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Three electronic conveniences also help with EHR requirements

A Columbus, MS, pediatrics practice has added three electronic items that not only provide convenience for patients but give the office EHR meaningful use credit.

First is online bill paying. That’s provided through the office’s billing service, says Sabrina McDow, CEO of Children’s Health Center of Columbus. The invoices give a website for the online payments, but because the statements carry the office’s mailing address, it looks like the payment is being made directly to the practice.

The online payments have been available for only three months, but the office is already seeing good response.

Second is a registration kiosk, and that too is new. In fact, it’s not even completed yet.

It allows patients to fill out the intake form, update the information currently on file, and also sign off on having read the policies the office gives out every year. “That’s far less time consuming than filling out papers,” McDow says.

The office plans to extend the check-in counter several feet and place a laptop at each end. Patients will stand to use the laptops, and that’s for two reasons. One is that if patients have questions, they can carry the laptop to the receptionist. The other is a space issue – there’s not room for a separate table with chairs.

Also, she says, the laptops won’t be attached to the counter so patients will be able to take them to their seats to use them.

The third convenience is online appointment requests. Parents can request a specific appointment time or give a general preference such as Wednesday morning. There’s also a place for notes such as that the child is sick or needs a school physical exam.

The form gathers all the information needed for the appointment and again, allows parents to update the current information.

The requests go to McDow, the front office supervisor, and the two receptionists. McDow prints them out and gives them to the supervisor who then assigns them to one of the front desk staff. A printout is necessary “because the front office people get caught up checking people in,” and it’s easy for an e-mail to go ignored. The supervisor “is responsible for seeing that callbacks are done immediately,” and if nobody is at the front desk when a request comes in, the callback and schedule entry are her responsibility.

An added benefit: the electronic registration and appointment scheduling are part of the management system. And that allows the office to meet one of the EHR meaningful use requirements, which is that patients can get electronic copies of their records.

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