“I couldn’t have figured it out without Kathy,” said Stanley Friedell, MD.
Just over a year ago, Northwestern Women’s Health Associates switched from paper to electronic health records (EHR) and they have never looked back. EHR allows the practice to operate more effectively and offers added benefits such as recording more thorough notes and accessing patient records online at any time. As a bonus, the practice qualifies for Meaningful Use (MU) government incentive payments.
The president and managing partner of Northwestern Women’s Health Associates, Stanley Friedell, MD, helped guide the switch to EHR. Leadership at the obstetrics/gynecology practice in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood saw the value of EHR and wanted to get on board in order to improve patient care and practice efficiency. Achieving Meaningful Use was also in the back of Dr. Friedell’s mind, especially because Medicare practices will begin to be penalized starting in 2014 if they don’t switch to EHR and achieve MU.
With instruction from the EHR vendor and dedication of the practice’s 30 staff members, Northwestern Women’s Health Associates was able to adapt relatively quickly to the new workflows. “We had super users in every department who provided support for the rest of the group during the transition,” explains Dr. Friedell. Still, it was several months before everyone got used to the EHR. Dr. Friedell recommends that practices making the switch really learn the new program before going live because understanding how to use the EHR effectively was the biggest challenge.
A Chicago Health IT Regional Extension Center (CHITREC) implementation manager, Kathy Fitzgibbon, RD, initially approached Northwestern Women’s Health Associates as the practice was just beginning to transition to EHR. Since MU was still a future goal at that point, “Kathy was patient and waited until we understood MU and were ready to work toward it,” says Dr. Friedell. After about six months on the new system, the clouds lifted and the practice was ready to starting working on Meaningful Use. “I couldn’t have figured it out without Kathy,” enthuses Dr. Friedell. Kathy was there to assist Women’s Health through all the details and government regulations related to the Medicare Meaningful Use incentive program.
In late 2012, Dr. Friedell, along with the practice’s vice president, Marc Feldstein, MD, attested to MU with Kathy’s assistance. Currently, Northwestern Women’s Health Associates continues to use EHR to benefit the practice, and several more physicians are on track to meet Meaningful Use this year.