— Deborah Lehmann, MD, SimplyGyn
Community Medical Group of Downey is a medical practice in the Los Angeles area. Founded in 1993, the office has three physicians, 12 additional staff, and over 7200 patients.
Managing paper charts was extremely work-intensive, and specific charts were hard to track down when physicians or staff needed them. The filing backlog was lengthy, and it was often difficult to match charts with filings.
The group purchased and implemented Amazing Charts v4 Electronic Health Record system for under $5,000 in total.
Community Medical Group of Downey is a thriving medical practice in a city of 110,000 located in Southeast Los Angeles County, California. Their medical approach is to treat the “whole person” instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses. They also focus on preventive care to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital. Special services include same-day appointments, a bi-lingual staff, and Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT).
After decades in operation, the practice had amassed thousands of patient charts, and by 2006, the charts had become a significant obstacle to keeping the office running smoothly.
“We have an expression in our office – paper charts have legs,” says Dr. Martin Sechrist. “How else can you explain the fact that a patient’s chart is never exactly where you want, exactly when you really need it? The process of managing paper charts was extremely work-intensive, and our filing backlog lengthy because it was so difficult for the staff to match charts with filings.”
After seeing a live demonstration of Amazing Charts electronic health record (EHR) software at a medical conference, Dr. Sechrist was intrigued.
“Compared with all the other EHR systems we were evaluating, Amazing Charts was the only one that made sense to me intuitively,” he recalls. “The total cost of ownership was a fraction of what other vendors wanted to charge, and Dr. Bertman had a refreshingly honest attitude that impressed us.”
The practice downloaded a three-month full-working trial version of the latest software from the AmazingCharts.com website.
“It was easy to learn Amazing Charts because the workflow mirrored the way we conduct patient encounters,” says Dr. Sechrist. “In January 2007, we purchased three user licenses, yearly maintenance, and the remote data backup service. We didn’t need additional hardware, networking gear, training, or anything else. Within a few weeks, the entire practice and office staff was using Amazing Charts with ease.”
With Amazing Charts software, the Community Medical Group of Downey is creating electronic health records for all of its patients. The medical records are stored in a secured database on-site, which is also backed up nightly to the Amazing Charts Off-Site Backup service. Each patient's electronic medical record can be "pulled" from any computer in the office, or even remotely.
In addition to efficiently documenting a patient encounter or telephone call, Amazing Charts makes immediately available all patient demographics, imported items, and a patient summary of current issues, medications, and prior encounters. Laboratory results are imported directly into the electronic medical record thanks to data-level integration between Quest and Amazing Charts. The EHR also supports the internal billing function by automatically generating and storing an electronic "super-bill" whenever a note is signed.
Other benefits of the Amazing Charts solution include:
One of the biggest benefits of Amazing Charts is the flexibility with which different physicians can use it. At the Community Medical Group of Downey, each doctor has her/his own approach to being “paperless.” Dr. Sechrist still uses paper folders to receive patients, check vital signs, and track what exam rooms are in use, but everything else is recorded electronically. His associate, Dr. Donna Wong, is completely paperless. In her case, the front desk codes the room number at the top of the note when one of her patients is received.
A third physician, Dr. Mark Schneider, recently named 2009 Physician of the Year by the Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of California (OPSC), has everything printed out before the patient arrives and then the data is stored electronically afterward.
From a patient’s perspective, having an electronic medical record allows the practice to deliver more consistent care. Additionally, it takes just a few button clicks to send the critical pieces of a patient's record to an emergency room physician if the need arises. Similarly, Amazing Charts allows the practice to give more comprehensive information to a specialist when a consultation is requested.
With a simple “app” on his Apple iPhone, Dr. Sechrist can open his office’s Amazing Charts system from anywhere he has 3G coverage.
“Last night, the local hospital’s Emergency Room called my home, and rather than bother to turn on my computer at home, I pulled out my iPhone and had the patient chart open by the time the ER doctor came to the phone,” recalls Dr. Sechrist. “The iPhone app is absolutely awesome.”
According to Dr. Sechrist, “With Amazing Charts, a patient’s chart is ubiquitously available to us whenever we want it. This is the biggest single impact on my organization. Literally hours are saved each day and efficiency is increased by an order of magnitude compared to the old paper system.”
For the Community Medical Group of Downey, the elimination of the filing backlog and the ubiquitous availability of charts has been the key to both monetary savings and a more efficient practice.
“Clearly, Amazing Charts is saving us a lot of money, and we have achieved a positive ROI,” Dr. Sechrist concludes. “But it is more important for my fellow physicians to understand that we would purchase Amazing Charts all over again, even if it cost us more to do it.”