As a generally accepted rule, shortage of primary care providers is met by training more of them. However, looking at the problem in a different way – as a mismatch between the demand for primary care services and the system’s capacity to meet that demand – may result in faster and more cost-efficient results.
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Experts argue that the supply-demand gap for primary care services can be reduced by making better use of existing resources like primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, medical assistants and health coaches.
Reassigning these resources can significantly improve primary care practices’ ability to meet patient needs in preventive, chronic and acute care. As per research, 17% of an average family practitioner’s time is spent on preventive care such as cancer screenings, immunizations and counseling.
Medical science has come a long way. It is allowing patients to perform many services themselves which earlier required a clinician such as home pregnancy tests, HIV tests, blood sugar checks, glucose monitoring, etc.
As technology continues to open new avenues of delivering healthcare in the industry, the future looks very promising. Soon enough, computers could be programmed to provide primary care to the patients and even be able to process medication refills for patients with diabetes, hyperlipidemia or hypertension.
The US faces a shortage of 90,000 primary care physicians by 2020 and 130,000 by 2025, as per the Association of American Medical Colleges. This is primarily the reason why there is growing concern among the healthcare regulatory authorities and physicians alike about the shortfall. The need of the hour is to tap the nation’s unused primary care capacity in a way that it is able to address the expected shortage. Technology will play a huge part towards achieving that as it can make the impossible, possible.
Training is the central part of EHR adoption. The challenging part lies in creating a smooth process for the providers and staff in which the result of the training is positive. EHR features can be difficult to understand for doctors. But just like any other software, the duly required labor will produce favorable results.
The list of three key training strategies is given below. Let’s have a quick peek at them.
Online or onsite—Every individual trains differently. The EHR vendor should allow the flexibility of either training online or onsite. It should be selected by the EHR vendor or by the special request of the practice, at their desired location. Likewise, the practice should categorize the type of learners it has, and then allow the training to start. By doing this simple exercise before the start of the course, the learning process will get a boost resulting in an efficient usage of time. Remember, the less the practice pays, the better it is. The goal should be to make your workers skilled in using EHR as soon as possible.
Variety in training materials—A key EHR training strategy is the use of wide range of learning material. The learning method or process can at times become boring. One of the faults that should be avoided is the whiteboard method in which the instructor keeps on speaking and writing on the whiteboard. Involving the audience by giving one to two pages with graphical instructions at the start can be extremely helpful. Using screenshots of the processes that a practice may encounter in using an EHR can be helpful too. It speeds up the process of learning. The presentations or key materials used should be emailed to the respective attendees at the end of the EHR training session.
Interaction—One key feature of EHR training is interaction between the trainer and the trainee. The instructor of EHR should engage the audience with his verbal acumen; and should make the whole technical lingo easy to grasp. It is best to make use of some light moments with the audience; the trainer should narrate the awkward or funny moments he had encountered in previous training sessions. By doing so, the audience will become more relaxed. Asking questions from the audience is an important strategy to judge the comprehensive level and also helps to recall the lecture.
By applying a strategic approach to EHR training, the practice can save time and energy. It allows for the staff and providers to perform as a team. It helps in facing the challenge of adopting the EHR, a relatively smooth process.
According to Black Book Rankings survey 2013, nearly 80% of US physicians are dissatisfied with their current Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. The reasons for their dissatisfaction include the systems being clunky, difficult to use, boring, not interoperable, not compliant to regulatory requirements and the like. But can the physicians do something to make their current systems work? Is replacing the current EHR systems the only viable solution? Can the current EHR vendor upgrade or improve the system?
Let’s give you a few tips through which the need for a new EHR system or otherwise can be gauged.
Interoperability is the future of healthcare industry. If the current EHR software is not able to meaningfully connect with other entities in the healthcare delivery model, the current vendor needs to be questioned about their ability to make it work. If the vendor is not able to make the required changes in the software or cannot provide interoperability, then it is time to move on.
The government is regularly updating the regulatory requirements for the healthcare IT industry. The implementations of ICD-10 and Meaningful Use 2 are two very important changes that are taking place for the users. In case the current vendor is unable to upgrade its system to meet the regulatory requirements for the practice, then it may be time to look for alternatives.
Complete security of patient data is of crucial importance for any EHR user. Recently, there have been many data security lapses as far as patient data is concerned. The government and HIPAA are also frequently addressing the loopholes in the legislation in order to impose stricter fines and penalties on those EHR vendors who are unable to guarantee complete security. It must be made sure that the EHR vendor constantly improves the security protocols related to safety of patient data.
Cost to change
If the cost to change EHR vendors exceeds the future benefits, then it may not be a wise move to make a switch. However, if the current EHR system is hampering productivity, then practices might consider switching to better, robust solutions. Remember, it is always better to partner with a small EHR vendor with a better innovation plan rather than a big EHR vendor with no vision for future.
Patient portals are going to revolutionize the healthcare delivery model by increasing patient engagement to levels where they are able to self-schedule and increase shared decision making. In case the current EHR vendor is unable to equip its product with Patient Portals, then it may be a good decision to move on.
These are some of the important areas which a practice can rely on before deciding if a new EHR system is required.
Implementing Electronic Health Records is tricky procedure. Let’s look at some key Infrastructure issues that you have to face.
Space and recovery—Every practice needs to save cost and at the same time have a backup plan for system recovery. The demand is simple, when system crash they should be able to fall back to their primary data stored on their backup server and can be used when the system fails. Practices can buy redundant database servers of EHR. The cost of hardware is going down with the passage of time, and better storage systems are available at a much cheaper price than it would’ve been ten years back. Large storage devices with redundancy options are about $8,000 to $10,000 which may have a cost 10 times more a couple of years back. Weighing your cost of purchasing redundancies to the cost of losing your data on EHR, should be the focus of the practice. Having a web-based EHR technology can significantly reduce your costs.
Accommodating Growth—The issue of not making a sustainable system can be a major issue for the EHR technology in use. For that, the practice should use large storage devices. Scanning medical images, medical data can exceed the old storage devices quickly. The infrastructure needed to accommodate the growth for the EHR technology allows more users to be added to the database of the EHR. In other words it means more business opportunity.
Connecting—Since, every provider and staff requires access to the EHR, a lot of EHR installations go through problematic installations because the communication facilities are based on incorrect numbers of the users. This causes delay in the normal functioning of the EHR.
Major EHR technology infrastructure issues needs to be solved at the nascent stages of their development so that they may not be the cause of hindrance when it comes to performance of the practice.
e-Prescribing or Electronic Prescribing is a method through which practices are able to send prescriptions directly to pharmacies from point-of-care in an error-free and understandable format. E-Prescribing has become one of the major features of modern day Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and is being used by physicians a lot in their daily workflows.
- Up-to-date drug knowledgebase: e-Prescribing helps physicians have instant, up-to-date drug knowledgebase from which they can select and prescribe drugs to patients easily.
- Medication reconciliation: e-Prescribing allows real-time checking of a patient’s current medications to the ones the physician is suggesting. This is done to avoid duplication, omissions, dosing errors or drug interactions.
- Complete medication history: With the help of e-Prescribing, complete and accurate medication history of the patient can be retrieved at any time conveniently. This really helps a physician check the drugs which have been administered to the patient throughout his/her life by various physicians.
- Age, weight-based dose adjustments: e-Prescribing also helps physicians to adjust doses based on age and weight of the patients thereby largely improving the quality of care delivered.
- Dosage calculator: e-Prescribing also helps physicians calculate the exact amount of dosages that are going to be administered to the patients. This is really useful and eliminates any chances of overdose or otherwise.
- Process refill requests: e-Prescribing also connects with patient portals in real time to process refill requests submitted by the patients at all times. In addition, e-Prescribing also helps practices connect with pharmacies in order to send real time requests.
In addition to these, there are many other benefits of e-Prescribing like providing access to prescription benefits, prescription histories, eligibility checks, adverse reactions and recommended dosages, etc which greatly help a practice improve its workflows.
The healthcare industry is being transformed by the advent of mobile devices, smartphones and tablets. Most of the hospitals across US are using these devices to improve their workflows, products and delivery of quality care. Quite a few EHR vendors are unlocking the power of these devices to unleash their products and are focusing a lot on this segment of the market.
According to an estimate, nearly 80% of US hospitals allow physicians, physician assistants, support staff and more to bring their own mobile devices to work. Without a shadow of doubt, mobile computing is the future of healthcare industry.
Many EHR vendors are using iPads to help them with their practice workflows through bespoke applications or using the built-in web browser of these devices. So why should you switch to this method of using your EHR system?
Let’s discuss a few benefits in detail.
- Patient demographics: Through the usage of iPad-based EHR solutions, physicians are able to add, view and update patient demographics, insurance allergy, history, problems, diagnosis and medications.
- Review appointments: Physicians can also remotely review all of their upcoming appointments and see the ones which have been confirmed, delayed or cancelled. They can also be used to check-in patients and collect copay.
- Clinical dashboard: iPad-based EHR solutions also allow quick access to clinical dashboard and view detailed information about a practice.
- E-Prescribe: These mobile-based applications also allow physicians the ease to e-Prescribe directly to pharmacies and check adverse drug reactions.
- Document manager: Management of documents, pictures, insurance cards and scanned charts also becomes very convenient for a physician with the use of an iPad-based solution.
These are some of the features of an iPad-based EHR software which can enable any physician to improve his/her practice workflows largely.