A Reason to Love, not Hate, One’s EMR

Many surgeons dislike electronic medical records systems — often for good reasons — but here's a pro tip on getting more efficiency out of now widely used EMR system

CORRelations staff regularly visits with leaders at efficient practices to learn about the innovations, modifications, or upgrades that have made big differences.

This week, CORRelations spoke with Kwadwo Owusu-Akyaw, MD, a Sports Medicine specialist at OrthoVirginia. OrthoVirginia is a large, independent private practice with over 140 orthopaedic specialists throughout the state of Virginia. OrthoVirginia is the official medical provider for the Washington Commanders National Football League (NFL) team.

CORRelations: What’s been the biggest game-changer for your practice in the last year or two?

Kwadwo Owusu-Akyaw, MD: Like many large healthcare organizations, we have been using the Epic electronic health records system for several years. However, recently, our practice has made a concerted effort to utilize Epic's “MyChart” functionality more consistently. MyChart has transformed the patient-provider relationship in a positive way for surgeons, staff, and patients.

CORRelations: Why are you so excited about it?

Dr. Owusu-Akyaw: Our goal as physicians is to share the decision-making process with patients as much as possible. This can be difficult to achieve with short in-person clinic visits. MyChart has allowed us to extend the patient-provider conversation, shifting the focus away from individual points of care in favor of an ongoing relationship over time. On a basic level, the MyChart application allows for rapid written communication, like an online chat or text thread.  At OrthoVirginia, we have been using the app for even more comprehensive interactions, such as sharing technique videos, current literature, or even home exercise programs with patients. Efficient use of MyChart takes some of the pressure off the in-person visit, because information and critical knowledge can be shared throughout the relationship, and not just when patients are in the office.

CORRelations: How has it worked out?

Like any paradigm shift, the key to success is buy-in. This is true for physicians as well as their patients. From the surgeon's standpoint, learning about the depth of the possibilities for patient interactions through MyChart was key to getting me to invest in the application.  Once many of us saw how much it improved the patient experience, it was easier and easier to get physicians to use it regularly. For this to work on the patient side, there must be consistent messaging from the organization to encourage them to sign up.  After all, we are asking them to take on another app, which comes with another log-in and password they have to remember.  Explaining to patients how useful MyChart is made a big difference.  We continue to work on how best to use this tool, but it already has drastically improved our capacities for shared decision-making and efficient patient communication.

[Editor's Note: Neither CORRelations nor Dr. Owusu-Akyaw have financial or other relationships with any EMR manufacturers.]

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