Be tech savvy
Implementing an electronic medical record (EHR), can aid in efforts to more completely measure patient outcomes, and can help streamline the services offered to patients.
“Telemedicine and technology are two of the areas where small practices really need to step up to the plate,” Serota said.
Plans can be as simple as making patient forms available online to be filled out prior to appointments to reduce wait times, or more complex like configuring EHRs to automatically import patient data from vision, hearing and lab tests directly into the system.
Telemedicine consultations, in which clinicians use video conferencing technology to treat patients in typically underserved populations, like those residing in rural areas, are also becoming more popular.
Another emerging area to watch is wearable health technology to track fitness and patient information. As technology evolves, Serota envisions a future in which clinicians can upload patient data on daily exercise and vitals, like BP and heart rate, from a fit bracelet or other wearable fitness tracker directly into an EHR system.
“If you’re treating a patient who’s overweight and you want to make sure he’s getting his 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, data from a fitness tracker will give you a lot more information to help that patient make good, healthy choices,” Serota said.
Despite these exciting advances, basic challenges still exist. “Universal communication between providers can be difficult,” according to Serota.
She noted that even at her practice, which is affiliated with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, patient information from hospital and specialist visits is still sent via snail mail. Larger improvements in the way EHRs talk to each other would be beneficial for improving patient care.