Angie Walker Explains How Health IT Helped a Small Practice Improve Health Care Quality
Angie Walker is Office Manager of the Randy D. Walker, MD Clinic, a private family practice with one physician, two licensed practical nurses, and two medical assistants. Ms. Walker played a critical role in implementing an electronic health record (EHR) system in the practice, which serves more than 5,000 patients in De Queen, Arkansas.
Overcoming Challenges to Provide High-Quality Health Care
A major challenge facing Ms. Walker and her practice was the lack of standard approaches for caring for the practice’s patients. Variation among the practice’s patients with regard to income, race, and native language made it difficult for Ms. Walker and her colleagues to provide high-quality care. Ms. Walker described the practice as needing “a workflow to ensure patients receive recommended diagnostic tests and follow-up care.”
To help the practice standardize its care approaches, the staff physician and nurses agreed on a set of clinical guidelines for the practice’s ten most frequently seen conditions. The guidelines standardize diagnostic criteria and patient follow-up schedules. Ms. Walker’s practice convenes a weekly risk management meeting, and uses the clinical guidelines and their EHR system to monitor whether patients are achieving disease management goals, getting required diagnostic testing, and receiving necessary care. Using patient lists, Ms. Walker and the clinical staff are able to quickly identify which patients need follow-up care based on the clinical guidelines.
EHRs Improve Health Care Quality
By using its EHR system, Ms. Walker’s practice has improved its ability to track blood pressure and other chronic disease indicators, and has developed standardized strategies for caring for their patients and improving health care quality. “EHRs can play an important role in improving health outcomes,” explained Ms. Walker.
For Ms. Walker and her colleagues, however, EHR implementation was just the first step towards improving health care. As participants in the Comprehensive Primary Care initiative and Million Hearts, two initiatives designed to help providers improve health care quality and patient outcomes, Ms. Walker and her colleagues are continuing to do all they can to best care for their patients.