The following are some tips and recommendations:
- Set goals, personally and at the practice level. Identify something that you would like to accomplish with your EMR, such as improving diabetic monitoring in order to get all HBA1C levels below 7.0. You can use notification messages, reminders for staff and patients, and reports to identify patients out of target range, and work harder with those patients to improve outcomes. Similarly, establish one or more practice goals. These can be clinical or operational. For example, standardizing templates amongst all physicians so that everyone uses the same templates for similar patients. This will assist in making clinical data more consistent so that is more effectively reportable across the practice.
- Get complete buy-in from physicians and staff. This may seem mundane, but if you cannot get everyone in the practice to commit to using the EMR effectively, it will be impossible to derive maximum value. Identify the barriers and then try to address them. It may be a lack of keyboarding skills for a colleague. Some physicians use speech recognition software very effectively, or dictate and have the notes transcribed into the EMR. This works best if the system is optimized for recording narrative notes. Another alternative is to set up a comprehensive set of templates that allow for options to be selected from pick-lists or drop-down menus.
- Optimize your internal practice environment. There are certain things that you do not have control over. While it may be ideal to have an interface with your local hospital for diagnostic imaging, this is a complex goal that requires both your EMR vendor and hospital IT department to work together. It is far better to spend the time and energy optimizing processes and workflows in the practice before taking on more complex projects.
- Hold regular practice meetings. Many practices operate year after year without the physicians and staff getting together to discuss problems, suggest solutions, assign tasks, and set goals. Think of your own practice and the last time you got together as a team to discuss your EMR and what you would like to do in order to optimize its use in your practice. The only time everyone got together in the last year could have been the office Christmas dinner. Not a great time to discuss strategy.
- Trust your gut. The EMR is a tool. Use clinical judgment when making decisions. Your EMR vendor is not infallible and needs your support and feedback
- Keep an open mind. What can your EMR do for you that you were never able to do before?