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Healthcare Musings - August 2009
What's in It for Me?
by Evan Steele
Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) have been in the news a lot lately. It seems everyone is talking or writing about them, sometimes as a panacea, sometimes as a way to obtain Stimulus Bill money.
Yet while they have been around for several years, their record is mixed. Some practices have done well with them; you might think twice before taking the EMR away from these physicians. Conversely, others have not fared as well.
Why have some practices flourished with an EMR while others have felt burdened and constrained?
A lot has to do with the model that is chosen. While nearly everyone in healthcare has heard of an EMR, it is less commonly known that there are different models. Since all practices and physicians are different, selecting the right model makes all the difference.
For example, we have found that practices that receive high revenue per office visit, such as orthopedics, cardiology, ophthalmology, and gastroenterology, do especially well with a hybrid EMR. Because this model places a premium on physician performance, it is designed with efficiency and speed in mind; it does not require physician data entry.
Some of the examples brought forth by this kind of practice illustrate the potential of selecting the most appropriate model:
- Convert Chart Rooms into Revenue-Producing Space: Many medical practices have valuable real estate that houses tens of thousands of patient records in paper files. By migrating to an electronic system, doctors can turn file rooms into additional exam rooms or replace them with in-house ancillary services—retaining patient care on site and generating additional revenue.
- Expedite Billing & Enhance Cash Flow: Digital charts provide immediate access to the information billing staff members need to generate and, if necessary, appeal claims. Expedited submission of complete and well-documented claims results in reduced accounts receivable days and improved cash flow.
- Facilitate Prescription Writing and Renewals: Doctors can write and refill prescriptions more efficiently, while reducing potential errors. These prescriptions are electronically sent to a pharmacy where the patient can easily go pick them up without the hassle of waiting in long lines or the need to drop off the prescription and make a return visit for pick-up. The efficiencies generated by automating the refill process alone save practices significant staff time.
- Increase Patient Satisfaction: Patients feel more confident in physicians whose offices are organized and who use up-to-date technology. Better service—faster response time, no lost information, no wasted time—leads to better patient care, more satisfied patients, increased referrals, and practice growth.
The business of medicine should be an ongoing focus for young and seasoned physicians alike. Although the face of the healthcare industry is rapidly changing, we can look to tools such as EMR systems to help make these transitions smooth and less cumbersome. If physicians continue to provide high quality care to patients and are able to maintain and/or increase their productivity, then they and the medical industry as a whole will continue on a path to efficiency and profitability.
About the Author:
After earning an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Steele worked in corporate finance and investment banking. In 1997, a unique opportunity to reorganize and manage a booming New York City medical practice provided the opportunity for his entrance into the healthcare industry. Facing significant problems with chart access and lacking an available, user-friendly paperless office software solution, he created the SRS hybrid EMR, the flagship product of SRSsoft.
To contact Evan Steele, e-mail: email@example.com or call: 201-802-1300.
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