EYECARE: Managed Care When Considering EHR and Practice Management Systems: Make Data-Based Improvements in Workflow and Efficiency By Gary Gerber, OD Monday, June 15, 2015 12:00 AM FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J.—At The Power Practice, we work with hundreds of doctors who are constantly challenged with improving their practice workflow using EHR and practice management technology. The key things for the optometrist and his or her office manager and staff to consider are to think about maximizing their EHR/PM system to make data-based decisions on improving their office workflow, enhancing the patient experience and increasing profits. Current systems for electronic health records and practice management include specialized tools that allow you to enhance your practice efficiency, workflow and patient experience. These features help you schedule efficiently, avoid exam-lane bottlenecks and analyze how you can increase profitability by being more effective from the front office all the way through to billing. Typically, staying on time is the number one challenge facing optical practices in today’s fast-paced world. One way to start making improvements in this area is to adjust scheduling templates and not accept the EHR/PM’s “default” appointment slot as it is presented. For example, not every contact lens check-up requires the amount of time allotted in the default setting. A low myopic, healthy teen, who was fit with daily disposables last week, isn’t likely to require as much time as a new multifocal astigmatic scleral patient. But few practices configure their EHR/PM’s scheduling mechanism to allow for those differences. Additionally, the optical dispensary generates the most revenue per minute in most practices, yet it is scheduled after the examination, when the patient’s eyes are blurry and they can’t see from dilation. So, working to shuffle the order of patient activities in the office, when appropriate, is important, too. The more information that you can gather from your patients before their appointment, the more you can decrease their actual exam time. These forms are accessed on the EHR’s patient portal, where the patient also can review contact information, history and allergies before they step foot in your office. This will make it easier for your technician to review and import necessary information, like chief complaints and concerns, all before the exam. EHR/PM systems also increase speed and accuracy. Rather than wasting the time of technicians by requiring pre-test information to be manually entered, most EHR/PM systems automatically transfer diagnoses and patient findings directly from the instruments to the EHR/PM systems. Eliminating data entry of information by your staff is a major time saver. EHR/PM technology can be used to data mine patient visits for locating opportunities and determining where you and your staff should spend more time and energy. The patient information and sales data that your software gathers lets you know which products you are not selling as much of, and where you have opportunities to better educate your patients about their needs and your products. For example, if your EHR/PM tells you, “26 percent of patients are wearing AR lenses,” that should lead you to amp up efforts to ensure more patients get quality lenses. That might actually extend a patient’s time in the optical dispensary, and their overall appointment time, but it’s better for the patient, and the practice. Putting a practice management and EHR software in place is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to optimal workflow. Many ODs make the mistake of thinking that all they need is a system—but how they interact with the system is just as critical. If your practice has not yet implemented EHR/PM technology, or if you don’t think you’re using it to its full advantage, ask friends and family if you could do some practice runs using their data. You could even have them come into the office and pretend to be patients, going through the steps of a typical patient visit with your staff. That kind of hands-on practice is absolutely worth any small added labor costs, because that money will be recouped many times over with real patients. So, take ownership of the process and make workflow optimization a priority for your business. Inordinate amounts of paper are viewed as archaic, outdated, or even “retro.” These are not the type of words a modern practice wants associated with their business. So, just the fact that you use EHR/PM at all is an important part of enhancing the patient experience. Gary Gerber, OD, is founder and chief dream officer for The Power Practice and host of The Power Hour. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Points of View is a joint editorial series of Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business. Supported by VisionWeb, the series explores the perspectives of the OD and the practice office manager in considering the practice needs and goals when choosing practice management systems.