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Usually, patients remain unaware of the demands healthcare technology makes on the time and attention of physicians. The patient may sense the doctor is always rushing and perhaps not spending as much time with them as they would like, but they don’t realize that computerization of the medical office is part of the reason why.

Healthcare providers, for their part, may feel reliance on computer platforms has become excessive—a phenomenon I call over-tech. They may think, “Is all this technology helping me?” Health IT has become a kind of background noise in the practice of medicine, one that is often annoying and disruptive to performance. What happened?

We wanted to replace paper

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have been around for a long time. Originally, they were just computerized replacements of the paper documents used to keep track of patient care.

As paper records transitioned to computer databases, demands placed on the patient chart increased. For example, insurance payers realized that computerized records strengthened their ability to make sure doctors asked patients specific questions and documented the answers.

Administration eclipsed patient care

As the process of computerizing ambulatory care unfolded, more thought was given to the administrative demands of healthcare delivery than to the needs of people who actually care for patients. At NextGen Healthcare, we try to remedy this by developing computer systems and records designed by clinicians for clinicians. We try to harness technology to automate routine, administrative tasks.

But the problem goes deeper. Medicine is highly regulated; many government entities have a say over healthcare, and each one wants care delivered or compensated a certain way. While these entities may have the interest of the public and patients at heart, they contribute to the administrative burden felt by physicians. Next, toss in insurance companies—whose policies often pressure doctors to try to see as many patients as possible.

What to do?

So what can healthcare providers do to turn down the noise?

Make sure you select the right platform. My advice to medical practices: First, make sure you select the right health IT platform for your practice. One that makes it as easy as possible to get information you need to practice and document care.

That the system should make it easy to chart care during an in-person visit is taken for granted. Consider, however, that you may need records from a hospital by the patient the week before—that’s a different computer system. You may need records from their previous doctor—that’s a different computer system or maybe it wasn’t even computerized. Look for a system that can obtain and integrate these records as well and, when possible, bring information to you automatically and even organize it for you.

Get to know your EHR. It continually surprises me that medical practices often don’t grasp the importance of having a solid understanding of the EHR system they use every day. Whether or not you like computers, as a doctor, you’re using this thing 6, 8, 10, 12 hours a day. Do as much as you can to understand how the system works and how you can use it efficiently.

Talk to your EHR vendor, talk to peers who share the same vendor, and go to user conferences. Learn as much about the system as you can. Love it or hate it, the more you know about your EHR, the more efficiently you can use it. Hopefully, you’ll find it less burdensome and more helpful when taking care of patients.

Use your voice. Voice recognition technology gives us ability to decode the human voice. It’s increasingly popular for everyday consumers—think of smart assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Siri, Echo, and Google Assistant. It’s going to be increasingly important for providers who will find opportunities to use this technology to ease their documentation burden.

As one example, a new solution, NextGen® Direct-to-Desktop, allows physicians to use their voice to dictate clinical narratives directly into the EHR. You use your smartphone as a wireless microphone: Speak into it and information is entered into text-based fields in the EHR.

Get on board with mobile. Mobile devices are getting better, faster, and more powerful. NextGen Healthcare continues to add functionality and clinical workflows to its mobile offering—NextGen® Mobile. You may be pleasantly surprised by how many administrative tasks you can tackle with your smartphone or tablet and how much faster and easier it is than the desktop EHR: Here’s the short list:

  • Access your schedule – see what your day looks like the night before
  • Access your task list – take action on clinical tasks, including medication tasks
  • Access the provider approval queue (PAQ) – take action on PAQ items
  • Search and view patient information – including medication lists, lab results, health history, problem lists, images, and documents
  • Take images and upload them to the EHR
  • Sign documents or have a patient sign documents
  • Scan documents and upload them directly into the chart
  • Enter diagnosis codes and charge codes
  • Add, renew, or refill a medication prescription – including prescriptions for controlled substances
  • Text securely with colleagues – both within and outside your clinic
  • Upload chat transcripts to the EHR
  • Dictate patient encounters – even in locations when there is no internet connection

It won’t be long before providers will have the option to use NextGen Mobile as their main documentation solution. Get on board now.

Lower your administrative burden—we can help

Our job at NextGen Healthcare is to produce technology that lowers your administrative burden. Our goal: Turn down the noise that emanates from computers systems in the medical office and the multitude of systems in the healthcare space that don’t do a good job of talking to one another Please reach out to us to find out how NextGen Healthcare can help your practice turn down the noise.

Meet NextGen Ambient Assist, your new AI ally that generates a structured SOAP note in seconds from listening to the natural patient/provider conversation.

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Headshot of Robert L. Murray, PhD, MD, FAAFP
Robert Murry, PhD, MD, FAAFP
Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Robert (Bob) Murry joined NextGen Healthcare in July 2012 and was appointed chief medical officer in December 2021. He brings to this position more than 20 years of extensive clinical experience and background in health IT. Previously, Dr. Murry served as the company’s Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) since May 2017. During his time as CMIO, he was the "Voice-of-the-Physician" ac...