Technology can also help staff communicate with each other. Most of the Valley ENT physicians use smart devices such as BlackBerrys and Palm Treos. This allows staff members to reach them more quickly, post updates, and even notify them of urgent messages or activities in the EMR. After-hours answering services appreciate this as well, said Mr. Smaistrla, because they can relay messages with call-back numbers easily and efficiently.
Explore This IssueJanuary 2007
Dr. Marple thought there are many conveniences to using EMR with patients, including many kinds of routine monitoring of a medical problem or disease. Situations that come to mind, he said, might be that of monitoring hemoglobin A1Cs in patients with diabetes, or following coagulation profiles in patients who are being treated with Coumadin. In those cases, specific information regarding patient data are entered regularly into the EMR and patients can access that information for the purposes of monitoring their disease using a tool such as MyChart. (See https://mychart.utsouthwestern.edu/mychart .)
Other advantages include being able to address the questions patients may have later that are not wrapped up in the person-to-person medical encounter, and keeping track of tests and follow-up. This provides a nice, convenient way to close that loop-to provide the patient with all the information that was generated from an examination, said Dr. Marple. And in some cases, if used appropriately, it might even save the patient a second appointment.
Patients who are younger and Internet-savvy, especially, seek methods to communicate with Valley ENT via these alternative means, said Mr. Smaistrla. We have had countless patients and parents ask for the ability to request script refills, address problems, seek results from diagnostic tests, and make appointments without having to call the office, and we are attempting to address these needs too.
They are currently creating an Internet portal that allows them to do this. They have also chosen the technique of requiring the patient or other responsible party to create a login account, and then upon verification, assign a unique password that maintains HIPAA-required confidentiality. This means that patients will be able to make appointments in selected slots, retrieve test results, and route questions to nurses and doctors. This isn’t a cheap solution, Mr. Smaistrla pointed out. We will have to spend about $10,000 to design and implement this. We are also concerned that the questions posed in e-mails may become excessive, so this will have to be closely monitored. But we also see this is as a time-saver, which might ease staffing demands.