We have heard a lot about EHRs contributing to physician burnout. Here are five ways of using your EHR to make it work for, not against you.
1. Work Delegation and Communication
Physicians should learn how to delegate work. A process can be established in a healthcare organization for a task type or category to determine who would be primarily responsible for it. If there is a need for escalation it can be routed to the correct individual or team.
A simple example of this: The front desk staff, a nurse or a medical assistant can be trained to collect information from patients or their family members.
When any crticial lab or diagnostic result needs to be communicated, simple delegation may be less effective. Here, a notification approach will help the recipient to act on it immediately and respond or relay it to a further channel.
Creating user groups will reduce the risk of missing a request. Assume a request from a primary care provider was made to a specialist and he or she is not in clinic. An assignment to a user group or a team will make sure that such requests are responded to in a timely fashion.
The Joint Commission also stated in Sentinel Events Statistics for 2015 that poor communication is one of the leading causes of death and serious injury for hospital patients.
2. Template-based Documentation and Orders
Detailed charting documentation is an obligation for physicians, which can be necessary for an audit or claim reimbursement.
We recommend maximizing the use of templates for clinical charting and CPOE Orders. It can save a considerable amount of time, which can then be allocated to patient care. Create your own templates and share with others; collaboration can be also done. Even staff can use these templates to create draft notes and orders for physicians, which can be reviewed and signed off by them.
Template-based charting can greatly reduce documentation time and allow physicians to spend time where they should be spending it: on patient care.
3. Implement Workflows
EHRs are no longer simply electronic repositories to store patients’ records. They provide data and actions to users when they are at a specific stage of collecting or processing information.
For an example, while scheduling an appointment, the front desk should collect the copay or check insurance eligibility either manually or with an automated method. This well-defined protocol or process may be violated by humans, but an electronic system will not—or it will generate an alert for user to take an action.
Similarly, when a nurse or physician assistant is collecting data, they should follow certain steps as part of their chart preparation for the physician, so when the doctor sees the patient, all required data is gathered and available. This will help the physician to focus on the patient. In some organizations, there are defined protocols, which can be more effectively managed by designing workflows in the EHR system.
4. Get Trained on Software Updates
Leverage the benefit of your EHR vendor’s training sessions, including webinars and training modules. Have your staff be updated on all new changes, as staff members are the key drivers and users of the system. If possible, appoint a person who can be a “super user” of the system, who can get trained on new updates and impart internal training to the staff. This can also help you reduce calls to the vendor support team and get answers in a timely manner to the team.
EHRs are updated frequently to match with compliance needs, and they are often improved upon by software vendors. Whenever possible, you can also collaborate with the vendor to work as beta tester for major changes in the system or workflow, so your voice will be also heard and transformed into a solution.
5. Engage With Patients
Encourage your patients to engage with your practice through your patient portal. It can be done by the patient while sitting at home or waiting at the clinic. When your patients enter their allergies, medical and surgical history, family and social history and existing medications in the portal, that information will be available in your EHR for immediate review and pushed into the patient record. The patient’s active participation will help give both the patient and the clinician a more complete picture of the patient’s health and record. It will also satisfy MU-MIPS criteria of patient engagement.