If you're a doctor, your practice is very likely similar to most every other medical practice in North America - it's busy. In fact, "busy" may be a massive understatement in many cases, particularly without EMR software. Consider that each and every day (except weekends for fortunate practices), a doctor may see high numbers of patients, and with each patient there are diagnoses, X-rays, blood tests and prescriptions that must be ordered. It's enough to drive some doctors crazy.
Despite the big advances in healthcare and medicine overall, it's an odd paradox that doctors themselves have been such late installers of EMR and medical billing software. Many physicians still use paper medical records, record treatments and bills on paper or with rudimentary UNIX systems, when they could be benefiting from the major efficiency benefits of today's GUI-oriented EMR systems. Recent Federal Government stimulus subsidies have been focused on providing EMR software to physicians, and the better awareness has led to a higher installed base. The intelligent medical practitioner knows that all systems are not equal however, and needs to recognize these important EMR points:
Automate It - EMR software certainly isn't going to run your medical practice or clinic for you. But, it will place a lot of repetitive tasks (such as unnecessary typing of appointment letters and billing statements) on the fast track to true efficiency. One idea many medical practitioners do not realize, however, is that the industry leading EMR software systems are rarely just "out of the box". The savvy medical practitioner can have custom features added on during the installation process, as needs arise. The limits to those features are only the imagination presently, as technologies are already very cutting edge.
Business Condition Reporting - With the aid of Federal Stimulus incentives, many physicians have been able to additionally adopt a complete practice management system with medical billing to their EMR software. The resulting benefits are major, as it enables both medical office managers and doctors to get a financial bird's eye view of their practices. Industry leading systems will usually provide templates for several critical accounting reports, such as billings and treatment details, but also offer customizable demographic reports. Seeing the billing and cash flow picture in your practice with a simple click should be a benefit to seek out with your EMR.
Customizability - Any EMR software company who answers a "Can your application do this...?" question with a "no, not possible" probably isn't your best choice. It's software, silly, and the point with software is that developers can always stretch the boundaries of their technologies to where they need to be to please their customers. Be reasonable, of course, but asking for interface changes, custom electronic medical billing templates and quick-click features for any practice management or EMR software is not too much to ask - this is the scenario where a "yes-man" that executes correctly may be your best friend.
Managing a medical office with basic paper records has become tougher as American patient demographics transform over time. More patients to help means less free time for you, and any tool that develops practice efficiency is a good one. EMR software is a major boon for doctors looking to gain efficiency and compete, and will continue to grow for some time to come.
Carl Hardy is a system trainer, project manager and webmaster of http://www.electronicmedicalrecords.org. His company, EMRG, specializes in developing high quality emr software and offers a free online demo.
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