I had a flu clinic last Monday, and will be having another one on December 11. Here is the process for the clinic: I set up a separate schedule, called "flu shot clinic", with appointments at 5 minute intervals. When patients came in, my secretary swiped their card, and entered them in the flu clinic schedule. She then sent them to the back area, where I was standing next to the vaccine fridge, and I gave them their shot. When she had time, she opened their electronic chart, clicked the button that enters the flu shot in my preventive list, and then entered the full flu shot (the lot number and dosage are pre-set in the EMR, there was no need for her to reenter the same information every time). When the clinic was finished, I changed my pre-set billing code to G591 (the Ontario code for influenza vaccination), clicked the button to auto-bill the entire schedule, clicked send, and it was done. We were finished within 5 minutes of the clinic closing. There were no charts pulled or put back. My preventive services list was automatically updated.
The EMR allows for very efficient processes, with a high degree of automation for things that are repetitive. However, this doesn't happen by itself; you have to figure out how to make the EMR work for you.
As another example, I bought an Automated BP machine (the BP Tru) in the summer. My staff is trained on it and they know how to use it. If I get a patient that requires additional BP readings (perhaps because their last BP was above 140/90), I will often ask them to come on a Friday. I am not in the office Friday. My secretary takes their BP using the BP Tru, and enters the average reading (which the machine produces out of several BP readings) in the EMR. I see it remotely, and will send back a message if needed. The current guidelines say that if office BP is between 140/90 and 160/100, you need 4 to 5 visits to diagnose HT. I can get several visits done pretty easily this way. I also use home BP (Lifesource monitor) extensively. I also use the Friday BP visits for diabetic BP slightly above 130/80, for verification. The EMR generates lists and graphs of Blood pressures, so it is easy to follow them. Having my staff help me, and using automated electronic equipment and EMR has improved my quality of care.
My secretary tells me that I won't have a single paper chart belonging to me in the office by 2007. We are currently scanning the Inactive Patient charts, and that is the last of it. I will put 4 filing cabinets for sale on Craigslist over the holidays. I was trying to figure out how much we pay for the space for these: each filing cabinet is 1.5 ft x 3 ft. I have an exam room that is not usable because of filing cabinets, that is 9 ft x 9 ft. I also have to figure out some space to walk around the cabinets. In addition, I no longer store handouts or chart aids (they are scanned into the computer, or accessed from the Internet). This must be about 150 sq feet for my office; at $30 rent per sq foot in my area, that is $4,500 per year for paper storage. I wonder what an office designed with no paper from the start would look like.
Interestingly, I seem to be going through more paper since starting the EMR. However, I look at it as "good paper". For example, when a patient is in for their annual physical, they are usually sitting on the exam table. I have the Tablet sitting beside them, with the screen turned so they can see it. I load the CPP, and point to it as I talk, to verify the information. When that is finished, the last step is for me to say: "I will print a copy for you to have on hand, in case you need to use it". That is now routine. As well, I'll often print a copy of the flowsheet for diabetic patients, so they can see how their results compare with recommended results. I am certainly printing lots of handouts, such as calcium/vitamin D recommendations during full checkups. The storage cost for Good Paper is essentially nil, because they are just blank sheets ordered from the office supply store as needed.