- CATEGORIES: winter-spring2014
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by Ravi K. Raheja, MD
Medicare would increase the amount it pays physicians by 0.5% each year for the next five years, and offer bonuses to healthcare providers that agree to have reimbursements based more on outcomes than on the volume of services they provide. This new legislation, along with other recent health care changes, is a strong indicator that primary care providers will benefit by providing better healthcare while controlling costs.
However, if you are already working as industriously as you can to see patients and provide good care, how can you create better outcomes at lower costs?
A large part of the answer is setting up systems and support staff to improve patient care without requiring direct input from you, the physician.
For example, available resources include:
- Effective telephone triage during the day: Using electronic standardized protocols during the day helps your nursing staff decide on the most appropriate level of care. This can help the sicker patients get seen first, and prevent emergency and urgent care visits after the offices close. It also empowers the nurse to make decisions without having to repeatedly ask the provider, since they now have the tools to make the right decision. The triage protocol used, disposition, and care advice can be copied and pasted into the EMR system to document the call and be available for the provider to review if needed.
- After-hours telephone triage. 24/7 telephone access to a trained medical provider when the office is closed is critical to keep people out of the emergency rooms when the office is closed. However, this puts a big burden on the providers in terms of both time and documentation. Having a trained registered nurse line available provides patients with the resources to make judicious decisions on the appropriate level of care based on their symptoms and the time of day. With the proper after-hours systems in place, the encounters can be documented and made available to the primary care physician for follow- up. The process can be as simple as a secure transfer of files to the EMR, and having the medical records person attach the files to the patient’s chart with a task for the provider to review.
- Health Information Exchange (HIE): This is an integration set up by local hospitals and organizations to facilitate the exchange of information when patients are seen in different locations. These connections allow for providers at affiliated locations to securely see patient data such as lab results and radiology results. This helps with coordination of care, as well as preventing redundant testing. Most of these organizations have the tools to connect to your current EMR system.
There are many other existing technology add-ons that can be used with your current EMR systems. Many of them do not require expensive or complex integration tools, and can work “out of the box”.
We are seeing a lot of changes in healthcare technology, and at the same time, regulation is restructuring the way physicians are reimbursed. Keeping up with the changes can be challenging, and our goal is to continue provi- ding you with beneficial resources by sharing our knowledge through blogs and articles, and providing you with services to improve your efficiency in patient care.