Streamlining EHR for patients and physicians

While people tend to get fairly animated when discussing the Affordable Care Act (AHA), there is another big change taking place in medicine, and it’s already underway. Electronic Health Records, or EHR is changing the way physicians and patients interact. It’s changing the way physicians are paid. It’s changing the way they interact with each other. Fundamentally, it changes the way medical interaction with the public takes place.

The history of EHR is pretty interesting. The origins go back to the 1970s, an idea that Lockheed had relative to managing astronauts health records, and suddenly, El Camino Hospital and a huge IBM mainframe computer were creating basic patient records.

Jump forward to February 2009, and electronic health management moves into a new century. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act amended the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) and created “Title XIII and Title IV – Health Information Technology and Quality for the purpose of:

Improving healthcare quality

Improving patient safety

Promoting efficiency through the promotion of HIT and the electronic exchange of health information

And it became law. Electronic Health Records would now be implemented as an approved process for not only managing the physician/patient relationship, but qualifying physicians for payments from Medicare.

There are a number of ways that EHR implementation will change how physicians manage their relationships with patients. Let’s look at some of them:

Administrative Evolution

  • Automated Appointment Requests — a patient can request an appointment online, and the physician no longer needs to go thru the typical phone to appointment book to online booking software solution that has no interaction with the patient
  • Appointment Confirmation — patient confirms their appointment via email and the appointment is automatically marked confirmed in the physician’s schedule
  • Patient Pre-Registration — patient completes the standard patient demographics, insurance, and HIPAA forms online – via a patient portal
  • Online Form Signing — the standard forms can be signed online with a mouse or iPad®; no more scanning and uploading pre-registration forms
  • Secure Patient Messaging — message a staff member, and the staff can view the message in their iPad Inbox (and patients review the replies on the patient portal)
  • Debit/Credit Card Processing — pay co-pays online, or sign up for automatic payments
  • Scan Insurance Cards — scan both sides of the insurance card with a single swipe in just seconds

Clinical Benefits

  • Complete the Chief Complaint and HPI — during online check–in, the patient completes customized questionnaires that build the HPI portion of the encounter
  • Complete the Review of Systems — during online check-in the patient completes and updates the Review of Systems portion of the encounter
  • Review and Add Medical Histories — review and add new findings to the Allergy, Past Medical, Past Surgical, Family, and Social Histories
  • Review and Add Medications — review and add new meds to the active Medication List
  • Prescription Renewal/Refills — request a refill, complete with the patient’s preferred pharmacy
  • Secure Patient Messaging — exchange messages with clinical staff; set a staff member(s) to filter messages for the doctor
  • Personal Health Records — download Meaningful Use compliant PHR files and review recent encounters
  • Lab Results — review lab results online and receive messages from the provider related to lab findings; example: “this result is abnormal, schedule an appointment”
  • Document Review — staff using digital software solutions (on a device like an iPad) can mark documents for viewing in the patient portal by the patient
  • Virtual Office Visit — visit with a patient via chat or video conferencing, allowing an increase in patient visits, which may be a huge issue as costs vs approved payments decline

Billing Issues

  • Billing Questions — patients may ask questions online, or even “chat” with a physician’s assistant or office manager
  • Online Statements and Payment of Patient Balance — view and pay the latest statement online; no more paper statements or mailing costs

These are just a few of the ways in which EHR will change the way you interact with your physician. We’ll cover some of the other factors that will influence how medical software is developed in the coming weeks and months.

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