Ophthalmology Software Trends for 2019

by Michael B. Rivers, MD | , ,

Predictions for changes in ophthalmology EHRs and beyond

Trends shift and change over time due to a variety of factors. There have and will continue to be trends in treatments, surgery styles and devices used. The same rings true when it comes to ophthalmology software. Some of these changes happen slowly and over time and others more rapidly, as needs from ophthalmologists shift in addition to the constantly evolving landscape of healthcare as a whole. Based on my experience as both a retina surgeon and working for a leading healthcare technology vendor, here’s what I foresee as the year progresses.

1. Subspecialty-specific workflows will increase in importance

As all ophthalmic subspecialties have very different workflows, the need for an ophthalmology EHR system with subspecialty capabilities will continue to grow. You want to institute an ophthalmology EHR that has a built-in and customizable encyclopedia of content for your subspecialty whether that is cataract & refractive, glaucoma, retina, oculoplastics or pediatrics.

Retina specialists are just one of the many subspecialties our ophthalmology EHR system, EMA™, comes equipped with. As it is tailored to the workflow associated with retinal disease patients, it helps make for efficient documentation. One example of this includes the ability to create Protocols, or “master visits,” to instantly document and code new diagnoses, plans and visits, such as central retinal vein occlusion OD or a 1-day post-op retinal tear OS.

2. A one-stop ophthalmology software shop moves to the top of the list

Streamlined practices have placed increased value on opting for a single healthcare IT vendor, especially as their locations expand. Instead of choosing a vendor that solely sells an EHR system, and another that specializes in practice management systems, practices more often than not will prefer a company which can provide a single integrated solution.

A combined offering of an ophthalmology EHR, ophthalmology practice management system,ophthalmic image management, analytics and ophthalmology billing capabilities with revenue cycle management can help streamline your practice. It eliminates the need to pay for related bridges or toggle between separate logins. This can help improve how you use these tools in your practice and can lead to increased efficiencies. Additionally, an ophthalmic image management solution that can provide access to your patient records and diagnostic images helps to really complete the all-in-one offering.

Ideally, this suite of ophthalmology software should be offered as a cloud-based solution versus a physical server. A cloud ophthalmology software model can help you scale your practice—whether adding on new providers or expanding locations—and could help provide added mobility and flexibility both in and out of the exam room and office.

Opting for an integrated healthcare IT solution under one umbrella has its perks.

3. Tools to enhance patient engagement won’t slow down anytime soon

Did you know that on average, healthcare leaders and clinicians believe that just 34 percent of their patients are highly engaged1? In my opinion, this indicates room for improvement when it comes to patient engagement. Modern technology can help your patients become more involved in their own care—plus, your practice will benefit, too. It can differentiate you from the competition and make a lasting impression on a patient, even instilling trust.

A survey of over 12,000 patients found that the more technology the physician is perceived as using to manage the patient’s healthcare, the higher the trust level patients have in their provider2. You should use this to your advantage—and you may even benefit from online reviews from happy patients and create ambassadors for your practice.

One facet of engaging your patients relies on patient education. Rendia, educational software which can interface with ophthalmology EHRs, blends together clinical art with interactive technology to bridge the communication gap between doctor and patient—making for a more engaged and informed patient. It can help you stand out from other ophthalmology practices in the surrounding area, too.

Technology doesn’t stop there. From an iPad EHR, patient portal, iPad check-in kiosk, and patient appointment reminders, patient engagement capabilities and tools should be part of the equation when evaluating a potential health IT vendor. Look for tools that will help you optimize the experience for everyone and place your patients’ experiences at the top of the list and help you reduce no-show rates.

For instance, a patient portal enables a patient to check and update medical records, access test results and send your office private messages. It helps patients to better manage their own healthcare at their convenience.

Instituting an iPad kiosk in your waiting room can help eliminate the paperwork shuffle that comes along with a not so modern clipboard and stack of papers. It helps speed up the check-in process for both patients and staff alike and eliminates data reentry while decreasing the chance for human error. Plus, in the environmentally conscience world we live in, many patients will appreciate that bonus benefit, too. It lends itself to another differentiating factor for your practice. Perks all around!

With busy schedules and the flood of information we all receive on a daily basis, the ability to send a friendly-reminder for an upcoming appointment via multiple communication touchpoints, even text, can inform patients of scheduled appointments or provide the option to cancel and reschedule as needed. It demonstrates stellar customer service on your end while helping to reduce your staff’s workload making phone calls and can help reduce your no-show rate.

Responsiveness, strong customer services and a personalized experience can all factor into who a patient decides to go to (and return to) when selecting an ophthalmologist. Employing robust patient engagement tools can help your practice excel in these areas.

To help solidify this point, a 2017 cross-sectional study on chronic disease patients found that the quality of the doctor/patient relationship significantly impacted the patient activation level, which, in turn, impacted patients’ reported medication adherence. The researchers concluded that patient engagement may play an important mediating role in improving activation and treatment adherence.3 Yet one more reason I predict the use and adoption of patient engagement tools and tech will steadily increase.

The synergy between your ophthalmology EHR and patient engagement tools will help benefit all parties involved—patient, staff and provider.

4. EHR integration with diagnostic devices is crucial

Centralizing image management to support clinical decisions when and where you need them is critical. Make sure your ophthalmology EHR system allows access to images from diagnostic devices directly from your EHR with just a few clicks. Such functionality would enable you to connect with many ophthalmic imaging devices. You could add images and reports into your patient’s chart quickly, access your patient’s imaging studies in one place, and compare current and past images side by side.

5. Accessibility to knowledge at your fingertips

Your ophthalmic software should help you centralize the clinical, financial and operational aspects of your practice with a single, integrated system to help expand decision making capabilities and aid with changing regulations. A few examples of this could include system-generating suggested coding, capturing Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) data within an exam, and gaining insights into the administrative, provider and financial analytics of your practice.

Let’s take a look at system-generated suggested coding. Some ophthalmology EHR systems have the functionality to capture levels of risk, medical-decision making, review of systems and data points relevant to MIPS measures without adding time or clicks to the process. Using such data, the software can suggest ICD-10, CPT and modifier codes, as it compares E&M and eye codes, helps generate templates for use when drafting notes, initiates the billing process and displays estimated MIPS scores. These capabilities can help us as physicians create the documentation needed to bill and code for services, all while finishing charting before our patient leaves.

Another ties into the changing landscape of value-based care and MIPS. I alluded to this in the above paragraph as the ability for your EHR’s MIPS solution to gather, track, benchmark and submit your MIPS reporting data inside your EHR with minimal additional steps. Since value-based care isn’t going away anytime soon, access to data can help enhance cost-effectiveness and give you time back to focus on what you do best, treating patients.

An additional crucial component of making data-driven decisions includes an integrated analytics solution. What if you had a clearer picture into the administrative, provider and financial data from your practice? And you could drill down from the enterprise, to provider and even patient level to get answers to questions you’ve been wondering and couldn’t easily track on paper? For example, an ophthalmology EHR system that captures structured data along with a robust analytics solution should help answer questions such as:

  • Which diabetic patients have missed their retinopathy check-ups?
  • Which of my patients were evaluated for an elective ophthalmic procedure like Lasik but did not undergo it?
  • Which referring physician sent my ophthalmology practice the most patients this year?
  • How do my costs compare to national benchmarks?

The right technology can provide assistance when it comes to the decision-making for your practice. Automation of tasks while capturing structured and actionable data within an EHR system can make a world of difference.

6. Mobile-friendly software options preferred

In this world of immediate gratification and connectivity, the expectations and demands from patients have increased. Patient care has certainly expanded outside of the exam room with patients expecting more immediate access to their physician. An iPad ophthalmology EHR system can help enhance your mobility in the office, enabling you to face your patients as you treat and educate them. Compared to facing a computer screen to type, this results in an improved patient interaction. The doctor-patient relationship is a sacred one and should not be taken lightly.

Additionally, having a cloud EHR platform will give you access to your patient records virtually wherever you have an internet connection. Plus, having a mobile app version for your EHR, ours is called PocketEMA™, you’ll have another option to easily reference important patient information while on the go.

Some trends can be fleeting and seen as what’s “vogue” at a given point in time, however, based on my experience I believe the trends discussed in this post will hold true for quite some time. They, however, will continue to evolve as the industry does and shift to meet the changing needs and demands of providers and patients alike.

See how you can achieve a healthier practice with modmed® Ophthalmology

[1] NEJM Catalyst, 2016

[2] Black Book, 2017

[3] Graffigna G, Barello S, Bonanomi A. The role of Patient Health Engagement Model (PHE-model) in affecting patient activation and medication adherence: A structural equation model. Plos One. 2017;12(6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0179865.

Michael B. Rivers, MD

Michael B. Rivers, MD

Director, EMA Ophthalmology

Dr. Michael B. Rivers is the Director of EMA Ophthalmology. In this role, he helps Modernizing Medicine evolve the ophthalmology platform by combining his years of experience as a board-certified ophthalmologist and retina surgeon with his expertise implementing and using the EMA EHR system at the Retina Group of Washington (RGW). Michael speaks with physician users, listens to their needs and communicates them to the development, customer success and other teams at Modernizing Medicine. 

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