Article Date: 5/1/2002

Coming to an Info System Near You

We are just beginning to see the many benefits of the information age.
Jim Thomas

Senior Associate Editor Karen Rodemich's feature, "Electronic Medical Records and You," provides us with a glimpse into the direction that many optometric practices are headed. Her article left me with the impression that information systems will bring unprecedented efficiencies to optometric practices over the next few years. Granted, my general track record with predictions has been lackluster (the last time I won a football pool was in 1986).

But I'll go on record here because much of the value to be gained from future information systems lies less in innovation than it does in borrowing features that are already available in systems used by other industries.

Purchasing in the future

For example, imagine a system that frees you from the manual proc d with ordering supplies and keeping track of inventory levels. Here's how it works: When a product is taken from inventory, its barcode is scanned. The data automatically transfer into an inventory management system. When the inventory system recognizes that the amount of product has dropped to a predetermined level, a message is sent to an order fulfillment module. The module then sends an electronic purchase order to the supplier.

The system can even use criteria you select ­ quality, expected delivery date, staff preferences and price, for example ­ to choose from any number of vendors. The system also stores invoices, pays the vendor electronically (based on your agreement with that particular supplier) and integrates with the practice management system to produce all associated financial reporting.

Falling prices

Manufacturers, retailers and distribut ems. Granted, they're costly and are meant to handle thousands of transactions each month, but the price of technology continues to drop. And chances are good that suppliers will pick up some of the costs. After all, the electronic ordering system can provide them with a direct path to your door.

Other examples come to mind. It's possible to create a system that sends out patient recalls, lets patients make appointments electronically and schedules appropriate staff levels ­ all without any physical intervention.

Management is key

Such systems require that O.D.s understand new ways to achieve higher levels of profitability and patient care. With this focus, information systems can offer real benefits, rather than a future shock.


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2002