“You’ll have to call back in an hour,” the receptionist said, and I could hear other phones ringing off the hook in the background.
An hour later, I tried again and got the same harried receptionist, stuck without a network and a way to schedule appointments.
For me, it was a slightly annoying – calling and calling and calling again, only to make an appointment for a checkup I’m reluctant to get anyway.
Multiply my frustration with the number of patients both coming in for appointments that can’t be carried out, and patients who can’t cancel, reschedule, or make appointments. Add to that the frustration of patients calling for any number of other reasons: change insurance plans, get lab results, or consult their physician about a health issue.
All of this patient angst, however, pales in comparison with the headache a server fault brings upon the medical office personnel. The doctors, nurses, and administrators are all brought to a halt, helpless to do anything without access to their scheduling system, email, or their electronic health records.
Unfortunately, it happens all the time. Downtime disrupts business, costs time and money, as well as the reputation of the office. Comment below, or send us a tweet at @Stratus4uptime if this has happened to you, and how you manage your business’ uptime.
This guest post is written by Katie Matlack of Software Advice and discusses what ophthalmologists on the lookout for the right ophthalmology EMR solution should keep in mind. You can view the original post this story is based on here.
At Software Advice we hear often from individuals who are looking for an EMR for a particular specialty. We decided it would be useful to go out and interview those within one specialty, Ophthalmology, who had strong opinions on what characteristics were the most important to look for in an EMR solution. I spoke with four ophthalmologists and a practice manager to research this piece. Here are the major takeaways.
1) It’s important that your solution can handle large image files efficiently.
You probably already know that ophthalmologists deal with lots of very high-resolution images of the eye. Since the file sizes for those images can be quite large, without the right solution your image files could slow down the rest of your EMR system. Dr. Dean Calson of Eye Associates of Colorado Springs told me that his system allows him to run his images off a second server, eliminating any possible competition for processing power between his images and the rest of his EMR. Dr. Valla Djafari of the Texas Retina Institute, on the other hand, noted that his Web-based EMR allowed him to use the wireless network of whatever office he was working at to easily access the files he needed. As a more mobile doctor who worked at multiple locations that referred patients to him, he stressed the ease of the Web-based option for its convenience as well.
2) Interconnectivity with eye measurement tools is key.
If your EMR platform can connect directly to your testing equipment, your life will be made a lot easier. Dr. Byron Tabbut of Wheaton Eye Clinic mentioned that having all information available from one source–your EMR–can save you from “having to hunting and pecking all over” for data from various different places.
On the topic of interconnectivity, here’s a useful tip that one ophthalmologist, Dr. Walter Harris of Rittenhouse Eye Associates, shared. It’s related to pricing questions you should keep in mind when speaking with vendors:
“It’s worth the money for a system to be able to intersect with your testing equipment. But different companies will charge differently for this ability; one might offer an unlimited option, while others might charge you per piece of equipment.”
Dr. Harris recommended asking each vendor about the pricing structure of the feature, and also suggested having a list of all your exam equipment in hand when you meet with vendors.
The other day, I was taking care of my end of year appointments, one of course was seeing my eye doctor. I was overdue which is especially important since I am a diabetic and need my eyes checked each year. Because my ophthalmologist is so busy, getting an appointment is nearly impossible. I had to miss my company holiday party because I had to book this appointment three months in advance. I did try to reschedule it but that would have had to be in February of next year.
Once at my appointment, I learned my ophthalmologist office is transitioning to EHR and they had my folder to check me in and do my exam. After they finished, they placed a bright yellow paper on top of the papers in the file “ALERT, Patient is now in EHR system”. So I sat there, missing my holiday party and thinking that if that system wasn’t available, could they still see me after they purge all the manila folders and my paper records?
Was there a backup, and would I be sitting here next year in the same predicament, but with a doctor unable to access my records if the server went down? And since the office is so busy, how much downtime would severely impact their schedule and patients? Would they have the time cushion to back fill the missed appointments, and if not, would I have to reschedule for February, miss my insurance claim for the year costing me more out of pocket, have to take additional time off from work, and of course – miss another holiday party?
At this year’s HIMSS conference, there was a growing buzz about “Collaborative Care”. And much of today’s frenzied rush to automate healthcare via Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Health Information Exchanges (HIE) is in reality to put Joe Consumer on the doorstep of Collaborative Care. It’s not possible in fact to achieve collaborative care without a comprehensive deployment of EHR, along with transparent and federated but secure access and exchange of health information among those needing it.
So what is this collaborative care thing, what does it mean to me, and why does Stratus care?
Collaborative care is a shift towards focusing on the whole consumer and providing levels of care which are appropriate, accurate, and cost effective. The concept involves the consumer interacting with a network of doctors, hospitals and specialists where health information is integrated and analyzed to direct which services are appropriate to that consumer and who provides them. The consumer plays an important role too – collaborative care is proactive, involving the consumer in health maintenance such as reminders to check sugar levels for a diabetic or monitor weight. The consumer can interact with their health profile and provide input as necessary. In many cases, consumers will receive care in the form of recommendations or scheduling a visit well before the possibility of a health condition.
Consumers care – cost efficiency aside, this approach reduces errors, increases the chance to prevent or capture a health situation before it becomes more serious, and increases the probability the right level of care and practitioner is on the scene when a health situation arises.
Why Stratus then? Simple. None of this is possible if the systems in this chain experience downtime. If the EHR fails the chance is high there’s information lost or being written down which can create errors or delays. If the HIE isn’t working, there’s no information being exchanged with practitioners at the point of care. It can be a black hole if the HIE system is down. Think about the risk of inaccurate or incomplete information, or data not being available, and yet attempting to offer collaborative care? It just doesn’t fly.
Stratus solves these problems with uptime assurance solutions that reduce system downtime and increase patient care effectively and efficiently. And we’re seeing more investments in EHR and HIE including high availability requirements as ambulatory and in patient deployments realize just how important system uptime is to the overall success of their deployments and the overarching goals of healthcare reform.