Is It Meaningful to Me?

While the HITECH Act is designed to exploit ways to save the government money through medicare and medicaid payments, it leaves many providers feeling that the new goals and requirements seem to make things more difficult. Frequently complaints like “this system makes me stay late every night” are heard. But a good EHR offers a great deal more than new meaningful use requirements and complex structured notes to the provider. Several new concepts can help the office and provider save time over the long run.

It is worth considering some of the advantages to the electronic method. Take the example of a patient who is being observed for high cholesterol levels. Ordering and receiving lab orders electronically  means that not only does the provider have quick access to updated results, delivered electronically, but storing the results  flowsheet or graph. Using an EHR, the provider can take a quick look at a graph showing the course of the patients cholesterol readings from their last several visits. This might help to determine whether an flagged result is part of a pattern or perhaps whether a treatment plan of diet and exercise is working to help lower the patients cholesterol (or even being followed properly).

Once the provider has looked at these lab results, the next step is also made easier electronically. The provider can simply click once and find out when the next appointment is, to determine whether or not a new visit needs to be scheduled. Office staff can be tasked to call the patient, a message that will immediately be stored within the record. If this message requires a medication, the EHR can be linked to the patients insurance formulary to ensure that the type of medication prescribed will be covered. This will eliminate days when the patient is angry at a prescription for an expensive non formulary medication; gone too are the need for three or four phone calls to straighten it out.

There are several ways in which electronic health records streamline the process of tracking patient care. An easy way to find and track all patient history in one place, easier methods to contact, order, and document care, and a system that links billing, administration and clinical data all in one. The biggest drawback, from the providers viewpoint, is the amount of time it takes to document notes. This is based upon translating an older method into a new system, rather than attempting to develop a new method for documenting visits. By embracing a new workflow they might realize that  the concept of creating structured, trackable data is one that can be of great use, to them, their staff, and their patients.


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