Article Date: 3/1/2012

Accelerating Practice Growth
EHR focus

Accelerating Practice Growth

With EHR, I moved from running my business to really running it.

Mary Lou French, O. D.

I began my transition to electronic records in 1998 with the goal of having a paperless office. The first attempt ran up against Y2K and the DOS-Windows divide. In 2003, I began a new relationship with EMRlogic. As with all software that must remain current, there have been several iterations, as well as constant evolution in the design of the software. In addition, the EHR package was one of those that took a major leap forward to become one of today’s Meaningful Use certified “Complete EHR” systems. This new system was named activEHR.

Did we face challenges in integrating EHR into our practice along the way? Yes, we did. But in the end, the efficiency of our office increased even more than we had planned. The result: I’ve always run my business, but now I run it much better.

Three-in-one system follows the flow of the practice

My practice and its software have three functional areas:

► business/finance
► the optical
► the examination

Of course, these three areas flow together, so software that follows this flow provides a marked advantage in generating practice efficiencies.

For example, it’s wonderful to see prescriptions flow seemlessly from data acquisition (via instruments) to the optician. Similarly, when medication or allergy data convert automatically into the problem list, or codes transfer from the exam to the billing screen, we enjoy a level of efficiency unimaginable in a paper-based practice system.

Advantages of new technology in the practice

The integration of diagnostic equipment was a pleasant surprise I had not envisioned at the outset. This capability allowed me to completely discontinue my use of paper charts about six years ago. My initial equipment integrations were for numeric data, including my Epic 5000 refraction system (Marco).

I’m moving next to the imaging instruments so all my images and drawings will integrate electronically right into the exam record itself. With the ability to send that information electronically in an instant to patients, colleagues, referring doctors, insurance companies, etc., I don’t just integrate data and information within my own practice, I connect to my whole professional community.

Of course, our patients look for the best quality and value, and they see us as a progressive practice on the front lines of new technology. Our EHR system adds value to their health care, and this gives patients a reason to talk about our office in a positive way to their friends and family who become potential new patients.

Take advantage of stimulus money

Having a certified EHR system allows us to take advantage of federal government stimulus monies by attesting to Meaningful Use in our practice. (CMS provides a complete summary of the EHR incentive program on its website at grams.) The activEHR system tracks my Meaningful Use eligibility and even helps me choose between Medicare and Medicaid, as the Medicaid stream is now an option for O.D.s in some states.

ActivEHR creates efficiencies by integrating all the functional areas of Dr. French’s practice.

Many of my colleagues will also switch to electronic health records within the next two years to take advantage of stimulus monies. Beyond the short-term incentive of stimulus money, an investment in an EHR system will not only add value to our practices, but also help improve the level of patient care we provide. In this regard, I don’t consider EHRs a “nice-to-have,” I believe they’re now essential for the survival of my business.

Building an essential practice partnership

My software selection of activEHR was not just a business transaction, rather the beginning of an essential practice partnership. My office has never been offline for more than a few hours in nine years. That’s amazing by any account. OM

ActivEHR is offered through Kowa Optimed and features Kowa’s integrated activEHR Imaging software.


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: March 2012, page(s): 78 79