When upgrading an existing medical practice, small examination rooms can be difficult to reconfigure without losing seating space for patients, or critical counter space if the room is too small to accommodate a desk. So, what are your options when integrating computers into an existing medical office? Each clinic may differ to some degree and, rather than providing specific examples, here are some suggestions to consider:
- Do you need a local network to run your EMR? If you install an EMR system that has a server locally in your office, you may need to install a network to connect to workstations in the examination rooms, scanning areas, front office, hallways, etc. If your office is located in an old building, this may incur significant cost as it may not be simple to run the wires through the ceiling and walls. Check with your landlord and consider this when you are selecting your EMR and intended hardware.
- With the growing prevalence of high-speed wireless access points and networks, it may be much more cost-effective to run a wireless network for your examination room computers. However, make sure that you choose the fastest wireless network router and that you have an office survey completed to check the wireless signal strength throughout critical care areas. There is nothing more frustrating than having a great EMR and computers that continuously drop the network signal necessitating restarting the router or the computer. Also make sure that your wireless security settings are correctly configured.
- Make sure not to place the computer between you and your patient. The computer can act as a barrier and it can be disconcerting for patients to be looking at the back of a computer monitor wondering what it is that you are writing.
- Consider an L-shaped desk configuration enabling your patient to view the screen during the encounter. It is much more effective as a mechanism to engage patients in their own care; plus they will often identify errors or outdated information during the encounter allowing you to make the necessary corrections immediately.
- If you use a tablet to access your EMR, make sure that you have somewhere to “dock” the tablet while examining your patient so that the device is not left lying on a countertop or at the foot of the bed. This will protect your investment with the added benefit of charging the device during the encounter so that your battery is able to last for a full clinic shift.
- Some clinicians may opt for a second monitor screen specifically for the patient to view during the encounter that can be wall mounted for patient convenience. This is a reasonable option if the layout of the examination room requires a contortionist to share the computer screen while documenting clinical notes.
For examples of medical office configurations, click here.