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Change requires a willingness to challenge the status quo for the sake of improvement. The past several decades, the urgent care industry itself was born from this exact notion—the need for patients to have better, immediate access to care. Now, urgent cares are feeling the transition of change as the industry switches from the long-held medical standard of paper charting to electronic medical recording.

Most urgent cares have adopted an electronic medical record (EMR) software in the past few years—or a hybrid version of EMR combined with paper charting. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, 79.9% of centers in 2012 were using technology in the areas of medical records, e-prescribing, protocol and lab management, and clinical guidelines.1 A driving factor for urgent cares’ adoption of EMRs is Meaningful Use incentive programs, promoted by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009.

This switch in patient data recording has challenged providers into a new way of thinking—how to document without paper. This digital revolution is transforming traditional healthcare processes and re-inventing them in a new medium. EMRs present new advantages unavailable before, such as real-time data and safety alerts. However, EMRs also pose the need to bridge the world of the past with that of the future.

How does an urgent care go from paper to electronic in a smooth manner? The switch itself is as much mental acceptance as it is learning a new physical routine. As an EMR vendor, we know the most successful transitions take place with clinics that focus on the improvements ” and fully commit to change.

Here is the first practical tip to help your urgent care make the switch from paper to an EMR:

Tip #1: Plan Ahead and Involve Staff from All Roles

Planning makes everything smoother. Once your urgent care has decided to switch, it’s important to lay out a plan to transfer your current workflow to a digital format. Look at your workflow and envision what that will look like without paper. Remove every piece of the paper in your process—from registration through billing—and see what that requires your staff to do and re-learn. Scanners, tablets, and computers will become your staff’s go-to tools.

During the beginning stages of switching, include staff from each department of your clinic in the process of converting—so each role has a voice and can lead excitement for the change. Designate super users in the EMR so department leaders can champion changes in the EMR that better the whole workflow. Train staff to be mentally ready to remove the paper crutch from daily tasks. Envision the computer or tablet as the new clipboard.

Discuss with staff the new needs for communication that an EMR will present. Rather than paper changes triggering workflow tasks, staff need to look for updates within the software to know the next steps to take in the patient visit. Training on digital documentation, per staff role, also ensures procedures are followed for HIPPA compliance—and helps visits be coded and billed correctly.

Consider the implications using an EMR will have on your billing team, as they’re likely not using a fully paper system. Ensure the EMR and/or practice management data will be transferred to your billers smoothly so reimbursements and revenue stays on track.

Be sure and read the rest of the tips so you can learn how to switch from paper to electronic medical records. Download our free white paper.

Looking to make the switch from paper to electronic medical records? Take a look at DocuTAP’s cloud-based, tablet-run EMR and revenue cycle management services designed specifically for urgent care clinics.

1. Urgent Care Benchmarking Study (2012). Urgent Care Association of America.

2. MLN Matters. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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