Workflow is the lifeblood of your medical practice. Yet clinical efficiency and provider satisfaction often suffer with new EHR implementations. Optimizing you EHR workflow is an essential way to ensure that you’re providing the highest quality patient care while remaining profitable.

One reason EHR optimization can feel like a headache is that it’s not something you do once. Nearly 40 percent of healthcare CIOs said EHR optimization was in their budget for 2018. Hospitals and clinics need to periodically check in and find new ways to boost EHR usability and streamline clinical workflows.

But if you’re among the roughly half of US physicians who own their practice, chances are you don’t have a dedicated CIO or health IT specialist on your team. Small medical practices will need to work with staff and software vendors to ensure their team is using the EHR as efficiently as possible.

4 steps to optimize your EHR workflow

1. Develop a workflow plan

Whether you are adopting an EHR for the first time or optimizing an existing system, it’s important to start with a workflow plan. 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 transformed after optimization).

2. Get support from your vendor

Many EHR vendors are willing to work with you to review and specialize your clinical workflows. Ask your EHR representative for a one-on-one training session. Make sure to share how you use the EHR now and ask them for new tips or technology that could make things more efficient.

If you identify ways to optimize your workflow that aren’t supported by the EHR, make sure to demand improvements. Remember that you are the customer and your EHR software vendor is invested in your satisfaction.

3. Streamline clinical documentation

A recent study of family physicians found that doctors now spend roughly six hours in the EHR daily, including nearly 90 minutes after work. Streamlining clinical documentation is an important way reign in the work day and get back 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. Whether CAPD or other improvements, investing in clinical documentation improvements up front will quickly pay off in time saved and full reimbursements.

4. Coordinate administrative functions

As you review your EHR workflow, make sure to coordinate efficiently with your front desk team and optimize 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? This is just one of many areas to evaluate as you streamline your practice.