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Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 12/30/13

One of my favorite readers shared last week’s EP Talk with one of her struggling physicians. He made a lot of good points and they’re similar to those expressed by many physicians out there, so I thought I’d take a stab at responding to some of them. If you work directly with physicians and end users, they should resonate.

Dr. Jayne makes using the EHR seem like a piece of cake. I would like to see how it is working in her organization.

Actually, lots of people have seen how it works for us. We’re a reference site for several vendors (ambulatory, hospital, hardware) so we have sales prospects come on site to see how our physicians work with the system. We’ve also served as a reference site for existing clients who want a “do over” after failed implementations.

Our model has worked well for us and has been cloned by other clients and even by some who didn’t end up buying from our vendor. Keep in mind, though, that we’re seven years into our EHR journey, but I’d say most of the major kinks were worked out in the first 18 months while we were implementing. Key things that have made us successful compared to our peers:

The quality of EHR progress notes is much worse than it was on paper. You get consults back with 5-6 pages of fluff but lacking the important information. This is only because the truly useful medical data is limited by the data entry speed.

I agree. Some of the notes that I receive are unmitigated garbage. Documentation quality is part of our peer review process as well as our coding review process. We’ve heavily modified the “stock” vendor notes for formatting, font, layout, and overall readability. Chart notes are in the APSO format with Assessment and Plan first rather than traditional SOAP format where the important information is at the bottom. We permit providers to dictate assessment and plan so that it’s readable and data entry speed is not a concern.

We assume wrongly that the doctors can be taught fast typing. The young doctors who learned at a young age will be proficient. And voice recognition sucks at this time, even for physicians without accent.

From experience, I disagree. Many of our more seasoned physicians are proficient with touch typing and with the EHR in general. One of them often reminds me how well he does with his favorite statement: “Young lady, I have been waiting for an electronic medical record since before you were born. I’d go up against any of you young pups with it.” He’s not kidding, either. For those who can’t type, they’re allowed to dictate through voice recognition.

Incidentally our voice recognition also does navigation and complex macros within the EHR templates. It’s truly amazing. I wasn’t specific about this in the EPtalk piece last week. A couple of readers reached out to me about similar systems in their organization and I agree they’re extremely valuable and very helpful for physicians who are challenged by EHR.

The training phase for voice recognition can’t be short cut. Our vendor has worked one-on-one with physicians who are having difficulty. We didn’t struggle so much with accents as we did with what I’ll call “surgical mumblers” who are used to hospital-based transcriptionists who slow down the dictation to listen at molasses speed so they can make out the words. When they complained about the system, I went and shadowed them. Frankly, I couldn’t tell what they were saying, so I wasn’t surprised that the system had problems with it.

Patients aren’t happy that we don’t give them undivided attention during the visit. Some physicians can multitask but others can’t, but the impression on patients is the same.

Again from experience (and also from data), I disagree. We actually surveyed the patients (during pilot phase of rollout) about EHR use by the staff and used it to reshape workflow during the rollout. Before they’re ready to go live, physicians have one-to-one coaching sessions and mock patient visits where they are critiqued on how they use the EHR. I’ve personally taken a Sawzall to office cabinetry when maintenance was taking too long and the exam room layout was a barrier.

If physicians still struggle, we’ll bring them to our residency program practice (which has cameras in the exam rooms) and work with them both in person and with mock patients. It’s not cheap and I don’t know any other organization that does this to the degree that we do, but it has saved a couple of physicians from leaving when they truly wanted to be successful.

Those physicians who did multitask before (such as performing physical exam while talking to the patient) do well on EHR. Those who didn’t multitask before don’t do so well with it. No surprises there.

What we do, though, is help those who don’t multitask by identifying what tasks must absolutely be done in the room (meds, allergies, orders, and patient plan is our policy) and the rest they can do immediately after the patient visit. We don’t force everyone into a cookie cutter workflow. We also include questions about EHR and the visit on our patient satisfaction surveys. Those results factor into physician bonus payments as well.

Looking at patient satisfaction scores before and after EHR, we noted no substantial differences on a per-provider basis. Those who struggled with patient satisfaction continued to do so after EHR, and some worsened. Those who were doing OK continued to do well. A fair number even improved, although most patients indicated patient portal and decreased wait times due to better scheduling as causative reasons rather than bedside manner.

Our product doesn’t work properly in Windows 7, only Windows XP, which is an issue. A good EHR should be multi-platform, should work on Apple computers, Linux, and other operating systems as well.

I absolutely agree with you here. Many vendors have struggled with this issue. I ran across one the other day whose product only runs on Google Chrome. I actually like Chrome, but it’s not exactly the most widely used, and is especially problematic considering that the limitation also applies to their patient portal. Chrome isn’t as popular among the Social Security set who seem wedded to Internet Explorer. I think they’re going to regret that narrow niche and I do wonder what exactly is going on with the programming that it won’t even run correctly on Firefox.

For client-server apps, the popularity of Citrix has helped systems feel more agnostic to end users, although Citrix itself can be a complicating factor in support and maintenance.

There were quite a few more comments, but I’m going to save them for the next EPtalk. What do you think about these issues? Leave a comment or email me.

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