I recently had an opportunity to speak with David Willis, M.D., who is a family practice physician in Ocala, Fla., about his experience with the electronic health record. The timing of our conversation was good: Willis has worked with the EHR (actually an integrated EHR and practice management solution from Greenway Medical Technologies, Inc.) for about two years, making him a relatively new user, but also one with substantial experience. Willis gave his perspective as someone running a small family practice, which consists of himself and a nurse practitioner.
In his practice, Willis uses the core EHR and practice management solutions. He has been gradually expanding to other solutions in the package, including electronic appointment notification (which he says has been received well by his patients), and becoming involved in research trials. At the time we spoke, Willis was about to get started on a four-year diabetes trial. That trial will be “tracking what we all do and getting a baseline for what is being accomplished,” he explains. The EHR collates and pulls the information to the research team, so will not require extra work on the part of his practice, he says. While he will get some reimbursement for his participation, the real value is that he will be at the forefront of understanding the results, he says.
To me, Willis’s experience demonstrated the power of an EHR to extend the reach of a practice with limited resources. “I don’t have a lot of resources in my office, and we are busy enough just getting through the day,” he says, adding that “it’s a challenge for us to take on these opportunities.”
In addition to the applications themselves, Willis also spoke of his experience with training and implementation. Willis pointed to two strengths, drawn from his own experience. One was vendor support: “They recommend a lot of training time and implementation time and they worked hard at that,” he said. He also said that training used local experts and implementers “so we can tailor the training process and the implementation process to what we know works in our community,” he said. “That has worked to our community’s advantage for all of the other doctors who are coming on behind us.”
Willis also said one of the strengths of his implementation was access to a strong template system. “And the templates are sharable, so I can create a template and email it to a colleague, and implement it in someone else’s practice,” he said. While he acknowledged that everyone saves things a little differently, so it takes some work to be fluent in the way someone else uses the system, “the opportunity and availability is there,” he said. He advises vendors to enable their clients to share key features that they have made use of. “It’s hard to herd doctors to do anything, but I would love to see that happen more, because they are completely capable of it,” he said.