THE EHR JOURNEY: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

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With Eyefinity’s new cloud-based EHR, ECPs can draw what you see in the patient’s retina. Shown is a Drussen (yellow) bleeding in the periphery.

What one eyecare professional learned about the experience can help you, too.

The big questions on almost every optometrist’s mind these days concerns electronic health records (EHR). Which one is best? How do I choose the right one? How do I attain Meaningful Use (MU)? And how will the transition affect me and my staff? As someone who’s been using EHR for five years I’m here to tell you: the process doesn’t have to be as painful as you may think.

DO YOUR RESEARCH
In a sense, my EHR journey began in 2004 at SECO with the goal of looking for practice management software. At that time, web-based systems were just coming about. I went to every booth and found out what language they were written in. From a developer’s point of view, I wanted something that could be easily updated into today’s standards, and did not require an IT department or a computer science degree.

I used the same kind of research when I moved my office in 2008 and decided to go paperless. Atlanta-based Nuemed, who I had selected four years earlier, did not offer an EHR at that time so I began looking at other systems including Eyefinity/OfficeMate®, First Insight’s MaximEyes, and CooperVision’s Websystems3.

My primary need was web-based software as I’d converted my office to Mac and used Linux at home. That limited my choices to RevolutionEHR and Williams Group’s Practice Director, MacPractice. I called each company and did extensive demos with each. Each set up a “sandbox” where you can use their software and try out all aspects of it. This is something I highly recommend. You need to use it and make sure it is intuitive. In the end, I chose Revolution EHR because they were the only truly all web-based system at the time (it was written in flash—which was all the rage back then); plus I’d heard great things about them from colleagues.

A screenshot of myRev
schedule, RevolutionEHR’s
first mobile app.

SOFTWARE SELECTION
Among the biggest decisions you’ll make is thinking about server vs. web-based (cloud-based) software. A server-based system requires a server that runs the software; the rest of the computers in the office also run off that server.

If you’ve ever had a server go down you know you have to replace it and set up a new server before you’re in business again. This means you have an outside IT provider that comes in and fixes/replaces it for you unless you are fortunate enough to have your own IT person. As you install upgrades to your software, you may also need to upgrade your whole computer system, which can be very costly. In a server-based system you are required to do your own backups. (To this point, I would recommend doing backups often and having both offsite and onsite backups.) Server-based systems are usually a one-time fee, with another cost when you choose to upgrade.

A web-based system, on the other hand, allows you to plug a computer in, connect to the internet and be up and running in a matter of minutes. If a computer crashes, you plug a new one in and you’re ready to go. All backups are done offsite.

This is a major plus for me as I can’t imagine having to keep up with so much data at my office (I can barely remember to back up at home!). Most cloud systems are set up under the newer business model of a monthly service fee and include frequent updates at no additional charge. The downside is if the internet goes down. However, this is easily overcome by a backup internet source which could even include a WiFi signal from your smartphone.

PATIENT, NOT PAPERWORK
Cyclops, a ONC-certified company, believes in giving doctors the tools necessary to provide its patients with first-class care. Utilities designed for mon-itoring diseases like glaucoma and features like one-click contact lens ordering are just some of the high-quality services that make this company a maverick in the industry.

UNDERSTANDING MEANINGFUL USE
Meaningful Use is another question tossed about a lot. Look for a system that is a certified and has the support to help you through it. I would also strongly suggest you talk to colleagues, look at forums or Facebook groups, and ask about the ease of attaining MU with whichever software you are thinking about.

NEXT STEPS
Once you’ve picked your software, it’s time to get started. This is the nerve-wracking part as we all know how much people like to change their routine! My suggestion would be to jump into the deep end with both feet. The “baby step” approach is too time consuming. Instead, alter your work schedule to allow for mishaps (they will happen!). Allow for extra time during your first week, and then gradually build up to your normal schedule. Within a month you should be operating on a normal basis, with occasional hiccups.

A flow sheet from First Insight’s MaximEyes.

Which brings up another important point: Go for a company with exceptional customer support. It’s one reason RevolutionEHR won me over. Scott Jens, the president of the company, set up a Facebook group for eyecare professionals (ECPs) and has been there every step of the way, no matter how small or “simple” the question.

Again, it’s a matter of research. Don’t rely on the companies to tell you they have great customer support because of course they will say that! Instead, read reviews and talk to colleagues to get the “real” answers.

In the end, think about your individual needs and the needs of your staff. What can they handle? What can you? Define your requirements and go for the options and features that best fit those parameters.

SURPRISING RESULTS
One thing I was concerned about was how I’d be able to switch from looking at a piece of paper to viewing a computer screen. I’ll admit I struggled at first, but about a month into the new system, I was enjoying my new reality.

Yes, it will take you a little while but before long, I guarantee you will enjoy the ease, convenience, proficiency, and speed. Five years into my EHR transition, I can send medications with the short tap of a button. I can also put a patients’ record on a thumb drive, order glasses straight from the lab seamlessly, and easily access VF and OCT information with just one click. Do your research and you, too, will soon be enjoying this paperless efficiency.

Mary Lee Pemberton is in private practice at Pemberton Eye Optometry in Waynesboro, VA.

WHERE TO FIND IT:

Cyclops • 877-766-3393 • cyclopsemr.com

CooperVision, Inc. • 916-934-5555 • websystem3.com

Eyefinity/OfficeMate • 877-448-0707 • eyefinity.com

First Insight • 800-920-1940 • first-insight.com

MacPractice • 877-220-8418 • macpractice.com

RevolutionEHR
• 866-261-0688 • revolutionehr.com

Williams Group • 800-676-9076 • practicedirector.com

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