EHR software has proven itself as a benefit to patients and practices alike, as it offers several practice efficiencies that can improve the quality of care for patients.
Here, I discuss five such efficiencies. (Looking for software that fits your practice? See tips in “Choosing an EHR Software,” p.34)
1 STREAMLINED ACCESS
EHR software enables staff to quickly access patient data, such as their medications, whether systemic or ophthalmic, at the touch of a button.
This is a big improvement over staff members having to leave the front desk and travel to, what is often, a large patient file room to look for the patient’s paper medical record and then dig through it to acquire such information.
In fact, before EHR, my practice had two rooms full of paper patient charts. Since implementing our EHR software, however, we have freed up all that space and have converted it to another examination and patient testing area. Doing so has enabled us to see and help more patients.
I should also add that the cost associated with adding the EHR software to my practice was nicely offset by the additional revenues generated through the expansion of our patient schedule, thanks to the additional examination and patient testing area.
2 ELECTRONIC PRESCRIPTIONS
Staff can electronically submit both new and renewed prescriptions to the patient’s pharmacy via EHR software.
This means that staff no longer need to personally call pharmacy staff to verbally deliver the required prescription information.
For patients, they appreciate that electronic submissions mean they no longer have to personally deliver a paper script to the pharmacy and then wait or return for medication pick-up.
3 PATIENT RECALL
EHR software offers secure patient electronic notifications (text messaging and email) to remind patients of upcoming appointments.
The result of this communication is that, as is the case with personal calls to a patient’s pharmacy, staff members no longer have to personally call patients to remind them of their appointments.
When it comes to patients, they too are no longer required to speak with a staff member to confirm an appointment.
With text messaging and email, it’s often a matter of simply clicking a “yes” button, or not replying at all. Patients place a great deal of value on convenience, and EHR software features like this provide that convenience, which equates to high-quality patient care.
4 PATIENT SURVEYS
A few years ago, a decision was made to rebrand our practice. The practice rebrand was driven by a fervor to make sure every patient who came through our door was happy with the services we provided at every visit. Our goal as a staff was to do everything possible to ensure patients would not even consider going elsewhere for their eye health care services.
EHR software provides patient portals, where practice surveys can be placed for the continued verification of complete satisfaction with the practice. This is a feature we regularly use and monitor to see whether any changes are required in how we operate.
Efficiency has improved, as we no longer have to give paper surveys, which can be costly. Further, the number of patients responding to our survey has risen, and patients appreciate having both privacy and security in their responses.
Additionally, notifying patients via text message and email that we are interested in their feedback on the satisfaction surveys lets them know we genuinely care about their experience in the practice and want to do all we can to make it exceptional. Patients appreciate this.
As a brief, yet related, aside, prior to utilizing EHR software, my practice used analytics to create key indicators to manage and direct the business of the practice. EHR software can accurately offer current and factual practice data, such as promotional plans or assessing the true value of accepting certain insurance plans, that are invaluable to have to aid in many business decisions. Thanks to this feature, we are expanding our patient base with effective targeted marketing and promotional activities.
Choosing an EHR Software
TO DETERMINE WHAT TYPE of EHR software to utilize, the optometrist and practice staff must first identify exactly what improvements are wanted and which efficiencies are needed to better run the eye health care business. This is important, as the factors that weigh in to these decisions can be varying, wide ranging and quite different from practice to practice.
In the case of my practice, my staff and I felt that the right software would afford us the ability to be truly electronically managed and, thereby, reduce the staff needed to run many of the typically manual areas of the practice, such as surveying to asses patient satisfaction and providing portals for appointments to be made by non-traditional methods (online scheduling). The software, in effect, would take up enough tasks that were previously performed.
To achieve this goal, all aspects of the office were looked at, from how patients were attracted to our office, scheduling appointments, the way the office would make people feel while in it, improved patient flow and increased efficiency in billing.
Automatic insurance eligibility verification, a built-in claim clearinghouse and a dedicated staff of billers employed by EHR vendors are available in some EHR software. This enables practices to receive funds from insurances and patients expeditiously and efficiently.
Additionally, some EHR software offers MIPS data to aid practices in achieving value-based reimbursements and incentives through the MACRA CMS program.
At my practice, we have found that electronically billing claims results in fewer errors and, therefore, cleaner claims and faster payment. More importantly, we have discovered that our staff has been freed to do what we do best, which is deliver eye health care at a very high level of service. Many examples on increased service to patients exist, such as our substantial increase in delivery time for patients in both optical and contact lens purchases. OM