Joe and I recently presented a webinar called “Finding the ROI in Your EHR” with Kareo. Joe remarked after that it might have been more appropriate to call it, “Learn to Love Your EHR.” This is because one of the main points of our talk was that even though you might have initially purchased your EHR strictly to comply with government programs, you still can find benefit that are important to you beyond what those government programs.
Based on our experiences working with medical practices, we believe that many administrators and physicians don’t think about this at all. They don’t ever look beyond the avoidance of Medicare penalties or earning of Meaningful Use incentives when considering the value of their EHR. They simply don’t think of their EHRs the way they look at other significant purchases, because ROI didn’t factor into the decision in the first place.
But even though you bought the EHR because you felt that the government required it, that doesn’t mean you can’t derive benefits from it beyond what the government had in mind. The government may have urged you to buy vegetables — but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn carrots into carrot cake!
Most EMR/EHR systems have many excellent features that can really only be maximized once you’ve got a fair bit of experience with them. So if you’ve been using yours for a while — even for several years — it’s not too late to think about how to get more value. In fact, being really comfortable with the basics of the system is essential to digging deeper.
One of the most valuable opportunities your EHR offers is the ability to create lists of different populations from your patient base. (Remember that trick from Meaningful Use? It’s a measure that is actually something you can use for other purposes, too.)
For example, if you’re a primary care practice, you can use the list feature to identify patients who are overdue for preventive visits. This is a great thing to do whenever cash flow or physician productivity may be a concern — such as in January, when the deductible resets for most health plans, or when adding a new provider who needs to be booked up.
You can also use this same feature to identify patients who might be interested in elective procedures or new techniques available to treat chronic problems. It’s a great way to identify groups who might want to participate in a group visit program (e.g., based on chronic conditions, age, etc) or who could be good candidates for a patient-centered medical home (PCMH).
Best of all, many systems integrate the list-pulling feature with messaging — so, for example, you could create a message that gets sent automatically to patients who are overdue for preventive or follow up care, and send it out to them via your secure patient portal.
Lists are just one way your EHR can deliver ROI beyond government programs — but they’re one of the most powerful tools. If you don’t know how to use them, or your system doesn’t seem to have customized list-building tools, be sure to ask your vendor. Sometimes, an advanced training session for experienced users is all that’s needed to get a big increase in value from your system. Other times, you may need to add on another module or a third-party solution. Your vendor is your best resource to start learning what’s possible once you have the basics of utilizing your system down.