My doctor’s office is switching to Electronic Medical Records, and the process has been painful—not just for the doctors, but also for the patients. Waiting time is longer as flu-ridden patients watch the doctors peck around the new EMR software, trying to get comfortable with this high-tech way of doing things. I know from talking with physicians that the beginning is always painful, but the end result is well worth it—except for many medical practitioners, that end result seems far away.
Dr. Enoch Choi has been an urgent care physician in Palo Alto, California for the past 10 years. He’s also a self-proclaimed “electronic health record geek”; he actually helped develop requirements and specifications for some of the first EMR solutions. So he’s the perfect person to give some insight on this topic.
Dr. Choi remembers when records were in another building off-site. He’d have to go through reams of paper and pull patient records before an appointment, and that wasn’t always possible (especially in urgent care, where he worked). “At times we wouldn’t have a patient’s list medications, allergies or histories. We were pretty much practicing blind.”
While he was one of the trailblazers in adopting EMR, when Dr. Choi would talk to his colleagues and other physicians about implementing software, not everyone was excited about it—especially the cost factor. But in the end, the idea of fewer medical mistakes and increased productivity won, and their search for software began. His current practice’s focus was on finding a solution that was specifically used for urgent care and could handle the type of documentation and order sets associated with that type of practice. Cost was also an important factor.
Since implementation, his urgent care facility has seen higher quality records, higher patient satisfaction rates and higher compliance with insurance coding and reimbursement rules. It’s hard to argue with those results!
Dr. Choi acknowledges that while government incentives and intervention have encouraged more practices to adopt EMR solutions, it’s still a tough change for many. And he has some suggestions, “Visit other practices who have made the switch and see how their processes are working now. And don’t go with the first software you look at. Compare a few different vendors before making a decision.”