A Physician’s EHR Experience

It’s Friday morning, and the doctor’s office is closed, and Lake Mary endocrinologist Dr. Victor Roberts is the only one there. He scans through medical records as he speaks to a concerned patient calling after hours. His patient’s latest lab results and treatment notes are at his fingertips. He asks a few questions and then reassures his patient, guided by the information in the electronic health record in front of him. There is no office assistant pulling paper charts, and there are no paper notes.

But it wasn’t an easy task adopting an electronic health records system (EHR). In fact, Dr. Roberts was so reluctant to take it on he continued using hand written notes until last October, despite the fact that his partner’s office was fully integrated with EHRs. It finally hit him one day that it was time to ditch the paper records.  “I knew about meaningful use and the government requirements, so I thought I should get on board, as I have no plans of stepping down,” said Dr. Roberts.

With the help of the University of Central Florida College of Medicine’s Regional Extension Center (UCF REC), Dr. Roberts received the help he needed and was able to attest to meaningful use and claim his first year’s $18,000 federal incentive payment just three short months after implementing the system. Although there was a big learning curve he credits the UCF REC with providing direct and productive consultations.

Although Dr. Roberts knew the benefits of EHRs, he wasn’t so sure how one would affect patients. He didn’t want to be, as he termed, a “robo doctor” who relied on charts and technology and lose touch with giving quality care. But he said his patients have embraced the new EHR system.

“Now, when I see patients I can pull up their records and test results and they can see how it’s (the EHR is) being used to help them,” said Dr. Roberts. He can also print out treatment summaries and e-prescribe. Even something as simple as sending prescriptions directly to pharmacists instead of hand writing them has virtually eliminated calls from pharmacies verifying medication orders.

“Since the adoption of the system, we have had fewer holes in communication and more accountability for staff,” said Dr. Roberts.

The cost of investing in an EHR system is still substantial for most small practices and the efficiencies gained may not match the fiscal investment, at least in the short term. Dr. Roberts said physicians need to look at it as a long-term investment. Since the implementation of his EHR system he has seen savings. His practice no longer needs a transcriptionist or extra administrative staff just to process patient records.

As EHR use and reporting evolve, Dr. Roberts sees the potential but is also aware of the added requirements. But in the end, Dr. Roberts has seen enough of the benefits to know where EHR’s can potentially take the healthcare industry, such as the ability for global information sharing. “It’s given me command over an enormous amount of data and has given the patients added confidence that I’m in touch with their information,” concluded Dr. Roberts.