I’m a medical assistant in Dr. Karen Allen’s dermatology practice in San Luis Obispo, California. Our small practice of three – one doctor and two medical assistants – specializes in Mohs surgery, but does plenty of general dermatology as well. In June 2012, we relocated our practice and decided to transition from paper charts to a specialty-specific electronic medical record (EMR) system.
We implemented EMA Dermatology™ EMR over a year ago. I’m not the most tech-savvy person, so despite my initial misgivings about the change, I’m happy to report that our office now runs extremely efficiently thanks to EMA™.
In our office, the other medical assistant and I do everything from checking patients in and out, scribing for the doctor, assisting in procedures, answering phones and billing. We run a lean operation while maintaining high quality care due to the streamlined office workflow we’ve developed.
After I room a patient, Dr. Allen enters the exam room. Together, we care for the patient; she examines and narrates what she’s doing, and I scribe on EMA via the iPad as we go, take photos and accomplish other tasks. When the doctor leaves the room, I check the patient out, collect payment and schedule the next appointment. Our patients feel as if Dr. Allen has spent more time with them because I’ve been in the exam room before, during and after the visit.
EMA has streamlined our workflow in a number of ways. Our notes get done so much faster than if the doctor and I had to handwrite them into paper charts. Patient education is simpler too; we used to have three different counseling handouts. Now, we have standard counseling notes in EMA that we customize and print out for each patient. Most of our patients are elderly, so they appreciate the personalized details. The ability to send prescriptions electronically has also been a real timesaver.
Modernizing Medicine’s incredible support team is always available by phone during our office hours, but when I have a question, I prefer to go to the online portal, EMA Central™. When I start entering the subject of an email, possible answers are suggested. I’ve often received the answer to my question right then, which has not only cut down on the number of emails I’ve needed to send, but I also get an immediate answer.
The biggest “lesson learned” from my experiences so far is that the doctor and the scribe need to learn to communicate well in the exam room. I would also advise MAs not to get stressed out if you can’t keep up with the doctor. I’ve made little shortcuts to help myself, like jotting down details using the sticky note feature, which doesn’t populate in a patient’s chart, or sending myself a quick intramail message with information that I can include in the chart later. Dr. Allen moves very quickly, and thanks to these shortcuts I can always keep up with her.
We often take credit when our patients say, “this office is like a well-oiled machine”, even though much of our efficiency is due to EMA. Our staff has different comfort levels with computers, but all of us have been able to use EMA proficiently in a short amount of time. If you’re like us, you’ll use EMA for six months, and then find yourself wondering how you ever managed without it.
The AuthorLinda Whitacre
Medical Assistant to Karen D. Allen, MD