Davies winner: EMR an asset, not an expense

By Richard Pizzi
12:00 AM
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PLANO, TX – When Christopher Crow, MD, opened his two-physician family practice here in 2001, he decided to maintain his patient records the “old paper way.”

But after studying other industries, such as aviation and banking, Crow concluded that healthcare “had glaring deficiencies that cried out for automation.” Two years later, his practice implemented electronic medical records, and has enjoyed financial and quality improvements ever since.

As a result of its achievements, Crow’s practice – Village Health Partners – was honored with a 2007 Davies Award in the ambulatory care category from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Village Health will receive its award at the HIMSS08 Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando.

“An EMR software package is an asset to a practice, not an expense,” said Crow. “It’s very important to recognize that. It’s part of the toolkit you need in order to be more efficient and run a better business. This technology should help doctors generate income and get a return on their investment.”

The annual HIMSS Nicholas E. Davies Awards recognize excellence in the implementation and use of healthcare information technology. Joining Village Health Partners as 2007 winners in the ambulatory care category is the Valdez Family Clinic of San Antonio, Texas.

 

“The number of applicants in the ambulatory care category continues to grow each year,” said David Collins, senior manager of the Davies Award program. “The industry recognizes the importance of these awards. The review committee spends a lot of time on the site visits going through a finalist’s workflow before voting on winners.”

Collins said the committee recognized immediately that Village Health was a very “forward-thinking” practice, with an entrepreneurial spirit.

The practice has expanded to larger offices, and now employs seven physicians.

“They run a pretty efficient ship,” Collins said. “Christopher is a ‘super-user’ of the system, and has been a national leader on GE’s Centricity EMR. The practice does lots of electronic messaging between patients and physicians, and they manage a lot of their administrative work through the EMR and practice management system.”

Indeed, Village Health has never employed a practice administrator – a fact of which Crow is particularly proud.

“We’ve cut our staff per provider ratio in half since implementation,” said Crow. “While you do get less productive during the transition to an EMR, we saw lots of clinical efficiencies within a few months. Our system gives us decision support at the point-of-care, and we have begun to proactively manage patients’ health rather than waiting for them to come into the office.”

Crow admits transitioning to an EMR may be challenging for physicians, as doctors are not taught “change management” in medical school. But he says the move is worth the struggle.

“Physicians are very single-minded, we fall into patterns,” Crow said. “You can do more with an EMR, but to succeed there must be a physician champion. The leadership necessary to take an organization through a change process must come from the top.”