Home  |   Subscribe  |   Resources  |   Reprints  |   Writers' Guidelines

Web Exclusive

Five Ways Clinical Optimization Can Increase Patient Satisfaction
By Glenda Wickus, RN

Once the initial shock of the go-live is over and users have settled into the EMR routine, you will want to consider implementing some of the “bells and whistles” in your systems that can increase patient and end-user satisfaction. These items probably were not included in your basic model system at go-live, so staff and patients probably are not seeing some of the true benefits of an EMR. However, implementing additional functionality is part of clinical optimization, which can benefit your organization in multiple ways.

The following are five ideas to consider:

1. Implement a patient portal. Secure Internet patient portals are an increasingly popular way for patients to access their EMRs. Patients generally can view their medication list, immunization record, lab results, and upcoming appointments. Some portals even allow patients to update their medical history, e-mail questions to their physician’s office, and request prescription refills and appointments. Studies have shown this is a great way to increase patient satisfaction.

2. Utilize health maintenance or best practice alerts. One goal of clinical optimization is to improve patient care. Health maintenance alerts can be built to notify end users when a patient’s normal health maintenance item is due, such as a mammogram or a colonoscopy. Best practice alerts also can be used to tell clinical staff whether a medical condition needs attention, such as an elevated blood pressure or cholesterol level that has changed since the patient’s last visit. These pop-up windows can suggest best practice actions, such as prescribing a new medication or referring the patient to a dietitian. This shows patients and clinical staff one value of having an EMR, leading to greater satisfaction.

3. Allow view-only access to affiliates. Nursing homes, home health organizations, and other affiliates often need to access your mutual patient’s electronic record. Giving them view-only access increases time and efficiency for everyone (ie, clinical staff, affiliate staff, and patients). It also decreases delays in patient care caused by waiting for call backs or faxing chart items that easily can be found in the EMR.

4. Incorporate patient instructions into your after-visit summaries. Most EMRs have good patient instruction materials that are valuable but often underutilized. Including them in after-visit summaries is a move toward using your EMR to its full potential. Educated patients also are usually more satisfied with their care.

5. Build order sets for common visit types. Easy access to order sets for common visit types allows clinical staff to navigate more seamlessly through the patient visit. For example, if the routine age-specific immunizations are available within an order set during a well child visit, the provider easily can discuss the needed vaccines with the parent and then order them. This increases satisfaction for both the provider and patient, as they see the advantage of having the age-appropriate orders ready and waiting for that patient during the visit.

Implementing some or all of these items will increase user and patient satisfaction and allow them to see an EMR’s true value, and also may bring meaningful use incentive money.

There are many more examples of clinical optimization, including improving workflows and processes. The functionality that is implemented after the basic build can make the difference between user dissatisfaction and satisfaction. Each organization must decide which functions are most beneficial and build a strategy around the planning of these executions. It is worth the effort.

— Glenda Wickus, RN, is a senior consultant for Hayes Management Consulting, with more than 10 years of experience implementing EMRs.