With an 86% adoption rate, Electronic Health Records (EHR) are an important tool for many healthcare providers. EHR technology helps practices provide the highest-quality patient care, while maximizing practice efficiency and payment reimbursement. But since no tool is foolproof, these four tips can help you prevent missteps:
- Review encounter notes with your patient
EHRs enable providers to record encounter data more efficiently than paper files; so, it’s easier to discuss your notes with your patient at the end of the visit. The simple act of sharing your screen while explaining symptoms, diagnosis, tests, treatment, and medications could reveal unintentional errors. Plus, it has the added benefits of enhancing patients’ understanding of their health and strengthening the personal connection between patient and provider.
- Use convenience features mindfully
Many EHR systems have dropdown menus, templates, pre-populated forms, and other time-saving functionality. Choosing the wrong dropdown or including outdated information means that incorrect data is carried forward in a patient’s history. Another area of caution is the practice of “cutting and pasting” from a previous medical history. If you use this function, take care not to include details that aren’t applicable, or conversely, leave out relevant information. Convenience features can make you more efficient; however, it’s worth the effort to confirm you’re recording the most accurate data for the patient you’re seeing.
“It’s a real temptation to copy the prior note and paste it into the current visit, and then hopefully, go through the newly pasted version and delete things that are no longer relevant, and add what’s new,” says David Troxel, MD, medical director of The Doctors Company. “If you have any erroneous or dated information in there, it gets perpetuated and takes on a life of its own.”
- Customize alerts for your practice
Alert-fatigue is real, but you don’t have to suffer in silence. Most EHRs include alerts designed to help safeguard patients and warn against adverse reactions and complications. But if you’re receiving dozens, or even hundreds, of alerts daily, it’s easy to miss something important. Work with your EHR partner to tailor the alerts to your particular specialty or practice. For example, some EHRs offer alert “tiers” that prioritize the importance of the alerts to help you focus more on those alerts that are the most critical, while others allow you to turn off alerts that aren’t relevant. Reducing the number of “nuisance” or irrelevant alerts can make them more manageable.
- Take advantage of training
A quality Electronic Health Record system can transform the way you practice medicine when you have a good understanding of its functionality and you stay up-to-date with product updates. With comprehensive training, you’re better able to realize the full potential of your EHR. Nearly all vendors offer training as part of their services (however, some may charge a fee for training and some are more thorough than others. Before choosing an EHR, talk to customers of the vendors you are considering, and check online reviews.) HealthIT.gov offers several strategies to help you maximize EHR training for your practice.
You’re in control
Even the best EHR can’t replace your clinical judgment. An EHR can be one of the most effective tools in your practice when used in conjunction with your education, expertise, and experience. You’ll reduce your malpractice risk by listening to your instincts and applying the same “best practice” discipline when using your EHR as you would with any other sophisticated healthcare technology.