COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID
by Vlad Hurduc
A common complaint among physicians is that EHRs are difficult to use and slow down productivity. In the last few years EHR satisfaction rates have been dropping, but individual doctors and practices have also contributed to this negative trend by making serious errors as they use their EHR. In this paper we will examine some common errors doctors make when using an EHR, and advise on how best to avoid these mistakes.
When purchasing an EHR a physician should consult with a current user of that product and get their impressions, if at all possible. The best way to get a feel of the product is by paying a site visit to a similar clinic that uses the EHR. Many physicians overlook this, thinking that it requires too much effort, but nowadays this information can be also acquired through online conferencing instead of a physical visit. Still, there is no substitute for an actual site visit.
Another mistake many physicians make is not reviewing the contract carefully when purchasing their EHR. A careful review entails asking questions about protection if there is something wrong with the EHR, and what happens if there are delays in the delivery or installation of the product. If it turns out that the EHR is not the right fit for the clinic it is very important that the buyer understands the stipulations of the contract and whether there is any exit option. The bottom line is to never sign a vendor’s contract without careful vetting or representation.
Physicians may not spend much time thinking about the patterns of their daily work, and can end up making the mistake of not factoring their workflow when implementing an EHR. Many problems can arise later if the EHR software is not configured around the practice’s workflow. To avoid this, physicians should always perform a detailed workflow analysis before deciding to implement an EHR. The more familiar they are with their own unique work patterns, the more questions they can ask before the software is installed. The EHR vendor can then train staff with the clinic’s workflow in mind, answering all their questions and preventing a variety of headaches later on.
Performing a workflow analysis ahead of time can also cut staff training time in half, but doctors often overlook the importance of training, learning only the basic functions without understanding the full range of the software’s capabilities. The amount of information in an EHR training session can be overwhelming, so it’s important to break up the training into follow-up sessions if possible. It’s also important to ensure that The EHR’s support staff is easily accessible to provide additional training and troubleshooting on an as-needed basis.
Finally, another mistake that many physicians make is refusing to purchase interfaces. It’s true that the cost of these interfaces can add up, but they can save a lot of time and resources when dealing with incoming data. When the EHR does not include a lab interface results need to be faxed and scanned into the software, resulting in many inefficiencies and potential exposure of patient data. Increasingly, Meaningful Use is requiring laboratory data to be routed through the EHR software, which is another incentive to purchase an EHR with a lab interface. Workflow efficiency can also be greatly improved if the EHR interfaces with medical devices like ECGs and vital sign monitors. Many newer, better-quality EHRs come with such interfaces already built into the software.