Managing IT in your Medical Practice

A PM-EMR (practice management-electronic medical record) system is the main component in every medical practice.  It might even rival the phone as the most important in the coming years.  Managing software and hardware issues whether it is a scanner or server takes up valuable time and energy within a medical office.  Common problems exist in all practices whether it is slow computers or screens freezing up.

Newer software applications as well as compliance with ANSI 5010 and ICD-10 will test the patience of the team in your office.  There are upgrades to contend with as well as training on new releases.  These changes can be managed if you prepare properly and keep your staff aware of ongoing changes.

Defining the needs of a medical office starts with answering a few questions.  What do you want the technology to do for you, your patients and your practice?  What are your constraints?  Are the people in your office supportive of health IT?

Most doctors want to eventually have paperless charts and better access to them with legible data.  In our experience, a reduction in transcription expenses is another benefit.  The cost of IT resources is a big concern.  Eligible providers can offset the expense with stimulus dollars when able to meet Meaningful Use requirements.

Before a large implementation of a new system it is a good idea to document the staff’s daily tasks and duties.  Ask them to identify which tasks are tedious or repetitive, and then rank them by complexity.  Make a list of everything your practice currently does on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and use this list to evaluate the new software that you are considering.

Our staff at Iron Comet helps medical practices build and support health IT networks.  We are responsible for hardware (servers, PCs, printers, scanners, electronic faxing).  We also assist in software and hardware configuration and special projects such as interfaces with labs and hospitals.

Consider first what technology you have and if you should keep it.  Depending on the age and speed of these machines, you might need to upgrade certain hardware like PCs and servers.

Once the practice has the necessary technological infrastructure, you might consider what data you want to accept and send out of your practice.  This is not limited to demographics, lab results, radiology reports, summaries, medication histories and electronic prescriptions.

To minimize surprises, develop a detailed budget outlining expenses in each category:

Health IT software and interfaces

Hardware/network and related services

Labor expensed (Training, Scanning, and Data Entry)

Temporary decline in productivity

Financing expense

 

Simply implementing healthcare IT is not enough to guarantee success.  There is ongoing work required for everyone in the practice to see good return on  investment.  Get your project started with a well thought out plan.

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