
  • Is the program cloud-based or server-based? Cloud-based programs will be available through the internet and providers can document from anywhere, as long as they have internet access. Server-based programs are typically only available within the physical confines of your practice.
  • Does the program offer reporting and tracking tools? Can you easily monitor authorization statuses, visit and dollar maximums, and Medicare certification statuses? Create a list of reports that you need for your practice to run successfully and see where the program can automate this for you. This will help you save time on laborious processes.
  • Is the program user-friendly? Is it easy to navigate?
  • What is the program’s termination policy? If you or the company decides not to continue a contract, what happens to the patient records? If you have not made the leap into EHR yet, I highly encourage you to do so. Yes, training may take time and costs can seem overwhelming at first, but the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. Do some researching of your own and find a program that helps you run your practice better.
  • Good luck!
  • The wonderful thing about EHR programs is that they were designed to help us become more efficient and productive. In addition, the programs allow us to easily access patient records with the click of a button. No more time-consuming filing and shredding; it’s all stored in one convenient location.