By Danielle Taimuty, MA, CPC, CEMC
The pressure is on! From your patients to the federal government it seems that everyone is demanding that you use technology. Although it may seem like another daunting tasking that the government is inflicting upon you, it is achievable with the right tools and guidance. There is no denying that technology has improved many aspects not only within medicine, but all throughout industries and most American lives. It seems like each day there is a new article or study which validates the use of technology in reducing healthcare costs and maintaining healthier patient populations.
Once you have resigned yourself to your fate and the parting of your hard earned dollars, how do you decide which technology best fits you and your practice? I am often asked questions like, “What type of computer or hardware should I buy?”, “Which EHR (electronic health record) should I choose?”, “What is better, cloud based or server based systems?” The answers to these questions depend greatly on the physician themselves, as well as specific features required for your specialty, the work flow processes within the office, the technological infrastructure of your office and the employees within your practice.
Before you go through the hardware selection, you will need to determine which EHR is right for your practice. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” EHR system for every practice. There are however, many resources to help you with the EHR selection process. Here are some helpful websites that can assist you in your search:
- www.himss.org – This has a lot of great information. Their focus is the betterment of health care through information and management systems
- www.centerforhit.org — A resource dedicated to EHR Adoption and tools
- www.mgma.com — MGMA is a nationally known association that provides practice management tools for the whole office.
- www.pareachwest.org — PA Reach is a program funded by a grant from the Office of the National Coordinator with Department of Health and Human Services support. Their main goal is to provide outreach, education and onsite technical assistance to support primary care physicians.
- http://oncchpl.force.com/ehrcert/EHRProductSearch?setting=Ambulatory – ONC Certified EHR list
These are just a few of the sites which specifically offer tools that will assist you with initial planning and assessments. Keep in mind some of these organizations may have financial relationships with specific vendors and are not always unbiased. A critical factor is to select an EHR that is ONC certified in order to be eligible for Meaningful Use. Meaningful use is a qualification to receive federal funding for health information technology. For instance, if a health information technology (HIT) system is used in a meaningful way to provide better patient care, a health system can qualify to receive federal subsidies to help to pay for the technology. It is not always necessary to choose a preferred vendor to take advantage of EHR incentive programs.
The PA Reach is a program which will work with any ONC certified product to help your practice obtain Meaningful Use. You may also want to consider using a consultant who specializes in practice management and EHR implementation. MGMA is an organization that provides consultants at a national level. Once you have selected your EHR, your IT requirements will need to be evaluated. In some instances, the physician’s hardware is not fully taken into consideration. I believe the hardware is just as important as the software chosen. Your hardware can be an asset or a disadvantage while you are implementing your EHR. I encourage you to invest the time to evaluate and become familiar with your personal hardware. This will help minimize the frustrations of learning a new piece of hardware while also learning new software.
How do you decide what devices you want to use?
- Ask your vendor if they have a recommended hardware list.
- Talk to other providers to see what they are using. Ask what -if any- frustrations they are having and what benefits they are enjoying with their personal hardware.
- Determine your level of general technology (This is normally determined by what type of technology you are currently using. As an example, if you still have a flip phone, you may want to start out with the basics like a laptop or workstation for documentation entry).
- Is your program web based or “in the cloud”? If so, consider a mobile device that has internet accessibility like an iPad or an Android tablet. Take into consideration a docking station which provides a keyboard and other optional accessories.
- Ask if the manufacturer will give you a loaner to try.
- Is your program touch screen friendly (does it have large buttons and simple screens)?
- Are you considering voice recognition or transcription? If so, what type of microphone are you going to use? Most computers/tablets come with an integrated microphone. However, companies like Dragon also have hand held devices which interface with some software and also provides mouse functionality.
- If you are utilizing cloud software or a wide area network, what limitations are there? For example, some applications will require additional software like Remote Scan for scanning from the remote locations. You have to purchase special print drivers for iPads if you are connecting to a windows server. Do you need access points to ensure the wireless network is strong enough through the entire office?
- Would you like to use hand writing recognition? I especially like this feature if you are using a tablet because it provides the flexibility of personalizing the note quickly. Since the RAC auditors are targeting cloned or similar notes, personalization is needed to some degree. However, you may not be able to use this feature if your handwriting is illegible (which we all know is a rarity in medicine).
- Cost is also a factor. Utilizing a tablet can help you eliminate the cost of purchasing a workstation for every exam room. How do you determine which brands are best? New hardware is being introduced at a rapid pace. The fact of the matter is that you or someone you have chosen should test them based on the functionality desired. This process is just like buying a car; it is something you have to use, live with and like. If you are unable to obtain a loaner, go to your local mall, Apple store or technology chain and start looking at options. Have the sales person (or your tech savvy child) tell you about the features and benefits.
I’m not going to paint you a picture of all sunshine and rainbows. The first six months to a year is spent modifying and implementing the basics. You may even see a decrease in income initially as the process will probably slow you down a bit. But when you get “over the hump” you can really start leveraging the technology and realizing the benefits. Don’t lose site of the goal. You will soon be enjoying the many benefits and features of your new technology.
Just a few to keep in mind…access to clinical decision making tools, electronic prescribing, PQRS (Physicians Quality Reporting System) incentives, health maintenance/prevention, exchanging information with facilities, patients and collaborating colleagues, patient education, telemedicine, coding tools, better documentation, creating standards in your employee work flow processes, reminders, eliminating the cost of paper, and tracking trends so you can maintain a healthier patient population and don’t forget the government stimulus monies. You will continue to grow into your product as you begin to implement each phase of Meaningful Use. Pressure isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes it brings about a welcome change.
Danielle Taimuty is the owner of Medical Billing Solutions Services, Inc. (MBSS). MBSS started as a billing company in 1993 and has established itself as a well-respected and total solution for medical billing, certified coding, credentialing, consulting, billing audit reviews, practice management software, electronic medical record software, hardware and networking. We have hand-picked the “Best of the Best” products and combined them with our expertise and services to provide our physicians with solutions that work! MBSS is a distributor of McKesson’s Suite of Products including Lytec and Lytec MD and SuiteMed’s Intelligent Medical Software. We are honored to have received prestigious awards such as “Best Direct of a VAR Business”, “Shining Star Award”, Pittsburgh “Top 100 fastest growing companies” and “Customer Service Award”. For more information, visit www.mbssi.net.
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