Andrea Kittrell, MD, an otolaryngologist in private practice in central Virginia, uses Dr. Gordon’s Waiting Room Solutions (waitingroomsolutions.com). “It helps us be more efficient in our patient management,” Dr. Kittrell said. “The automated functions help us be safer; we’re not dropping results and forgetting to call patients, so our patients are getting higher quality care.”
Explore this issue:November 2010
Waiting Room Solutions allows care providers to create recall reminders based on patients’ diagnoses and treatment plans. The program, for instance, will contact all patients diagnosed with hearing loss who have not been in for an annual audiogram, first by e-mail, then with an automated voice message. Similarly, if the physician hasn’t received results from an ordered CT scan within a specified amount of time, the system will reach out to the patient to see if the test has been scheduled.
TeleVox, a communications company, produces an electronic reminder program that works with existing EHRs. The program, HouseCalls, sends reminders via voice, text and e-mail. It can also send preventative care messages, about smoking cessation, for instance. All reminders require a response from the patient, because “we’re attempting to move people to action, and whether that’s showing for an appointment or following a treatment plan, it’s more effective to have some action for the patient to take when they receive the message,” said Corey DeGeorge, TeleVox senior director of marketing and product management.
Jan Berger, MD, chief medical officer of Silverlink Communications, sees a lot of potential for automated reminders.
“Communication is the foundation of good health,” Dr. Berger said. “Automated messaging can reach out to patients, identify barriers and relay that information to doctors. My hope is that EHRs will help doctors get the information they need in real time so they can intervene.”
Getting up to Speed
But not all reminder systems integrate easily with existing EHRs.
“The biggest problem I see right now is usability of these systems,” said Rodney Lusk, MD, Internet and information technology coordinator for the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. “Many of them are created, in large part, by software engineers who think they know how doctors work.”
Lack of a common electronic language also makes it difficult for certain programs to work together. Waiting Room Solutions can generate lab action reminders, but if the lab’s software doesn’t integrate with the EHR, lab results have to be scanned in manually before reminders are sent. The current medication reminder systems are designed for use by patients; physicians may get compliance reports if the patient chooses to share that information, but the reports do not automatically integrate with the EHR.