Many people are sitting their on the proverbial fence waiting to see what’s going to happen with the HITECH act and meaningful use before they actually go and implement an EMR. Now, I’m not going to let those people off the hook from evaluating and selecting an EMR. That should be done anyway. However, lately I’ve been thinking that many of these clinics shouldn’t be waiting to implement technology in their offices. Sure, EMR is a game changer and a major change for any office and has tremendous upside (regardless of stimulus money). However, for those of you in the wait for HITECH act money camp, there are still a number of IT projects that you can implement today that will benefit you once you actually implement an EMR. Here’s just a few of them:
Fax Server – This is a HUGE game changer for those that have an EMR. The medical world still revolves around the fax machine and will for a long time to come. Implementing a fax server in your office is a great first step to prepare your office for an EMR. Plus, it can save a lot of paper. For example, you can just delete all those “spam” faxes that you get. Fax servers are great and by having it installed and your users trained on how to use it so that when you implement your EMR you can just directly upload your faxes into your EMR without ever printing out the fax.
IM (Instant Messaging) – I’m amazed at how useful our clinic has found IM to be in our office. It’s a great way for the nurses to communicate with the clinicians, the clinical people with the front desk and the nurses with each other. You do have to manage when to IM versus a phone call versus an email (or secure EMR message once you have an EMR), but there’s sometimes that an IM is a perfect way to communicate in a clinic.
Shared Drives – Setting up a shared drive for your office is simple to do and can save a lot of time. I’m surprised how many offices don’t use this. It’s not the best thing for patient data, but there are hundreds of other office uses for a shared drive to prove beneficial. Ideally this would be setup on active directory, but even if you just manually map a shared drive it can work well in a clinic.
IT Infrastructure – Good IT companies will come and do an analysis of your current IT setup for free. They’ll also give you an idea of what things you could do now that will prepare you for your EMR implementation. Plus, even if you don’t do some of the things until you get closer to implementing an EMR, it’s good to know the weaknesses in your IT infrastructure early so that you can make that part of your plans.
Those are just a few examples. I’m sure some will also mention ePrescribing on this list. I’m not totally sold on that idea, but would love to hear people who disagree. What other technologies can clinics implement now regardless of their EMR purchase?