Dr. Wohl Uses Health IT to Improve Health Care Quality
Dr. Allan Wohl is a family practice physician who serves patients of all ages at Frankford Avenue Family Practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2011, Dr. Wohl merged his practice with eight other providers to form a network of physicians called the Pinnacle Physician’s Group. Dr. Wohl serves as the Group’s Technology Committee Chairman and Chief Medical Information Officer. He is responsible for implementing electronic health records (EHRs) among the network’s small practices.
Challenges with EHR Implementation
Dr. Wohl helped lead both the selection of the EHR system and the training of all of the staff in the provider network. Dr. Wohl knew this was going to be an enormous challenge. “Once you select an EHR system and start integrating staff and records into it, you can’t easily switch systems if you’re not happy with it,” explained Dr. Wohl. He knew that “a complicated system would make training and implementation that much harder,” but he wasn’t sure how to avoid this scenario and ensure that the group’s system was simple and easy to use.
Following a Structured Plan
In order to overcome this challenge, Dr. Wohl and his colleagues developed a concrete plan and timeline to guide EHR implementation. The first step was to figure out what exactly his colleagues wanted in the EHR system. “We went through a thorough process of evaluating multiple systems with multiple criteria in mind so we could get it right the first time,” stated Dr. Wohl. “For example, the EHR had to be used on multiple input devices – desktop computers, laptops, touch devices – so that medical assistants and physicians could input information without significant workflow disruption.” With the criteria established, Dr. Wohl and his colleagues went through trial runs of different systems and eventually chose one that met their criteria.
The next step was to implement a training program for all staff “in a way that was not scary for individuals with less technology experience.” Dr. Wohl and his team did this by training each staff member in the area of the system that applied to their specific duties. After the staff member became specialized in his or her area, the training team would then introduce the individual to other areas in the EHR system. “For example, a billing person would start with billing and then expand to other areas, such as scheduling,” explained Dr. Wohl. “This ends up being less difficult because the individual has already gained initial experience and confidence in their niche area.” Through this structured training process, Dr. Wohl and his colleagues were able to successfully launch the EHR system throughout the entire provider network.
Dynamic Patient Portal to Improve Health Care Quality
The medical group’s patients have benefited in a number of ways from EHR implementation, most notably through the web-based patient portal. Through the portal, patients can access their entire chart, update portions of it like surgical or family history, and then have their changes approved by their provider. Patients can also schedule and confirm appointments through the patient portal, after which the system will send an automatic email containing notes from the doctor with any items that need to be addressed during the appointment. Finally, patients can renew their medicines, check their lab results, and even message their doctor directly. These new capabilities have ultimately benefitted patients and improved health care quality.
As Dr. Wohl and his colleagues continue to improve the EHR system, one of the group’s main goals is for all of the group’s practices to achieve National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) certification as Patient-Centered Medical Homes (PCMH). Dr. Wohl’s practice is a Level 3 PCMH, and he is a PCMH Certified Content Expert. As Chairman of the group’s Technology Committee, Dr. Wohl is leading the group’s multi-site NCQA application.
Dr. Wohl and his colleagues are also working to achieve Stage 2 meaningful use. Dr. Wohl also hopes to show other providers the benefits of EHRs so that, “they will take it upon themselves to embrace the technology.” As Dr. Wohl concluded, “I have always loved computers. The ability to use technology to improve health care quality has been an amazing experience.”