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Understanding work- flow can have a big in- fluence, for example, especially on how an EMR is configured and on its ease of use. Standard EMR templates may work well for some practices, but for multi-specialty practices, such as community health centers, podiatrists or OB/ GYNs, specialized content and customizable features make it easy for specialists to deploy and use the EMR – and with significantly less disrup- tion to their office workflow or preferred documentation

ability to send lab requests and receive results, enables providers to improve ef- ficiency and reduce errors, resulting in improved patient care.

5. Establish realistic expectations No matter how welcomed and how needed the change, it’s still stressful. There are going to be setbacks. One way to settle nerves and contain the disruption is to set realistic expectations – of staff, the process and the ability of the new technology. Automation doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does mastery over its many new tools and features. Begin by dispelling the myth that the technol-

habits. The implementa-

tion of an EMR should focus on tailoring the system to these preferences and workflows.

In the case of implementing an EMR automation solution, the good news for small and solo practices today is that the range of EMRs available has expanded so greatly that medical groups can reasonably expect to find an EMR that suits their needs – at an affordable price.

4. Choose integrated automation tools One of the key aspects of successful office improvements is choosing integrated automation tools, including EMR and PM software solutions that share data flawlessly and match the size of the practice, as well as address the specific needs within the specialty. Integrated EMR and PM systems, either already integrated from the same vendor or programmed to share data, can improve office efficiencies and deliver significant financial and clinical benefits. Additionally, there are many products and services that integrate with EMR and PM systems to help clean up office clutter, reduce time spent on manual filing and organizing, and even automate appointment reminders to reduce or eliminate missed ap- pointments, as well as mechanize collection services to help improve office cash flow. These are a few of the simple and quick ways to increase revenue. An integrated platform can also enable automated insurance eligibility and prescription coverage. Automation not only improves the accuracy of medical documentation, but it can also help providers secure EHR and eRx incentives, as well as meet 5010 and ICD-10 regulatory requirements.

A practice can further enhance its capabilities and streamline processes with add-on products and services, such as voice recognition, credit card and payment plan solutions, financial dashboards, insurance card scanning, electronic signature technology and identity verification tools. An integrated platform with laboratory and device connectivity, such as vital-sign monitoring systems or the

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ogy will immediately make offices work better and faster. It will take time to streamline processes, improve outcomes and increase patient satisfaction. Keep in mind that tracking and measurement are important to understanding the value of automation. Also, some changes are harder and more time consuming to quantify, such as staff efficiency, patient sat- isfaction and safety. Finally, establishing an accurate project timeline and budget will help manage expectations and keep the project on track.

6. Invest in training

While there’s a cost for training, it’s critical to ensuring the long-term adoption and efficient use of automation tools to achieve desired results. Consider purchasing a predefined number of training hours depending on staff experience, exposure to other technology systems and learning style. Training, like the software itself, should be flexible and based on the needs of the practice. Opt for a vendor that offers a well-defined and ordered training program, in which each successive module builds upon the last. In this way staff can see how information and processes are connected. Lastly, a caution: Avoid the common mistake many practices make of buying training but not insisting on staff attendance. Providers may be more likely to duck training due to hectic schedules. It’s critical they understand the importance of learning how to use these tools and how they will impact the efficiency of the practice. Without training, this can be severely hindered. The losses in productivity will be quickly recouped with a confident staff that is skilled at operating the new system(s).

Successful implementations occur when practices fol- low these five strategic tips with the understanding that the vendor relationship is very much a partnership: It doesn’t end after deployment. A vendor’s knowledge is invaluable to supporting and guiding the practice through changes to its automated systems and to federal health- care regulations.

HMT HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY October 2012 27

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