Physician outreach should be a top EMR priority for 2011

One of your toughest challenges to meeting meaningful use requirements in 2011 won't be technological. Rather, it will involve bringing physicians online with your EHR systems. At the top of your priority list for the new year should be reaching out to physician groups, marketing EHR benefits and building bi-directional functionality into your systems.

Reaching out can mean a major public event to get MDs excited about the possibilities of e-prescribing, online access to patient records, and the like. Or it can mean webinars, conference calls and in-facility mailings touting your EHR's primary benefits, and giving case studies of physicians who've taken advantage.

Just be sure you've targeted some of the benefits that physicians really want, such as system alerts when their patients are admitted to the ER. Also, see which of your existing system capabilities can help physicians satisfy their part of meaningful use requirements. Physicians are hungry for connectivity with other providers such as labs, pharmacies and other physicians, as well as patients, but few have the resources to complete those interfaces. Your hospital patient portal, online lab ordering function, pharmacy module and physician messaging options all could provide a link for affiliated physicians trying to get more plugged in.

Don't just hand over the goodies, though. Many EHRs have been one-way until recently--with hospitals keeping physicians in the loop by sending them lab results, scheduling alerts and report findings. For continuity-of-care and communications requirements, you'll need to build new bi-directional channels for physicians to send patient data back to the hospital. 

Set aside some time (and patience) to pick up after lagging physicians who either stay on paper systems, or only step up to an imaging solution, rather than implementing an actual EHR. The latter is a cheaper option many MDs are considering, and that could cause problems for your interoperability down the road.

Physician-to-physician outreach may be one way to move these folks forward, and to push even your more connected MDs further down the EHR path. Some of your colleagues are making significant progress by creating MD-led education and training programs. Tech-savvy doctors are the perfect choice for explaining to skeptics the benefits of EHR, how it can lead to meaningful use incentive payments, how to integrate EHR into the existing practice workflows and more. - Sara