At the TEPR 2007 conference held in Dallas, Texas, in May, over 2000 people listened to a keynote presentation by a young physician from California who described how he has doubled his income while having more time for himself than before. He also described how he has more time for his patients since the installation of an EMR system. Dr. Wilson was not joking. He was convincingly describing a winâ€“win situation worth considering. His prescription for achieving this has three parts.
The first is simple: Get an EMR system. It may pay off to get a simple, lowcost system that moves you into the electronic age and provides you with the tools for e-prescribing, easy reporting, and coding, as well as better quality control. But documentation on a computer may be more cumbersome than what you are used to. Some systems require extra time for computer-based documentation. In his case, Dr. Wilson turned to speech recognition to speed up the documentation process.
Second, learn front-end speech recognition and use it for your documentation. Speech recognition of the past did not live up to its promise. But new systems are much better. It still takes a special effort to learn speech recognition, but once you have mastered it, documentation is much easier and faster. Indeed, in his presentation, Dr. Wilson said it is "fun." He didn't do much dictation before, relying mostly on handwritten notes, but those physicians who have been heavy into dictation and medical transcription have reported savings of up to $25,000 per year. If you are burdened with transcription problems, look into this alternative. You can find the medical version from $700 to $1000 from various Internet sites.
On the down side, speech recognition is not for everyone. Although systems have much improved, it is difficult to learn. Do not expect to buy a software package and see immediate returns. In most cases, you need to find a consultant who can train you. And you want to be sure you have the right hardware to maximize the value of the software. It will take persistence, but there is great potential to be gained by those who successfully learn this skill.
Finally, the third part for Dr. Wilson's success was "going solo." Having been previously in a partnership with 6 physicians, each with 4.5 support staff, he designed his solo practice just for himself and a medical assistant. Since then he has added a nurse practitioner so that they can split the work week, each working only 21/2 days per week. Again, this does not work for everyone, but in many cases it may liberate you from staff problems and offer financial gains, as well as more time for yourself and more time for your patients. Of course, it also carries some risks. But look what you can gain. Dr. Wilson certainly does not regret the changes he made.