86 minutes of “pajama time” with EHRs nightly (AMA)
It’s no secret that physicians are spending a great deal of time on data entry. Some reports suggest that more than half of a doctor’s day can be spent typing information into an EHR. Obviously, this is less than ideal. It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look at some strategies to reduce the amount of time you spend with your EHR so that you can use that time for other, more pressing matters.
Go team go!
One of the best ways to ease the time demands of data entry is to take a team approach. The physician should not be the only person in the practice entering patient information into the EHR, even with regard to information typically learned during the actual encounter. Front desk staff or medical assistants can discuss the basic reasons for the patient’s visit with them as they are checking in or having their vitals collected. This information can then be entered into the EHR, allowing less work for the doctor and more time for the patient to think even more about their condition before the physician comes into the room, allowing for elaboration during the office visit.
Another way your team is important to improving the time needs of working with your EHR is by asking them for input. Everyone in the office who is using the EHR should be able to contribute to the discussion of what’s working, what isn’t, and what they’ve discovered can be done easier. Your staff is a resource – use them!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Using an EHR can involve a learning curve to begin with, and developing the instinct to find the right screens and buttons at the right time can take a while. If possible, you can always ask for extra training time to help you get a better feel for how to use the system most efficiently. Another option is to ask for a scribe, just remember that ultimately as the physician you are responsible for your own documentation. It’s always important to double check the work of a scribe as you went to medical school, but they didn’t. Errors are possible and your name is on the final product, so be sure to take an extra look.
Another place to look for help is your vendor. It can be hard to know where to start with regard to templates and shortcuts, and sometimes it’s a good idea to ask your vendor if they’ll spend the day win your practice watching your staff utilize the system to see how you can improve. Obviously this will have a cost involved, but the investment is worth it if you can be more efficient in your EHR use.
Take a shortcut
Odds are, many of the things you do in your EHR each day are relatively repetitive. When that’s the case, figure out ways to allow the system to help you out with some of those things you always do so that it can save you time in actually doing them. One word of caution, though, don’t overuse this function. Be sure to keep your attention on what the system is doing so that any technological help you receive is accurate and doesn’t end up causing issues later.
Don’t fall behind
Medical software systems are not static creations. They’re constantly changing and it’s important that you change along with them. Pay attention to alerts your vendor sends you about updates and advances and make sure you understand what’s going on. It can be helpful to have a Super User in your office who can be especially aware of the system and any changes or improvements it’s undergone in order to fill you in and allow you to keep up with the best way to use the system.
EHR use can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Being proactive, taking a team approach, and staying on top of the latest and greatest in your EHR can all help to reduce the time you have to spend on data entry and allow you to be more efficient for the use of technology, rather than less so.