Dr. Gustin Ho Uses EHRs to Engage Patients and Improve Health Care Quality
Dr. Gustin Ho leads a solo primary care practice based in the Chinatown area of San Francisco, California. Dr. Ho primarily serves an elderly patient population, and many of his elderly patients have multiple chronic conditions. After implementing an electronic health record (EHR) system in his practice, Dr. Ho is now better able to engage his patients in their health and improve health care quality.
Computers in the Exam Room: Turning a Challenge into an Opportunity
When Dr. Ho first introduced an EHR system into his practice, his patients were skeptical. Many of Dr. Ho’s elderly patients were not overly familiar with technology, and at first they weren’t comfortable with Dr. Ho using a computer during patient visits. Dr. Ho realized he needed to demonstrate to his patients – especially his elderly patients – that the EHR system positively impacted health care quality and that the exam room computers did not compromise the patient-provider relationship. To tackle this challenge, Dr. Ho implemented a “policy of inclusion” with his patients.
The first step towards implementing the policy of inclusion is educating patients about Health IT. When taking patients to the exam room, Dr. Ho’s receptionist explains how Dr. Ho uses the EHR system to keep track of patient information and provide better care to his patients. Additionally, Dr. Ho reorganized his exam room so that he and his patients can view the computer screen side-by-side as he inputs patient information. The new setup enables Dr. Ho’s patients to become “a part of the data collection process,” according to Dr. Ho. Because patients can see the computer screen, they can help Dr. Ho fill in missing information. Dr. Ho also takes advantage of the new setup by pulling up patient information, such as EKG images and laboratory results, on the computer screen so that his patients can see their results firsthand. By including his patients in the data collection process and encouraging patients to view their results on the computer screen, Dr. Ho is helping his patients become comfortable with Health IT and “more engaged in their health and health care.”
EHRs Improve Health Care Quality in Chinatown
Since Dr. Ho implemented his EHR system six years ago, his office has seen many health care quality improvements. Dr. Ho implemented a clinical decision support rule, for example, that alerts him when one of his female patients is due for a mammogram. Because many of Dr. Ho’s elderly patients have multiple chronic conditions and require intensive clinical management, clinical decision support delivers essential reminders to help Dr. Ho keep his patients up to date on preventive care. “With EHRs, I can focus on managing my patients’ health care because I have all of the information I need,” explained Dr. Ho.
In addition to improving health care quality in his own practice, Dr. Ho has been instrumental in spreading Health IT and EHRs in Chinatown as President of his local Independent Practice Association, the Chinese Community Health Care Association. Through his on-the-ground EHR implementation support and his partnership with the California Health Information Partnership and Services Organization, the local Regional Extension Center, Dr. Ho is helping other providers implement EHRs and increase care coordination. “Getting all of our providers on the same EHR system has been a real benefit to our patients,” said Dr. Ho. When Dr. Ho refers a patient to one of the Association’s specialists, for example, the specialist can easily access the patient’s health information via the Association’s EHR system. This is especially valuable for Chinatown’s elderly residents with chronic conditions, many of whom visit several different specialists in addition to their primary care providers. “With more of our providers sharing data on the EHR system, health care quality has really improved,” Dr. Ho explained. “We’ve significantly cut back on duplicative services and have been able to get our patients on the right treatment plans faster than ever before.”