By Vicki Amendola, Editor, Health IT Outcomes
Having 24/7 access to the information in your EHR should be an integral part of your patient care strategy, especially if you want to retain your independence.
Across a healthcare landscape where independent physicians are being quickly gobbled up by hospitals and larger group practices and health systems, Dr. Vandna Jerath, M.D., OB/GYN, might be considered part of a dying breed. Dr. Jerath is bucking the trend by opening and operating Optima Women’s Healthcare, her successful, young, and flourishing solo OB/GYN practice. Dr. Jerath’s key to success lies in her commitment and ability to care for each of her patient’s unique healthcare needs with a comprehensive, coordinated, hands-on approach.
Dr. Jerath had practiced with another clinic for more than a decade before a relocation to Parker, CO, gave her the motivation to launch her own new practice. It also gave her the insight to do a few things differently than what her former practice did. In her previous experience, she had enjoyed a practice management and scheduling system, but the charts were all paper. In her own practice, she wanted to be more progressive. Moving to an EHR solution and going paperless was one step, and going mobile was another.
TAKE AN ‘ALL IN’ STANCE WITH YOUR HIT STRATEGY
The adoption of EHR technology is not necessarily unique considering the industry’s overall push to adopt the technology on the path to qualifying for government-driven incentives. What makes Dr. Jerath somewhat unique by comparison, however, is the independence she had to choose her own solutions. In her case, the decision on technology options and vendors was all her own, not driven or directed at all by a larger medical group or hospital system as is often the case. It was a somewhat daunting task, but one that Dr. Jerath was more than ready to take on.
Over the course of about six months, Dr. Jerath evaluated five different EHR vendors based on peer recommendation, options, and cost before deciding to go “all in” with Greenway. Rather than adopting just an electronic records solution or selecting additional technology components in a piecemeal fashion, Jerath went live with multiple Greenway solutions simultaneously, tackling EHR, patient portal, data exchange, revenue cycle, and mobility. While launching a complete suite of technology products at once wasn’t easy, Dr. Jerath feels that it was definitely worth it. “The initial implementations certainly had their challenges, especially coming from an environment that is traditionally paper-based,” says Jerath. “But I still think it was the best approach since I had started a brand new practice and could grow in the process by learning it from the ground up.”
“I really wanted to have remote access and portability, accessibility, and connectivity so that I can take care of my patients without having to be glued to my office.”
MOBILITY IS A NECESSITY, NOT AN OPTION
Although all of these tools have had a great impact on the success of Optima Women’s Healthcare, Dr. Jerath has found that the mobility aspect afforded by Greenway’s PrimeMobile has had one of the biggest impacts on her practice. And just what are the drivers behind the doctor’s drive to go mobile? The potential to impact not just her professional life, but her personal life as well. “I don’t know how much you know about medicine, but the OB/GYN carries a very busy schedule, and I am a solo practitioner,” says Jerath. “I work essentially 24/7, and I commit to being available 24/7 to care for my patients.”
Dr. Jerath, who rarely takes time for vacation, needed a solution that could keep her connected to her patients at all times — regardless if she is out for an evening with friends or across town running errands on a day off. “I really wanted to have remote access and portability, accessibility, and connectivity so that I can take care of my patients without having to be glued to my office,” says Jerath.
In the case of very simple or routine questions, patients must often wait until the next day for an answer, allowing the physician time to return to the office to review a chart. But in the case of an urgent situation, the physician would have to make the drive to the office to see the chart. Dr. Jerath recalls one situation where not having mobile access could have been very detrimental. There was construction in her building, and she could not access her offices. If a patient emergency occurred, there would have been no way to access the paper chart.
The peace of mind and the impact mobile access has brought to Dr. Jerath’s personal life has been described as immeasurable. “As a human being, I need to have a life as well. I need to be able to leave the office and feel secure that I can access patient information without having to run to the office to get a chart,” says Jerath. “My patients know that when they call me, even after hours, I can pull up their chart and serve them with confidence. They don’t wait and wait for a response, or hear ‘I don’t know; I’ll have to look into that.’ I can take care of their situation right away, and they’ve come to view it as a huge benefit that differentiates our practice.”
COMMIT TO PAPERLESS
To keep her practice as personal as possible, Dr. Jerath does not chart while she is in the room. Part of the reason she wanted to go live with a full EHR suite in the first place was her desire to not have to access — or even carry — a paper chart into the room. She recalls days at her former practice where looking through a chart for information could often be very difficult, especially if the patient had been coming to the practice for many years and had a very thick chart. Opting for a mobile EHR solution solved that challenge and also kept her from even needing to have a desktop PC installed in each room.
When Dr. Jerath first went live with the mobile solution, she was using a tablet computer as she moved from room to room in her practice. The access was convenient, but not completely comfortable. “I found that using tablets felt very heavy on my shoulder during the day and was a little difficult to carry from room to room all day,” says Jerath. Wanting to move to something lighter and more portable, Dr. Jerath worked with Greenway and soon had all of her applications up and accessible from her iPad and iPhone.
From the iPad, Dr. Jerath can access her EHR either through a remote connection or directly through a new app on the device depending on exactly what information she needs to access. Although she is quick to say that neither connection is a replacement for the full EHR access you get from the desktop, the mobile connections provide enough accessibility to look up information on a patient, talk to a patient, get through the patient visit, and browse through documents.
Now, rather than flipping through papers, she can access all of that information right from her iPad while in the room with the patient. In fact, she remains particularly adamant that a paper chart plays no role in a patient’s visit. “Sometimes my staff, in trying to be helpful and knowing that a patient had labs or a procedure done, will print out the paper and try to hand it to me. I’m always telling them not to give me that paper,” recalls Jerath. She needs none of these updates in paper form, as items such as orders, lab results, radiology reports, progress notes, and patient summaries are all separately indexed and available right within the patient’s electronic record.
When asked how her patients feel about having their doctor enter the room without carrying a bulky paper chart or having to walk out of the room to use a computer workstation to pull up additional information, Dr. Jerath says, “They love it! They think I’m the coolest person ever!” Having patients who enjoy your innovation and initiative? I guess that’s one really cool way to measure success.