MDs Must "Chart" a Better Course

Although business was booming, Northeast Georgia Surgical Associates (NGSA), a six-provider surgical practice in Gainesville, Ga., eliminated a medical records staff position. Utilizing the simplifyMD Digital Chart Roomâ„¢, it now takes the practice less time than ever to access records.

Digital Medical Chart Records Increase Profits and Efficiencies

By Susan Kay Asher

Although business was booming, Northeast Georgia Surgical Associates (NGSA), a six-physician surgical practice in Gainesville, GA, eliminated a medical records staff position. Utilizing the simplifyMD Digital Chart Room, it now takes the practice less time than ever to access records.

Previously at NGSA, in practice for more than 20 years, when physicians requested patient information, a staff member needed to physically pull the patient’s paper chart. If that chart was on someone’s desk, as it often was just before or after the patient had visited, a doctor spent time just waiting for someone to find the chart.

“Before simplifyMD, when I got a call about a patient, I couldn't do much until the staff found the chart for me, which might take time searching several locations: billing, scheduling and assembly,” said Richard Olson, MD, a NGSA physician who uses the system. “Now, all the staff has simultaneous access to the chart, and I spend my time working on medical problems and patients’ concerns.”

“We no longer waste time running around looking for a patient’s chart, because we all have access to it via our computers,” said Gail Detraz, office manager of NGSA.

More Practical

The simplifyMD system is an alternative to the more costly and cumbersome Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems currently on the market. Like EMRs, simplifyMD creates eco-friendly, paperless offices by moving paper charts to digital files, but unlike EMRs, it does so by electronically by replicating the paper medical chart, using the same key words and color-coded tabs, rather than just automating it with data. simplifyMD charts look familiar, and implementing the system is, well, simple. NGSA used power scanners that scanned in 30 pages per minute. It took only three months to scan in about 500,000 pages of patients’ medical records from the past 2 ½ years.

When files are added to a patient’s digital chart, the doctor can access those documents during a patient visit with a PC, laptop or tablet PC. The doctor can also fill out digital forms that have been added to the system and save them directly to the chart, without printing out the form first. If the doctor edits an existing document, all versions are archived and stored on the system. Nothing ever gets deleted from a chart, and all changes are labeled with the date they were changed and the name of the person who saved the changes to the chart.

The cost for simplifyMD’s system is based on a practice’s needs and is about 85% less than EMRs due to no licensing fees and lower hardware costs. According to Matt Ethington, simplifyMD co-founder and president, a single doctor practice can purchase a turn-key system and get started in 60 days for under $5,000. There are no long-term service contracts required, so there is very little risk, and ROI should be seen within a matter of months.

More Doctor Time

Medical offices around the country are increasing productivity and income by switching from paper chart systems to simplifyMD. In fact, each physician using simplifyMD can expect to take home an extra $10,000 or more a year. Detraz said aside from gaining valuable time, the office is saving about $30,000 a year on one person’s salary, plus the costs of paying staff overtime fees, and about $8,000 a year by eliminating paper goods and charts. Plus, the space that once held all those paper charts is going to be re-purposed.

Detraz said she is amazed at how much more productive the staff has become. “Not only did we save the salary of one person, effective immediately, we are expanding without having to add additional staff because our employees are more efficient and productive,” she explained. “On a busy day, we pull about 150 charts. It used to take about a couple of minutes or more to pull each one,” said Detraz. “Now it only takes a second.”

Doctors are more productive, too, because the system is available online, and they can help people when they’re out of the office, as they can view charts from their home, the hospital, or anywhere else with Internet access. In addition, patients have the ability to view portions of their chart online in a Personal Health Record (PHR). simplifyMD is a win-win for patients, physicians and staff alike.

Ethington said, “I realized that the people working in the medical office were just as frustrated as the patients sitting in the waiting room. Doctors needed more time to be doctors, and the staff wanted more time to work with patients instead of searching for charts.”

“This system allows us to spend more time doing what we’re paid to do, practicing medicine,” said Dr. Olson.

Susan Kay Asher has more than 10 years of experience in marketing and journalism, writing for a variety of newspapers and magazines. She has covered numerous aspects of healthcare, and has served in the media office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.