Optimize the EHR: Better Workflow Means Better Work-Life Balance

By Chad Anguilm, Director of Professional Services, Medical Advantage Group

There are tools that can streamline patient care and payment workflows in the electronic health record (EHR). By dedicating time and effort up front to optimize the EHR, physicians can get relief from administrative tasks, reduce duplicate entry of data, and save time by not having to search for records in multiple places. Enhancing the EHR means focusing on these four top areas:

  1. Building a direct data interface. When all patient data, from both within the practice and from outside sources, is routed through the EHR in a structured format, a physician has all the information required at the point-of-care when treating a patient.
  2. Organizing patient data to provide a central point of access in the EHR. Immediate and organized access to complete patient information can help reduce unnecessary office visits, imaging, and labs tests.
  3. Establishing predefined care alerts to guide physicians through the treatment portion of the visit. The parameters of each alert should be set by the physician, based on the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) or other quality metrics or quality-based programs the doctor participates in. By setting up alerts that are triggered by the receipt of structured data instead of being manually triggered, a practice can see more patients and provide customized treatment plans without running recalls or prepping charts prior to the patient's arrival. Setting up alerts is a one-time effort -- then, armed with the right tools, the physician can rely on educated decision-making at the point-of-care, when time is of the essence.
  4. Integrating population health management reporting tools that allow the physician to see gaps in care or future care needs based on gender, age, and medical history, such as foot exams, immunizations, and colonoscopies. These tools -- offered in many EHRs through the EHR vendor or a clinically integrated network (CIN) -- analyze data from the EHR, HIEs, payer claims systems, and lab and radiology facilities, so that a physician can make decisions based on the patient's longitudinal medical record. This offers the ability to bill for services during the office visit, send campaign messages (such as for a flu shot or annual physical) to patients, and report data in a useful format to referring physicians.

When optimizing their EHR, physicians would benefit from working with an experienced consulting team that understands the tools available as well as the flow of the practice. Here are the questions a practice should ask the EHR vendor to determine if the vendor can help the practice get the most out of the EHR -- or if it's time to hire a consulting firm:

  • What local laboratory/radiology/report interfaces are available in the area that may help streamline the flow of data in and out of my practice?
  • What data can be submitted electronically through a commonly accepted file for incentive programs like PQRS, Meaningful Use, and other payer-directed programs in order to decrease duplicate entry?
  • What devices such as trackers, kiosks, or EKGs connect directly to the EHR to decrease manual entry?
  • What inbound interfaces can be set up to accept ADT data, structured data from other physicians, or vaccine registries?
  • What type of remote access capabilities -- such as smartphone or tablet apps or web-based accessibility -- are available in order to complete tasks without being tied to the office?

Contributed by The Doctors Company. Medical Advantage Group is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Doctors Company. For more patient safety articles and practice tips, visit


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