Medical practices continue to hesitate to share records freely with patients. There could be many reasons for such caution. Patients could use the information to sue doctors when something goes wrong. Doctors templatize information – and therefore, when someone reads it, it may not make much sense. But what if we trusted patients to do the right thing? We trust them to use the information to take better care of themselves? And we teach them to do so. Then we could get a lot back in return – not just clinical returns of healthier patients but patients could also engage better with ambulatory surgery centers and specialty groups to lower administrative costs.
Here are a few ideas where patients could help doctors lower administrative costs for the front desk and other staff members.
Update their demographics and insurance information through a web portal
Upload images of insurance cards, driver’s license and social security via a patient portal into the EHR
Read and sign consent forms
Pay past dues
Take clinical satisfaction surveys
Complete clinical questionnaires
Patients are the most under-utilized resources in a care setting – if we trust them enough and engage them, everyone would win.
Despite requirements mandated by Meaningful Use Stage 1, providers are still hesitant to actively share their medical records with all of their patients – they possibly fear trouble with law suits. But I’ve met doctors not only are able to share their records with patients confidently (because the records are not templated and the care is thorough) and even get patients to participate actively in managing their health. Patients tend to respond by understanding their conditions better and I’ve noticed that they proactively rate such doctors highly on forums such as healthgrades.com. Going beyond such benefits, there are also business benefits by engaging patients over the Internet. Using a well-functioning patient portal, ambulatory surgery centers can save time for themselves.
Invite patients to use a patient portal – a common area that providers can share medical records, including lab results, medications, operative notes and so on. Once patients use the portal regularly, have them periodically track and document basic vital signs such as BMI, blood pressure, insulin readings. Have them complete checklists, scoring sheets (e.g. such as a Crohn’s Disease Activity Index), manage their demographic information, scan driving license or update photographs. This would save enormous amount of time for the front desk and nursing staff of the surgery center or medical practice. As a doctor, explore having virtual meetings for return visits through the patient portal. Your patients would greatly appreciate the time you’d save them by willing to have a virtual conversation.
The next logical step for the surgery center would be to actively monitor care across groups of patients via a dashboard that collates data from the patient portal. Using such information, clinical staff can track health across a group of patients and when things seem to deviate from the norm (e.g. high BP for 3 continuous days), then the practice can call the patient to schedule a check-up proactively, even before they fall sick. This reverses the expectation that patients need to call a doctor after they fall sick.
Statistics show that over 50 percent of all medical facilities have successfully transitioned towards implementing an electronic health record system. While implementing EHR may mean streamlining operations and going paperless, the process tends to become mechanical and many look at it as mere data entry over time.
Practices are unaware of the enormous amount of data they produce every day. Capturing vitals, physical exams, systems reviews and checking/prescribing medications are all forms of generating data. Typically, an EHR is an archive of data which, if used to its potential, can lead to interesting insights.
Here are five insights you can acquire with your generated data:
1. Population breakdown: The analysis of patient type that forms your patient pool. It is the means for distinguishing your patients as per gender and age. Mapping your patients against their corresponding BMI values helps to track how healthy (or unhealthy) your patients are.
2. Diagnosis chart: The top 10 diagnosis among patient population. This will help determine the most and the least occurring conditions.
3. Condition number: The number for patients who have less than or more than two medical conditions.
4. Drug report: A report of the top drugs prescribed by you and the drugs that required the most substitution.
5. Risk profiles: Maintaining risk profiles of your patient population and sorting patients based on low, medium and high risk profiles. The patients falling in the high risk pool may need a more personalized medical approach.
Healthcare organizations are pushing towards risk-sharing payment models where reimbursements are tied to quality of care instead to quantity. By adopting EHRs, we may just be scratching the surface of something bigger in the years to come. Technology will continue playing a greater role and having analytical insights will empower precise medical judgments.