IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PATIENT

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Eyefinity’s cloud-based Eyefinity EHR is the next generation of examWRITER and lets ECPs swipe versus type, allowing for greater patient engagement.
TESTING TECHNOLOGY How far will we go with technology? Will patients have their own electronic tablet to use in the office someday? At the Mayo Clinic, heart patients are being given iPads with a special app that allows them to track their pain level and exercise. The reports are broadcast to the patient’s healthcare team. Helping the patient feel like a part of the process makes sense in a hospital setting and may someday find its way to an eye clinic near you.
While making the transition to EHR can be time consuming, it allows ECPs to view patients’ past information more easily.
The Online Patient portal part of PracticeDirector collects demographics and medical history to save patients’ time along with secure messaging.

EHR systems, despite their challenges and transitions, make life easier with patient-centered recordkeeping.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires all offices with EHR (electronic health records) systems to meet certain Meaningful Use criteria to qualify for government incentive programs and avoid penalties. Meaningful Use begins with Stage 1 which has to have certain criteria met for two years before moving to Stage 2. Stage 2 started in 2014 for many providers and again requires a demonstration that the updated Meaningful Use objectives and measures have been met for two years.

While all this compliance may seem like jumping through hoops, we shouldn’t lose sight of our main purpose for being in this health care business-the patient. Here’s how to keep patients front and center while still being compliant with Meaningful Use mandates.

EASE OF USE
While making the transition to EHR can be time-consuming, it will allow ECPs to view patients’ past information more easily, set baselines, and monitor progress of diseases like glaucoma with much less effort. And many EHR systems have the capability of showing past eye pressure readings, visual acuities, and refractions all on one page instead of paging through stacks of paper charts.

Crystal Practice Management Software is one system that works well in the ophthalmic office. With Crystal’s customizable records, ophthalmic/optical staff can easily fine-tune patient records to fit their needs. The Auto-History feature makes it possible to see all past patient data at a glance, even the patient’s eyeglass prescription history.

Image management systems like Crystal and also PracticeDirector by Williams Group can keep the office visit patient-friendly. Instead of paging through files and charts full of visual fields and OCTs to discuss with a glaucoma patient, image management systems can bring all of the diagnostic imaging results together in one spot-there’s no more snooping around for a misfiled visual field or photo. The system brings efficiency and a more professional image to the practice.

examWRITER by Eyefinity is an EHR solution designed for optometrists. Along with useful templates and drawing tools, examWRITER boasts easy-to-use equipment integration. Test reports can be loaded directly into the patient history, keeping all of the patient information in a central location. The cloud-based Eyefinity EHR is the next generation of examWRITER and lets you swipe versus type, thus allowing for greater patient engagement.

PERSONAL SERVICE
Can we still make the patient feel like an individual and not just a number when we use online records? One OD created a patient preference protocol where his staff is expected to collect patient preferences through conversation. This can be as simple as noticing a pin or T-shirt the patient is wearing to promote an activity or service they are proud of or finding out about a new baby or puppy. Most EHR systems have a place to document unofficial data that won’t go in a referral letter or record release. This is also a good spot to enter the patient’s preferred name or pronunciation of a name. By typing in a brief patient preference, the ECP can look in this preference area at the next visit and ask about the new house or puppy, making the patient feel special and adding to a more personal patient experience.

Eye contact is an obvious but often overlooked part of patient care. Before the use of EHR, the ECP often sat facing the patient holding a paper chart. Now she is often facing a screen entering the history, vision, and other test results into a computer. How can we balance the need to enter in data with the need to give personalized care? Room set-up is important. Is the computer placed so you can still look up at the patient? If possible, the screen should be in line with the patient. You should be able to look at the patient while they are talking and then take a moment to enter the data. Some folks prefer using handheld tablets or iPads instead of larger desktop computers.

CLINCIAL ASPECTS
Another objective of Meaningful Use is to generate and transmit drug prescriptions electronically. E-prescribing can be a standalone product, but more often it is integrated into the EHR system. And its use seems to be on the rise. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 70% of office-based providers were e-prescribing.

How does this electronic prescribing help the patient? The answer is easy: doctor handwriting. With e-prescribing, we make it safer for patients without worries of illegible prescriptions being misread by a pharmacist. Most e-prescribing systems include drug allergy interactions for increased safety. If your office sends a prescription for a patient electronically, explain how this tool increases safe communication among the patient, the provider, and the pharmacy.

Clinical summaries are an additional expectation of the Meaningful Use protocol. The visit summary needs to be provided to the patient within one day of the visit. The summary lists the diagnosis with diagnostic and procedure codes as well as the current list of medications and allergies. The patient can share the information from the visit with another medical professional or with their insurance company for any billing questions. This summary improves communication and gives the patient a tangible reminder of their visit.

The summary can be even more personalized for better patient care. If the patient came in with an urgent eye problem like flashes and floaters or pink eye, why not include a brief comment about when the patient should call the clinic? For instance, the protocol for calling in with increased floaters, flashes, or loss of vision can be printed for easy reference. The instructions for home remedies like eyelid scrubs or warm packing for styes or blepharitis can be printed right on the summary sheet. If the patient needs to schedule a special test or consulting appointment, the phone number to call and the timeframe to schedule can also be added.

While the technology available with EHR is growing at an exciting pace, let’s remember that a computer screen or handheld device should never come between the ECP and the patient.

Kim Pickett is a certified ophthalmic medical technologist and ophthalmic writer in Minneapolis, MN.

WHERE TO FIND IT:

Crystal Practice Management
800-308-7169 • crystalpm.com

Eyefinity/OfficeMate
877-448-0707 • eyefinity.com

Williams Group
800-676-9076 • practicedirector.com

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