Tips for Going Digital in Your Medical Office
Medical offices have lots of records. If you’re still managing your records in paper-based files, but you’re ready to go convert to digital, you’re probably trying to figure out just how to convert all of the paper records into electronic ones for an EMR system. We’ve compiled a few simple ideas to help you get started:
o many medical practices find it works well to begin the EMR conversion with new patients. That way you’re starting with brand new data going directly into your EMR system, so there are no records to convert. Beginning with new data, gives your office a chance to work out the kinks before you start converting older data.
o some offices find that it works well to run two systems simultaneously in the beginning –both paper and electronic, to ensure that there is no misplaced data. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds if you begin with new patients. You simply continue to have your new patients fill out the normal intake papers at their first appointment, then input that data into the new EMR system. This provides both a paper record and an electronic record.
o Once your system is working well with new patients, you can begin adding established patients. You will need to determine how much of the paper chart and clinical history you need to convert to digital records.
o It’s important to keep up the momentum so your office staff and physicians become quickly acclimated to the EMR system. Therefore, we recommend starting with the charts of patients who have upcoming visits.
o At the same time that you begin inputting new patient data into the EMR system, assign someone to pull the charts of all patients who have appointments scheduled in two weeks.
o If you send those charts out for scanning immediately, you should have the electronic data back before the patients’ appointments. Continue pulling charts for appointments two weeks in the future until all of your patients’ charts have been scanned.
o Depending on the type of practice you run, you will want to scan at least the clinical information that is relevant to the patient’s upcoming appointment (lab results, test results, etc), and whatever else you consider pertinent. This may be some combination of the last three visits, the first comprehensive exam, a problem list, past medical histories, medication list, diagnostic images, or whatever is applicable to your specialty and the patients’ history. If you have a patient summary sheet, include that.
o Don’t scan old, outdated information into the EMR system – for instance only scan current insurance information. But do keep the old, complete paper charts easily available for a period of time – a year or so is usually sufficient – so that physicians can refer to the paper chart for older information that has not been scanned into the system. Physicians should earmark any of the older paper they’re referred to for inclusion in the EMR system. The goal is to minimize the amount of work spent on scanning information that isn’t needed
- About the conversion process
o Converting patient charts means a lot of scanning. Some offices make the mistake of underestimating the man-hours and skill level required to do this job.
o Whether you do the work in-house, or send the records out to a service, you will need to assign one highly-skilled employee determine what needs to be scanned for each patient. This may require going through individual charts, but is well worth the effort in order to provide continuity of care for your existing patients.
o For many offices, this means clearing out physical space that can be put to better use than paper storage, but it is a daunting task, and you will need to determine the most efficient, cost-effective way in which to do the scanning.
o Sometimes practices think they will save money by doing the actual scanning in house, but we’ve found that, in actual practice, it is usually more cost-effective to contract with an outside scanning service that is equipped for high production scanning. This generally gets the job done faster, more accurately and with less internal disruption than trying to tackle the scanning process in-house. This method minimizes additional work load, keeps your office functioning efficiently and gets the electronic conversion done.