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Health IT Success Stories

A Self-Designed EHR Implementation Plan Leads to Improved Patient Engagement

'It takes a village: staff, volunteers, students, family, patients and a ‘champion.’' - Dr. Sherril Rieux, Beverly Hills, CA

Meet Dr. Sherril Rieux. She is a physician in a small primary care practice in Beverly Hills, California. With reception and billing support from her two employees, Dr. Rieux successfully implemented an electronic health record (EHR) system in her office and achieved Meaningful Use Stage 1.

Selecting an EHR System

In 2006, Dr. Rieux was awarded a $25,000 Technology Grant from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) to help with the implementation of an electronic health record (EHR). Tasked with selecting an EHR system, Dr. Rieux determined that an EHR would need to:

  • Have the ability to collect data and generate reports;
  • Be user friendly;
  • Facilitate, rather than hinder, communication with patients during visits;
  • Help relieve her workload; and
  • Be affordable.

The system Dr. Rieux selected did not have all of the "bells and whistles," but it did meet every requirement she had identified as important for her practice.

Moving from Paper to Electronic: EHR Implementation

As she began to develop an EHR implementation plan, Dr. Rieux quickly realized her staff had much to learn about computers and technology. Before beginning the transformation, Dr. Rieux personally gave her staff computer lessons and provided software so they could learn how to type.

Once they were ready to begin, Dr. Rieux's staff members divided up the responsibilities for entering data into the EHR from the paper charts: one staff member inputted demographic data, the other inputted information about immunizations, surgeries, and lifestyle habits, and Dr. Rieux inputted information about medical conditions and preventive health care. Students helped to scan and upload paper charts, and two recently retired patients volunteered to assist with the conversion process.

To help with the transition, Dr. Rieux's team converted six patient charts from paper to electronic a day and decreased the number of patients they saw. While the process was slow, the division of labor worked. Eight months later the practice was largely electronic.

Today, the practice has only 30 paper charts remaining. Dr. Rieux credits the successful EHR implementation to a dedicated group of employees and volunteers.

Improved Patient Engagement

Using an EHR system helps Dr. Rieux ensure that she collects and records information such as patient height and weight, allowing her to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI). Having the ability to view BMI data in her EHR reminds Dr. Rieux to begin conversations with her patients and provide education on healthy lifestyle choices. Before EHR implementation, these data were not easily visible.

The EHR also helps spark conversations about preventive health care. At the click of a finger, Dr. Rieux can learn when patients last received colonoscopies or Pap smears and generate reports about which patients are due for screening.

Well Positioned for Meaningful Use Stage 2

Dr. Rieux notes "it's hard work learning a new way to practice medicine" - it requires time, patience and money. But with practice and continued regular EHR use, Dr. Rieux and her team are well prepared for Meaningful Use Stage 2.