The electronic medical record, or EMR, is an exciting reality in today’s urology practice. These medical charting systems, also known as electronic health records, or EHRs, require careful planning and implementation, but the payoffs in time saved and better information are more than worth the effort. You will improve the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical care with an Urology EMR and can also generate income to help pay for the system. Federal incentive payments are available for early implementation of an EMR that meets the guidelines for meaningful use. According to an article in “Renal and Urology News,” the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic earned an average of $16,498 per provider in 2011. If your practice isn’t already in the throes of EMR implementation, it’s time to get busy. The rewards are worth the effort.
Promises and Pitfalls
It’s not enough to just use an EMR in your practice. An EMR for urologists should meet your specialized needs and actually improve your patient care. For example, urology EMR software that is designed so the physician is the person who performs most data entry will take time away from the primary purpose of patient care. Inadequate hardware capacity may result in a slow system that frustrates all of the office staff. A well-chosen and robust EHR, however, can improve your efficiency and provide both you and your patients with accurate, legible and useful information.
Do Your Research
Take the time to do your research; talk to other physicians who are using an EMR, and if possible, take a field trip to see some EMRs in action.
Ask pointed questions about the urology EHR capabilities. For example, nearly all urology EHR software allows electronic prescribing, but another mandatory requirement for meaningful use is the ability to report on clinical quality indicators such as blood pressure, BMI and smoking status. You may also want to be able to report on specific indicators for your practice, so it’s important to get details about the reporting capabilities of a particular EMR.
Can reports be customized? Can data be downloaded into a program such as Excel?
Ask about other issues that will affect the pace of your daily work. If you currently use customized documentation tools in your practice, can they be replicated in the EMR?
Identify each step in your current workflow process to determine whether and where it will occur with the use of an EMR.
Review the meaningful use guidelines and use them as a tool to evaluate the EMRs you review. See: http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/Meaningful_Use.html for more information.
One of the great advantages of an EMR is electronic prescribing. With a few strokes on the keyboard, you can select and prescribe a medication that is delivered directly to the pharmacy. It’s also easy to print the patient a list of his current medications. The ability to deliver at least 40% of all prescriptions to the patient’s chosen pharmacy is one of the first meaningful use indicators. Most urologists who implement electronic prescribing would never go back to paper, according to the Glickman Institute, because e-prescribing is so much more accurate, legible and efficient. Electronic prescribing should be your first goal in an EMR implementation, followed by a patient problem list and the ability to print an after-visit summary for each patient.
EMR implementation is one of the biggest quality improvement projects your practice will ever tackle. However, it makes good sense both financially and clinically. The meaningful use indicators give you a good framework to select an EMR that will provide maximum benefits.