Electronic medical records (EMRs) represent a double-edged sword for many providers. Properly utilized, EMRs make healthcare more efficient and can improve the continuity of care. But many doctors are also spending more time behind the computer and less time with patients. A third of US physicians now spend over 20 hours a week on paperwork, including dozens of hours typing and roughly 4,000 clicks a day. The easiest way to reign in documentation time is to boost EMR productivity.

5 best practices to boost EMR productivity

Streamlining how you use the EMR can cut documentation time by hours each week. As a physician, boosting EMR productivity is one of the best ways to prioritize time with patients and avoid occupational burnout. The following best practices are a great place to start if you find yourself staying late in the office or taking charts home to finish at night.

1. Minimize Typing

A major challenge for many doctors using EMRs is that they are not very good at typing. Over weeks, months, and years, slow typing amounts to days of avoidable documentation time.

Transcription is a popular alternative, and doctors typically consider three options: hiring an in-house transcriptionist, outsourcing to a medical transcription service, or using voice-recognition software for instant medical dictation. Hiring a transcriptionist is not always possible. Instead, many doctors are embracing medical dictation using the latest voice recognition software.

Voice recognition software has improved immensely in recent years, making automated dictation at the point of care more accurate, convenient, and affordable than ever. The latest software leverages deep learning and neural net technology to adapt to your voice patterns. Medical grade dictation software recognizes medical terminology out of the box, so your words appear instantly and accurately in the EHR as you speak.

One example is Mobius Scribe, a live transcription function for smartphones and tablets that lets physicians dictate to a patient’s EMR and instantly have an accurate transcription recorded in the patient’s chart.

2. Optimize your EMR workflow

If you are serious about EMR productivity, it’s time to take a look at your workflow. For example, many clinicians settle for default EMR settings that require scrolling or clicking through extra screens. EMR vendors will often work with you to customize the software so you can eliminate unnecessary steps.

The following tips are adapted from Colleen Fogarty, MD, MSc, who originally shared them in Family Practice Management. See a full description of these seven workflow hacks for getting clinical notes done on time.

  1. Leverage the skills of your team members.
  2. Complete most documentation in the room.
  3. Know the E/M documentation guidelines.
  4. Use basic EHR functions like templates.
  5. Let go of perfection.
  6. Forget the “opus.”
  7. Time yourself.

7 workflow hacks to get clinical notes done on time

3. Delegate tasks to your staff

One important way to use the EMR more efficiently is to delegate some data entry tasks to support staff. For example, medical assistants and nurses can enter vital signs, or better yet this data entry can be automated. Support staff can also enter social and family histories, problem lists, and medical reconciliation into the EMR. Each task you delegate means less time at the computer and more time for your patients.

4. Implement a patient portal

Having patients handle some data entry tasks can also save time and improve EMR accuracy. Patient portals are convenient for your patients because they give them access to their health information online. They can also boost EMR productivity. Try asking patients to fill out new information, issues, and concerns from home before coming in to see you. This encourages them to arrive more prepared and saves time during appointments.

You can also encourage patients to use the portal to request prescription refills, referrals, and lab test orders, as well as to schedule office visits. Each time patients use the portal instead of calling your office, support staff are freed up to attend to other duties.

5. Use mobile devices to boost EMR documentation

Providers are beginning to realize the enormous potential for smartphones as a revolutionary clinical tool already owned by 96 percent of physicians. With an increasing number of medical apps that streamline clinical workflow, smartphones and tablets can help providers complete tasks quickly without getting distracted from patient care.

Apps like Mobius Clinic seamlessly integrate with your EMR to support accurate medical dictation, easy image capture, immediate access to templates, and much more. Physicians using smartphones with software like Mobius have found that it allows them to be more efficient in the office.

Remember to put patients first

As a physician, your top priority is always improving patient outcomes. While you implement these best practices to boost EMR productivity, don’t forget to also optimize patient encounters.

Though often impractical, research shows that patients prefer that doctors not use computers in the exam room. But some physicians have found clever workflows using mobile EMR apps to turn documentation time into meaningful patient interactions.

While technology can be used effectively, so can simple things like making eye contact and continuing to communicate with patients while entering data. As you boost your EMR productivity, remember that technology is always just a tool to help you accomplish what matters.

How to optimize patient encounters in spite of EHRs