The role of technology in reducing administrative burden
Technology has improved significantly over the past several decades, particularly for independent practices who depend on it for maintaining secure and accurate patient records and for communicating with patients. Electronic health records (EHRs) that are scalable, in particular, can help in reducing administrative burden for providers and their clinical teams.
The administrative burden faced by independent physicians can be detrimental to their ability to provide quality care for their patients and can lead to burnout. EHR software designed appropriately for the specific practice’s needs can alleviate the stress associated with the required paperwork. EHR developers can help ensure that the technology reduces, rather than contributes to, the burden often experienced by providers.
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The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) has pointed out the many advantages of healthcare technology, including primary care EHR solutions, designed to streamline administrative tasks, including:
- Improved accuracy
- Increased reimbursement and practice revenue
- Reduced costs
- Increased patient engagement
- Targeted population health
- Improved patient satisfaction
- Decreased paperwork.
A 2020 Medical Economics survey revealed that 31% of those participating identified paperwork as the leading cause of their burnout feelings. Ineffective EHR software has often been cited as one of the major contributors of a provider’s administrative burden.
However, in an interview with Elation Health’s director of primary care advancement, Sarah Pastoor, MD, family physician Robert Wolf, MD, says that this technology has actually been one of the keys to his practice’s success, including the primary care EHR he uses to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of his clinical and administrative operations.
Dr. Wolf explains, “I’m obsessed with efficiency. (I’m) always asking: How can we do this faster? How can we pare this process down?” Toward that end, he has taken steps such as automating the clinical note-taking process, developing templates in his primary care EHR for common conditions, and automateding elements of the text software.
He adds that, “With computers, anything you have to do repeatedly can be automated, and I realized I was repeating the same instructions for simple things like urinary tract or upper respiratory infections. If I could find a way to insert text explaining what I’ve done for a patient into the progress notes, I’d get credit for it and not have to keep retyping it.”
Using technology to improve his work and the quality of his own life, in addition to improving the level of care he is able to provide his patients has made a huge difference in Dr. Wolf’s practice. He explains that “When patients come to see me, I’m already thinking about what template I’m going to use and what text I’ll put in there. The software is set up so I can document quickly and for maximum reimbursement. In many cases, I can meet the criteria for a 99214-level visit, even for something simple.”
EHR integrations are also a critical part of the role of technology in reducing administrative burden. Dr. Wolf says that it’s important to use the latest technology and to obtain everything from the same vendor, to be able to integrate the technology seamlessly. He adds that, “now, at age 55, I’m finding there are ways to use technology so you can restore joy to what you’re doing.”