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Finding Technology That Supports My Orthopedic Practice Today and Tomorrow

by Deanna Boyette, MD

Becoming a physician is a long journey of perseverance, one we are all familiar with. With that long journey well behind me, I’m engaged in another, somewhat unexpected set of challenges: I’m here in my solo orthopedic practice figuring out how to make myself a more efficient physician while meeting government mandates, running a cost-efficient practice, and trying to maintain a balance between family life and career.

Just before I opened my orthopedics office in 2010, I knew one thing for certain: I wanted to work digitally. And not just any quick technology fix would do. I knew I needed solutions that understood the types of patient cases I see as an orthopedist, and could deliver workflows that would help keep my practice in business. I needed…

  • A streamlined way to share and access patient information that integrates directly into other orthopedic care settings; a paperless office where I could access the x-rays that correspond with patient charts electronically, from a variety of locations including the hospital, my home office, and wherever I may be traveling. My office takes x-rays for anywhere between 20-40 patients each day and when we don’t take films, we still need to be able to access outside films involving CT and MRI, among others, electronically.
  • Financial stability to stay independent as a solo physician, and, when ready, add a second physician who will also be able to thrive in these times.
  • Ability to move through my encounters efficiently and not be held up by technology. This means pulling up a patient record on the computer and being able to enter data while talking—and making eye contact—with the patient. This is extremely important to me.
  • The ability for my patients to view their records with me during the encounter, and to make them available through a patient portal.

In my mind, and for my needs, the key to any health IT solution is that the technology must keep pace with industry demands and our specific care delivery needs – of course, what my orthopedic practice requires from a solution isn’t necessarily what a cardiologist or family physician may need. For example, I need templates to make sure I am touching all the pertinent things for history of injury so that the insurance company will approve my recommended tests or treatments ordered, and, ultimately, pay for them. Most visits to orthopedic practices are due to accidents (MVA, work injury [workers comp], sports injury, etc.) and certain insurance carriers require information like exact date of injury, state of injury, etc., so having templates in HPI means my schedulers have that data to expedite testing, such as an MRI. Also, orders and tests sent daily to certain other health provider partners, such labs, can be saved to come up automatically as a first choice. This functionality in the technology helps my practice stay efficient.

I have a health IT partner that listens, is flexible and positions itself technologically to make adjustments and be reactive in a quick manner. They also think into the future, which is important to me because I think into the future too. I have big hopes and dreams for technology advancement: I imagine that one day an encounter will include voice and video recording, which I can then edit and consolidate the spoken data into a chart form, negating our need for any specific dictation. This documentation would occur as we analyze physical and history and test data during the encounter while we simultaneously discuss options with the patient. All of this then becomes part of the medical record. Not only would this future vision satisfy the efficiencies we caregivers all so desperately need more of, but help us give our patients as much of our attention as possible. And that’s where this journey of medicine is its most rewarding.

I think technology is on the way to offering physicians the chance to do as we once did, see the patient at the center of all we do.

The possibilities are endless.

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I encourage all those on the fence about attending athenahealth’s annual User Conference this April to seriously consider it. I attended last year and really learned from the networking opportunities that the conference provides and I gained good insight from the sessions as well. A few in particular that stood out were the Meaningful Use and specialty coding sessions. I highly recommend them!

Dr. Boyette is an athenahealth client, the founder of Boyette Orthopedics & Sports Medicine and Boarded in both Orthopedic surgery and sports medicine.

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