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Improve Workflow at Your Practice with Electronic Medical Records

While discussing electronic medical records with a colleague, I was asked about the customization of systems to increase overall work performance at a practice.

Some systems available today tout features like ease of use, or the lack of a need for templates. This modular approach to electronic medical records system features may be enough for medical practices, but in general these solutions seek simplicity at the expense of functionality. Of course, it would be good to have patient records in a digital format, but this doesn’t mean that it will be possible to derive more valuable meanings from the information, or use it more practically on a daily basis.

The field of ophthalmology requires robust electronic medical records systems – those able to document both high-resolution drawings and SOAP notes. A few years ago we spoke with an IT firm that was developing an electronic medical records system for ophthalmology; we ended up collaborating with them in developing a beta site, thinking that is this system would work for ophthalmology, then surely it would also work well within other medical specialties.

Unfortunately, at the time, the system was not ready to go live. As a result, we were immersed in a growing amount of basic programming work, without much of a benefit to the practice. At that time our EPM vendor wasn’t offering another product for us to use – we were seeking something appropriate within the field of ophthalmology.

An important factor to consider when customizing is the need to spend time and effort on making modifications. Some systems come ready for basic set-up directly out of the box. However, the maximum potential of these systems resides in their power to change overall practice operations for the better. To change a basic system into one which enhances overall workflow at a practice, some modifications are necessary. We have found that the best way to plan for this is by using collaborative mind-mapping software.

Mind-mapping software lets group members think out loud, visually. Participants actually see the workflow diagram and the stages, from entering patient info, to choosing an open exam room – and on to billing and checkout. By looking at the overall flow of the exam process, we’ve been able to change the medical records to better suit our practice. The process has helped us locate places where our workflow can be improved, meanwhile streamlining the overall process to create a more efficient flow at our practice.

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