Overcoming Barriers to Office Automation

If you take care of three C's that stand in the way of new technology - cost, complexity, and customization - you can use technology to better focus on patient care and customer service.

The time has never been better for physicians to update their practices. The smart use of technology eliminates duplicate paperwork, increases productivity, improves cash flow, and alleviates endless hours spent filling out forms and formatting treatment plans for each patient's insurance provider or government payer.

Yet despite increased options, some professionals are still hesitant to take the leap. For many, the issues of cost, complexity and customization still stand in the way — they needn’t.

Cost

One of the first things many providers look at when considering to automate their offices is cost. In fact, if the price isn’t right, they often don’t consider any other factors at all. The good news is that automating an office is far more affordable today than ever in terms of both initial cost and ongoing commitment. When the time and expenses saved through efficiencies are considered, more practices are recognizing meaningful savings and financial rewards by letting technology do the work.

A good example of this can be found in electronic health records (EHRs), which are designed to make everyone’s job easier and go a long way toward reducing costs, gaining efficiencies and enhancing patient care. EHR systems are available today for as little as $29.95 a month with minimal start-up costs. Some of these systems work with your practice’s existing computer system — whether it is Windows- or Mac-based — thus minimizing the cost even further.

Complexity

Some physicians or office managers are hesitant to automate the office for fear that learning a new system and a new way of doing things will be far too complex and will disrupt the flow of the office.

To minimize disruption to your office practice, look for systems and vendors that make migration from “paper” to electronic as simple and hassle-free as possible. Fortunately, some of the most advanced systems are actually the least complicated. Well-designed systems include intuitive interfaces and logical prompts that allow users to easily input data, access information and navigate the program.

It helps, too, if your team can continue using the same computers to which they are accustomed. Cloud-based EHR programs, which rely on the internet to store program software and data, allow users to gain access to an EHR system without installing or maintaining any new software. Best of all, they can be securely accessed at any time from any location, which greatly improves convenience.

When identifying a vendor for your office’s electronic needs, also look for one that offers free, unlimited training and around-the-clock customer support. Knowing that every user in the office can get a knowledgeable representative to answer his or her questions should alleviate concerns that a new system is going to be too complicated to use.

Customizable

The best EHR systems can be configured or customized to the specific needs of various types of practices — from general medicine to dermatology to behavioral health providers — so that the distinctive features needed for specialties can be designed into the system.

For example, specific types of charting templates can be implemented with automated coding to ensure the highest possible evaluation and management codes, and medication and prescription management tools. Additionally, EHRs often have e-prescribing capabilities to electronically generate prescriptions and the proper documentation, and a laboratory request interface to track patient lab results.

Conclusion

By removing the three C’s that might stand in the way of implementing a new technology-based solution — cost, complexity and customization—your team will be able to focus on patient care and customer service. The time to take the step is now.

Brian O’Neill is president and chief executive officer of Office Ally, a company that offers revenue cycle management services, a patient portal, an electronic health records system, a practice management system, a clearinghouse and a billing service.