Opportunities for Advancement

Physician's Money Digest, May 2007, Volume 14, Issue 5

Awide range of new patient empowerment applications can be used to inform the patient about health issues and encourage them to be more compliant, becoming a partner in their own health care. Most electronic medical record (EMR) systems have at least some of the following applications, and it doesn’t take much effort to implement them:

  • E-mail: Let the patient contact you by email. You will find that e-mail communication can be utilized in a way that makes it much easier than the usual phone tag communications. For security reasons, use one of the companies that offer secure communication and an integrated payment option. But look as well for ease of use, which some of these systems lack.
  • Patient portal: Ask your EMR vendor about a patient portal. This is a Web-based application where patients can see their medication list, their latest lab results, allergies, and other relevant information. Make sure that such an application is safeguarded and allows only authorized users to access, enter, and edit such information.
  • Patient education: Select an EMR that allows you to press only a few keys at the end of a visit to get immediate printouts to give the patient regarding instructions for medications, therapies, etc. Such printouts should have screened links that guide the patient to Internet sites to find out more about their diagnosis, their medications, and other relevant support.
  • Continuity of care record (CCR): The CCR is the dataset that enables any physician to see in an organized and summarized manner the relevant current and past data needed to provide informed care of a patient. Ensure that your EMR system can easily integrate the CCR when it is sent from a hospital or other physician’s office. Even more important, your system should be able to create a CCR with ease, so that it can be printed out and given to the patient and/or sent to the referring physician or next point of care.
  • Patient documentation: Consider using the patient to help populate their health record. For example, using computer kiosks in your waiting room, patients can enter their health issues, allowing you to save time by validating the information rather than documenting each detail. Patients may give much more accurate information to a computer, particularly if it involves embarrassing details or information that makes the patient uncomfortable. And physicians who use this means of gathering patient-generated information report that it also enhances the patient–provider relationship because patients feel more involved.
  • Integration and updating the personal health record (PHR): Whether we like it or not, more and more patients are initiating their own PHRs. They want to integrate copies of your medical record into their PHR and supplement it with their own entries. Whether the PHR is on a portable USB drive or is offered through an Internet application, ensure that your EMR system can send information to patients who want to paste it into their PHR.
  • Preparing for new technologies: This is an exciting time of new developments in the health care industry. In 2 years’ time, new cell phones may include a chip that allows all consumers to store their CCR data. Patients may even be able to call you before leaving for their appointment, and through their cell phone send your office staff their insurance information as well as health information. Will your office be able to handle it? Consider that Google, the world’s largest search engine, has just announced its cooperation with providers of Web-based PHRs. What if 20% of your patients want you to integrate your documentation with such a PHR system? Are you going to be ready for it? What if you are not?