She also recommended that otolaryngologists find ways to offset the cost of adopting a system before they begin their searches.
Explore This IssueOctober 2010
Ladd said implementation should take four to five months, during which time otolaryngologists should meet with at least four or five vendors, take copious notes and solicit feedback from staff in other offices on which systems they like best.
“Getting six different perspectives of users that are critical to the success of your practice is something you need to think about as you look at the systems,” she said.
That feedback, she said, should be incorporated into a request for proposal (RFP), which should outline how the system will be adapted for an otolaryngology practice. Ladd noted that the RFP she put together for her practice was 50 pages long.
Most importantly, she said, otolaryngologists should hire an attorney to review all software, hardware and financing agreements before signing anything.
The Training Period
Jolene Eicher, chief operating officer of Advanced ENT and Allergy in Louisville, Ky., recommended that otolaryngologists set up a testing phase to help staff become proficient with the system before going live. “The last thing you want is to be in the exam room with the patient and you can’t bring that template up,” she said.
Eicher told otolaryngologists to be prepared for a complete change in their daily workflows and warned them not to try to mimic their old, paper-based systems. “A piece of paper is a sign of inefficiency if you’re on an EHR,” she said.
Practices may need to reduce their patient load while they incorporate EHRs, she said. She added that staff will be a little slower and less efficient at the beginning, and otolaryngologists should plan for five to six hours of training per clinical provider before the system goes live.
But, according to Eicher, the initial challenges of adopting an EHR system are worth the eventual results: a more efficient office. She pointed out that prior to adopting an EHR, the physicians in her group worked an average of 45 to 46 weeks per year and post EHR they worked an average of 43 weeks per year with the same patient volume but higher receipt per patient visit.