How to optimize your EHR workflow

Your clinical workflow is the lifeblood of your medical practice. Yet, bringing on a new EHR software often decreases clinical efficiency and provider satisfaction. It’s essential to regularly assess and optimize your EHR workflow to ensure you’re providing the highest-quality patient care while remaining profitable.

Four steps to optimize your EHR workflow

Hospital CIOs often allocate budget line items for EHR optimization. But if you’re among the roughly half of US physicians who work in a small practice, you might not have a dedicated CIO or health IT specialist on your team. 

Small medical practices must work with staff and software vendors to ensure their team uses the EHR as efficiently as possible. The general steps are as follows.

1. Develop a workflow plan

Whether adopting an EHR for the first time or optimizing an existing system, starting with a workflow plan is essential. While this process takes time, not having a workflow plan leads to avoidable losses in productivity and extended work days.

HHS has a guide to workflow process mapping for EHR implementation, which is a great place to start. The 6-page guide shows providers how to map workflow “as is” (how it is now) and “to be” (how it could be after optimization).

2. Get support from your vendor

Most EHR vendors will work with you to review and specialize your clinical workflows. Ask your EHR representative for a one-on-one training session. Share how you use the EHR now and ask them for new tips or technology to make things more efficient.

If you identify ways to optimize your EHR workflow that the software doesn’t support, ask for improvements. Remember that you are the customer, and your EHR vendor is invested in your satisfaction.

3. Streamline clinical documentation

A study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that primary care doctors spend roughly six hours in the EHR daily, including nearly 90 minutes after leaving the office. Streamlining clinical documentation is crucial to reigning in the workday and regaining time with patients.

In addition to general workflow optimization, computer-assisted physician documentation (CAPD) is becoming popular. For example, smartphones with medical transcription software can now facilitate live dictation at the point of care. Or you could use an AI medical scribe to draft 80% of your visit notes automatically. 

Whether you adopt CAPD or other improvements, investing in clinical documentation improvements upfront will quickly pay off in time saved and complete reimbursements.

4. Coordinate administrative functions

As you optimize your EHR workflow, don’t forget to coordinate with your front desk team to streamline administrative functions like booking.

For example, do your appointment slots make sense? Do you need to increase or decrease the number of new patient visits or follow-ups? Administrative functions are just one of many areas to evaluate as you streamline your practice.

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