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EHR optimization 101

What should you be doing to make the most out of your electronic health record (EHR) system?

Answers in Practice

By Swapna Bhatia, MPH, manager, Health Technology & Informatics , August 1, 2020

Each month Dermatology World tackles issues “in practice” for dermatologists. This month Swapna Bhatia, MPH, the Academy’s health technology & informatics manager, explains EHR optimization.

Have you recently transitioned your dermatology practice from paper-based to EHR-based? Have you been using an EHR in your dermatology practice for years? Regardless of where you are in the process, it is important to know the ins and outs of how to best utilize your EHR system for your individual practice’s needs.

These suggestions can help fully optimize your experience with your EHR system, to not only sustain a more productive and proficient work environment for yourself as a dermatologist but minimize the administrative and clinical documentation burden on your office staff.

Put together an experienced team

Build an experienced team who fully understands the EHR to achieve full optimization. You can also reach out to your vendor to see if one of their staff members can be a part of this team, whether it be virtual or on-site on an as-needed basis. A more positive experience can be achieved if a team works together and leads all staff to learn the EHR more effectively. Each person on this team will have a different skill set. Assign them as leaders who should oversee the creation of guidelines and policies for updating information into the EHR accurately. If a new system update occurs, the team should inform all those involved, and go over what is appropriate for each staff to know moving forward.

Require EHR training for office staff

All new and current staff should be trained on the EHR system in the office. Training can help identify any gaps that may impact productivity, which can cause delays in patient care. It is also often said that people learn best by working hands-on. During the training process, urge staff to go through the EHR on their own and encourage them to ask questions about their experience. Talk to your vendor to see what trainings and guides they can offer to make the experience more optimal.

Utilize your EHR technical support system

If you are at a loss at using new features or you simply do not know how to maneuver through the EHR, call your EHR's technical support line. They are there to help with system and security software upgrades, general questions, data backup accessibility, and of course, to make sure the system is running smoothly. If your dermatology practice just transitioned into using an EHR, check with the vendor to see how IT support can be utilized to optimize the experience. There could be different levels of support offered to match your practice’s needs and requirements.

Adopt digital health tools and mobile applications in practice

Implementing digital health tools can improve efficiency and streamline clinic care processes within the practice. For example, scribes in practices have proven to minimize administrative documentation burdens and e-scribes have helped with note taking in real time from a remote location, especially since it can be integrated within an EHR. Luckily, there are no limitations on using a scribe for MIPS reporting, but double check with your state and malpractice provider to see if there are any state laws on what the scribe can do in practice. Learn more from Dermatology World about adopting scribes into practice.

Some research indicates that scribes have an impact on improving financials, decreasing documentation burden, and increasing patient revenue for dermatologists. The AMA’s interactive calculator can help physicians estimate how much can be saved by implementing team documentation.

There are also several tools and mobile applications that can assist with reducing administrative burdens related to practice management, decision support, online billing, and HIPAA-compliant messaging. Check out the Academy’s information on mobile apps.

Clinical notes: Electronic documenting

During an office visit, it can be overwhelming for a physician to take notes while they are trying to maintain their patient-to-physician relationship without looking at their computer screen. There can be a negative effect on the physician’s productivity to get their notes completed if there is an increased amount of alert fatigue or clicks throughout and after the visit. Minimize the burden of electronic documentation by:

  • Using artificial intelligence (AI) and speech recognition software: These systems assist in reducing the amount of data entry and optimize the EHR experience for a physician. These tools streamline workflow and make it easy for a physician to deliver optimal patient care.

  • Learning current evaluation and management (E/M) codes: Be cognizant of current E/M codes from CMS as familiarity with these codes can ease the documentation burden while filling out a patient’s chart. Check out the Academy’s Coding Resource Center.

  • Establishing note templates: Having pre-populated notes in the patient’s medical record can limit the amount of information to enter and provide a quicker workflow for physicians for future entry. Be careful not to duplicate notes too closely as cloned notes may catch the eye of an auditor.

Check out the Academy’s tips on clinical note taking and reducing electronic documentation.

EHR templates

What exactly are EHR templates and why are they beneficial? EHR templates are customizable forms that support dermatologists by collecting and organizing clinical data depending on a dermatologic disease or condition, and can provide a more streamlined documentation workflow. They are important because they not only save time in collecting information, they create a more standardized way to capture data.

If there are common conditions that you see regularly in patients, building these pre-populated templates can be an extremely resourceful way to stay efficient, and can cut out clutter as well as reduce information overload. It is also extremely valuable to share the templates with the other dermatologists within your network to ensure data is collected in a standardized way.

Many EHR vendors offer a library of standard templates and are open to adding new ones or customizing current templates, especially by specialty.

Patient portals

Finally, utilizing your EHR’s patient portal is a useful way to optimize the use of your EHR. Encourage your patients to use the patient portal, and if they are new, give them a guide on the different services offered. This will help with improving physician workflow and patient engagement. It is also an easier way to exchange HIPAA-compliant messages securely between the physician or office staff and the patient, easily refill prescriptions through the portal, minimize phone calls between office staff and patients, and much more.

The Academy’s Patient Portal page highlights key advantages of patient portals. Contact your EHR to understand all features and needs of the patient portal that are offered for your practice.

Investing time into how to optimize your EHR is crucial in creating a more clinically efficient practice for you and your staff as well as reducing administrative and clinical documentation burden along the way.