Ophthalmology Business

DEC 2012

Ophthalmology Business is focused on business topics relevant to the entrepreneurial ophthalmologist. It offers editorial, opinion, and practical tips for physicians running an ophthalmic practice. It is a companion publication of EyeWorld.

Issue link: http://digital.ophthalmologybusiness.org/i/98302

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What to expect when you're expecting (an EHR system) by Robert Lamont, Scott Peterson, and Leslie Mackner A h, a baby on the way! Who doesn't love the excitement of a new baby? Who doesn't cringe at the thought of all the work that having a baby entails? Expecting a baby is much like implementing a new electronic health records (EHR) system. There's a lot of worry involved, a lot of planning to help things go smoothly, some panic if there are complications, and the after-the-fact realization that some of your initial worries weren't necessary. Human conception to childbirth averages 9 months; ironically, the average timeframe from planning to implementation of an EHR system also takes about 9 months. In fact, bringing an EHR system into your practice is not unlike giving birth to your first child in more ways than just length of time. We have successfully used an EHR system in our offices since 2010. We decided in 2009 to take the EHR plunge. We truly believe in the value of EHR for our 15 locations. However, we often hear about ophthalmic practices that prefer to stick with a paper-based system, even as the threat of government penalties for not using EHR gets closer. For any parent out there who's read the classic What to Expect When You're Expecting, we think you'll find the same similarities we did with implementing our EHR system. Birthing a baby—and birthing an EHR system—may not be easy, but it's done all the time. And you can do it, too. 14 Attitudes, aka, the dirty diaper Just as no one likes a dirty diaper, no one likes a bad attitude. The smell of a bad attitude can waft through your practice and affect everyone on your staff, from the front office to the back office. Even those who had positive expectations for an EHR can change their opinion if the ophthalmologists and administrators on staff are griping about it. That can undermine the EHR success. We like to think of bad attitude not only as a "dirty diaper," but also a reminder to keep your bad attitude in check even before conception. 9 months of eating well Just as it's normal to have fears about having a child—some of which will never be realized—it's normal to have fears about how an EHR system will change your practice. We feared that after spending a significant amount of money, the EHR system would be nothing more than a failed project. We feared that the practice management system attached to the EHR would not work. We feared our billing module would not sync correctly with the EHR system and that we would go out of business. We feared we would see patients, track their information in the EHR, and then the system would be down a week later. In short, we were afraid of breaking the baby, and we were afraid of failure. What we learned from this is our attitude and preparation made all the difference. We found that implementation came with a learning curve, but there were no true disasters. In fact, our behind-the-scenes Ophthalmology Business • December 2012 advance preparation helped things run more smoothly. We had our A-team of physician leaders, technicians, and IT folks to help us set things up, and we devoted internal resources and time needed to make implementation successful. Some assembly required Just as some new parents might buy baby furniture and assume it's assembled only to bring it home and realize they need to put it together, the same holds true with an EHR. We've heard of practices that assume they can hire an IT company to install everything with their EHR system and that it will magically work seamlessly with every other software system in the office. Sorry to say, it's just not true. It's an ongoing commitment to keep your EHR system healthy and keep your staff trained on how to use it. And some staff members (think of your typing "hunters and peckers") will require more training than others. Healthy weight gain Pregnancy naturally entails some weight gain, and so does implementing an EHR system. You will likely add overtime to your practice due to the amount of work involved when you implement the system. You may also add staff—additional employees who, ideally, will be skilled in helping you navigate the technical challenges of your new EHR. Choosing to view the weight gain as a positive instead of a negative will go a long way toward avoiding the "dirty diaper" we mentioned before.

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