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physician workflowThe evolution of healthcare technologies has made creating a truly integrated physician workflow a more viable option. With EHR vendors incorporating more and more supplementary technologies within their platform as well as software interfaces that can establish communication between a practice's vendor-specific systems, practices may realize improvements in both productivity and patient care.

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Pros-and-ConsI tend to be cynical about the global benefits of EHR systems. I can vouch for myself that it has made my life easier, and allowed me to care for my patients in a safer, more time-efficient, manner. But I am not the norm. I have always been an "early adopter," and a power user of any  of the EHRs that our practice and community hospital put in place.

I spend time studying and exploring the system as it evolves and becomes more "user friendly," but again, this is unique. ' One thing that has helped me is the fact that I'm extremely tech savvy and work hard to be fluent in MacOS and Windows-based systems, and the software that is applicable to my day-to-day work. The other is my ability to accurately touch type 50 to 60 words per minute, which is not so important in this day and age with enterprise grade medical dictation being rapidly introduced within the EHRs now available.

I have always said that the pace of adoption and increased utility of the EHR is dependent on the skills and abilities of the end user. It doesn't matter how much administrative or  healthcare system pressures providers are under there is a core of group of them who will never be comfortable in a completely digital world. Progress on adoption of EHRs is dependent on this group getting smaller through attrition and retirement.

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Our experts explain the best ways to take your practice into the future.

When it comes to adopting technology, our experts all had a unique perspective on what might aid the process. Here are some wise words on how to handle technology in your practice.

oct 01Dr. John Flucke, DDS: Hire the right people.

“As far as assimilating this technology and bringing it in, I’ve never had problems with that because I’ve always intentionally tried to hire employees who were either tech literate themselves or at least were open minded about learning new things. So I don’t have any employees who are like ‘I don’t like computers’ or ‘I’d rather write it on a piece of paper.’ If you don’t like change, and you don’t like being on the edge and learning about stuff, this is not the place for you.”

Cover story: How technology is changing every aspect of the dental practice

Dr. Jason Watts, DMD: Embrace technology or lose your momentum.

“A lot of people are stagnant. The majority of practices aren’t technologically advanced as of right now because Baby Boomers don’t want to convert from paper records to electronic health records because it costs $25,000 or $30,000 and they’re on the verge of retirement. Who wants to fork over that amount of money right then? But if they’re not growing, they’re dying. If you’re not experimenting with what technology has to offer or at least test-driving the vehicle, you’ll never know how good it feels to drive it.”

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innovThe use of data in healthcare has been hailed as a solution for saving time and dollars and improving patient outcomes for a healthcare organization. However, many health systems have a hard time capturing and using data from patients that can make a real impact on their businesses.

Part of the issue lies in electronic health record (EHR) data, which can provide an incomplete picture of patient behavior, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. EHRs are inadequate in capturing mental health diagnoses, visits, specialty care, hospitalizations, and medication, according to the study by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.

august 02For example, when behavioral healthcare is administered off site, EHRs can miss large amounts of data, which can lead to overprescribing and missed diagnoses. EHRs missed 89% of data for acute psychiatric services, and for those receiving less than two weeks of outpatient care for depression or bipolar disorder, 60% and 54% of care, respectively, according to the study.

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These days, you don't have to look far to find a healthcare organization that touts the importance of treating the "whole" patient. Providers throughout the country strive to include patients' mental and emotional wellbeing when responding to their physical ailments. However, pursuing a holistic approach to patient care is often easier said than done, especially if providers do not have access to information that encompasses a patient's emotional and mental state. It's difficult for primary or specialty care physicians to deliver comprehensive care if they are unaware of a patient's behavioral health condition or mental illness.

The lack of behavioral health information exchange

sept 01Although many physician practices are beginning to participate in health information exchanges (HIEs) to enable well-informed, collaborative care, theyare usually focused on sharing clinical data that provides background on a patient's physical health, including the person's health history, current medication list and any active treatment plans. Very few include behavioral health information, such as data on crisis intervention plans, substance abuse programs or treatment from a mental health provider. Yet these conditions can dramatically impact a patient's treatment adherence. Behavioral health therapies also have the potential to conflict with physical interventions, resulting in medication incompatibilities and other dangerous situations that put patients at risk.

Consider the patient who recently had knee replacement surgery. As the specialist is deciding how to address the patient's pain during recovery, he is unaware that the individual has issues with substance abuse and has been in and out of rehabilitation. The physician prescribes a narcotic for pain, not realizing that it could cause problems for the patient and his or her long-term recovery.

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Looking at how intraoral scanners are changing the way dentistry is done—and the possibilities of care.

august 01For years, dental experts have been telling dentists that intraoral scanners were going to be the wave of the future. That future is now here—the scanners are cheaper than ever, more available than ever and easier to use than ever. But are they worth the investment? Are digital impressions really that much better of a choice than traditional impressions? And will they help you practice better dentistry?