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Using an EMR is an important choice for your urgent care. The software you choose defines not only workflow needs but also helps facilitate your entire patient experience. Your clinic staff’s job satisfaction is also directly affected by the EMR you select—as they use the software day in and day out.

Whether you’re in the process of adopting an EMR or would simply like to refine your existing EMR use, there are universal best practices that can help guide your adoption rate—no matter what EMR you’re using. As an EMR company, we’ve discovered some helpful tips throughout the years. Here are a few good rules of thumb to get the most from your EMR:

1. Define (or redefine) clinical workflow first

Most people start with the EMR itself, but we say start one step before that. Define your clinical workflow first. Then add your desired workflow for each patient scenario into the EMR. It’s the EMR’s job to work for you, not the other way around. Sure, you’ll need to update workflow when you add an EMR, but that doesn’t mean you need to lose efficiency.

On the contrary, an EMR should make you more efficient. You know how you want to practice medicine, so map out your existing workflow first. Focus on defining most common patient cases, then modify for outlying cases. Then ask yourself and your staff, “Are these the steps we need?”

2. Implement workflow steps into the EMR

Now, add your steps into your EMR. If you’re setting up your EMR for the first time, be aware configuration might take a little bit. But once you have your basic patient visit types, diagnosis lists, and prescription preferences in place, your visits will go much smoother. If you’re auditing, this is a perfect time to examine procedures or documentation processes that you could cut (see tip 1). Of course, choosing a flexible EMR that lets you customize steps is helpful, especially if your clinic has specialty services.

3. Have an on-going EMR training program

Learning a new EMR can be challenging. And every one of your staff learn differently. Make sure your EMR has a complete training program to get staff up to speed learning the different parts of your EMR. While on-site training is ideal and usually offered up front when you first choose an EMR, see if your EMR vendor offers continuous training programs or tutorial options for teaching on-board staff as you hire.

In addition to having support from your EMR vendor, you should also designate advance software users to help train staff. Advanced users can receive more in-depth EMR training—then share this knowledge quickly will other staff as questions arise. Having a training program, and advanced software users, is vital to on-going efficient staff use of your EMR.

4. Set up provider templates in the EMR

While similar to tip 2, this step deserves specific call out. Provider templates are the basis for the entire EMR process. Setting up templates in the EMR means you can select each provider’s (or clinic’s) preferences for triage workflow through the chart. If you’re not creating templates, you’re not taking advantage of the EMR’s power of standardizing steps for staff.

You’ll spend more time (and frustration) filling out unique templates for each patient visit. Again, this is especially useful if your clinic has specialty services or programs. Stock templates are great to start, but real efficiency gains come from clinic (or provider) specific templates.

5. Define who’s responsible for completing EMR sections

Let’s talk nitty-gritty. Who is going to do what? It helps your triage staff to know exactly what screens they are responsible for filling out in the EMR. Will the nurse do vitals? Will the provider document chief complaints? Will the medical assistant enter the lab results? Remember, to attest for Meaningful Use, a provider is required to fill out certain EMR sections versus a nurse or medical assistant.

6. Create a clear process for completing documentation and locking charts

Nothing slows down billing more than incomplete documentation. To keep your days to bill down, set a process for reviewing and completing charts in the EMR. Require providers to complete their charts before their shift is over. Use reminder alerts when possible. Have your head physician and medical director review charts—and send back to providers if updates or clarification is needed. Have a standard timeline and clear delegation for chart reviews, and stick to it.

Putting your EMR to work for you is vital for software adoption and successful clinical use. If you start with your needs first, then add those to the EMR, you’ll achieve a much higher satisfaction rating with your EMR. If your EMR is forcing you to do steps you don’t need to, see if you can customize software to fit your workflow better. If you’re curious how to make better use of your EMR, contact your software provider. They’ll likely have best practices, quick tips, and workflow audit options to help you maximize the use of your EMR.

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