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Is Your Head in the Clouds? Well Your Practice Should be in “The Cloud”!

How cloud-based EHR & automated practice management will transform your office, save you time, and money.

By Adam Stelzer, O.D.

If you want to become a better optometrist, you should be using an EHR/practice management system in an effort to streamline your practice and optimize patient care. However, the key is getting the right system because you may risk setting yourself up for extra work, lost data, and even compromising patient information. For years, optometrists have dealt with these frustrations. That’s why it is important to find an EHR/practice management system that is built by developers who understand the direct needs of their fellow colleagues. For optometry, there are solutions available that were built by optometrists, specifically for optometry. These solutions are better formatted for the flow of an eye exam, with short cuts to simplify common norms and medical reference databases, as well as auto-fills to quickly complete common procedures, impressions, and plans. There are even systems that integrate with labs, so you can order contact trials during an exam with the click of one button. You can trust that optometrists have a first-hand understanding about what tools would help streamline an eye exam and allow attention to be given to the patient, rather than data entry. With such rapid advances in technology, we can all see that “the cloud” is extremely useful today and will be indispensable in the future. Soon enough, we’ll find that it will be utilized in every facet of life for securely warehousing all of our data. A major benefit to a cloud-based system is that you greatly reduce the security risk that a local server system inherently has; where information can be stolen, damaged, or corrupted by it’s need for physical storage space. With a high quality cloud-based EHR/practice management system, your information is encrypted, so it cannot be stolen or compromised. It is virtually backed up, so the risk of losing data is greatly reduced. It is also accessible instantaneously from any location in the world. This allows the doctor to complete charts or access reports at any time. Your system needs to be fully secured and HIPPA-compliant. The cloud doesn’t limit you to a room in your office, where you likely have limited storage capacity. Even if you previously saw a patient and charted their exam on paper, you should be able to scan and upload those charts into a cloud-based system. In a system with unlimited storage capacity they’ll be stored within that patient’s profile indefinitely. All of your past and current patients’ records are available to you conveniently within one system, even if they are at a different office location within your practice group. This eliminates the need for paper, boxes, storage, and makes it so much quicker to access. Patients are now looking for health care providers that give them easier access to scheduling appointments online, getting appointment reminders via text messaging, the ability to complete paperwork in advance (eliminating time in the waiting area), as well as the ability to access their data online, and at any time. A modern system can offer a unique link to an online scheduling feature, with the ability to customize available appointment time slots and intervals between appointments, and integrate directly into your office schedule. Some cloud-based EHR/practice management systems can give patients access to a private portal where they can fill out their paperwork and medical history, which can significantly reduce patient check-in times. The patient can even access their prescriptions, invoices, and referrals after their appointment through their portal. This feature gives you and your staff back invaluable time to focus on more important things, such as patient care. One of the biggest cost and time savings is from an integrated patient text messaging feature. You should look for a system that is fully comprehensive, so you can eliminate the high-cost third-party SMS services. With that feature included, it’s as if you’re hiring another staff member to do all of your patient recalls, but at no additional cost. You’ll want to find a system that gives you unlimited text messaging and two-way patient communication that can be done right from within the system. A great system will allow you to maintain and keep unique communication contacts and securely e-Fax them from within the system. This allows you to easily manage your patient information sharing; with pharmacies via e-Prescribing, other health-care professionals via patient referrals, with labs for optical material orders, and with third-party payers and clearinghouses for billing. Communication should be simple and automatically recorded under the patient’s profile. Another major benefit to an EHR/practice management system is the ability to track analytics and generate reports. It is important to consider the analytics feature of a system not just as an “extra”, but as a powerful and necessary tool to help you track the statistics about your practice. These reports can show you the growth of your practice, in number of patients and sales volume, and even help target specific markets, products, or clients. You can also use the reporting to correct mismanagement and check the performance of staff, or even certain inventory items and products. It’s important to get daily summary reports, and a good system will allow you to create customized reports when you want them. If you are not using a cloud-based EMR/practice management system, you need to reconsider your reasoning for not jumping on board. There are systems that are robust, completely customizable, and inclusive of all of the aforementioned must-haves, for as low as $99 per month. Explore your options, and be sure to recognize when a system is over-priced. Many times, you’re just paying for the markup and hidden fees of outdated systems, where those unnecessary costs are pushed onto you, the practice owner. There are great systems that offer new state-of–the-art platform designs with no contracts, no sign-up fees, no charges for updates. A select few will even give you and your staff training, as well as directly assist you in getting your data transferred from another system, at no additional charge. Take the few minutes to do a free demonstration to see how a system can fit your needs. With the right EHR/practice management solution, you can trust that you’ll find yourself less stressed with a more streamlined and efficient optometry practice – at least, it did for me!