A Provider With A Plan

July 2, 2012

Opening a private practice can be a major undertaking. Without a well-thought out plan, it’s nearly impossible.

When Streeterville Internal Medicine opened in February, Dr. Rachel O’Mara had zero patients lined up but a plan: a small, personal practice environment and a tech-savvy approach. Now she has seen more than 500 patients and is one of nine doctors to have successfully attested to Meaningful Use through the Chicago Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (CHITREC).
“I had in mind that an electronic health record was something that was necessary,” says O’Mara, who began working at the Chicago’s Erie Family Health Center in 2006 and started using electronic health records in 2008.
You might not realize just how advanced her practice is when you walk in the front door. She’s got a warm waiting room, which she designed herself, and exactly one staff member, Angie, who handles everything from scheduling to taking a patient’s vitals. Once you step up to the front desk, that’s when you see how O’Mara has set herself at the forefront of patient care:
  • Patients sign in using a home computer or laptop in the office so that important information is already documented electronically before the patient is seen.
  • Monitors are in every room so that patients can follow along with the doctor as the electronic health record is used.
  • Medication prescriptions are electronically sent to patients’ preferred pharmacy.
  • Follow-up care, test results and visit summaries are sent using an online patient portal.
It was the “obvious choice,” O’Mara says, for anyone starting a new practice. She recognizes a different — but worthwhile — challenge for practices that have years of paper records. “This is a big process, and it’s not going to be easy.”
As a doctor who in the past has worked with HIV patients, O’Mara says it was “important to have structured data for certain things. You can see with measurable items where you can change your practice.”
“Our perception as individual doctors can be very different than what the data shows,” O’Mara says. She is using eClinicalWorks as her health record software, which helps her connect with Northwestern Memorial Hospital and other doctors in that network.
Even in her small practice, O’Mara is only a few more patient visits away from receiving her maximum first-year financial incentive through Medicare; that is, a check for $18,000. She is receiving another $2,200 in incentives for adopting her electronic health record system with the help of CHITREC and could receive a maximum of $44,000 from Medicare over the program’s five-year period.
O’Mara praised the help she received from Kathy FitzGibbon, her CHITREC representative, for walking her through areas of improvement. In particular, she was unaware of some of the Risk Assessment steps needed to successfully pass government requirements. O’Mara used MIS Computer Corp. to assess her privacy and security risks, assure she met all standards and make suggestions for improvement.
“I definitely wouldn’t have understood it without CHITREC,” O’Mara says. “I just assumed [my system] was secure.”
CHITREC is a Regional Extension Center designated by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to assist clinicians in Chicago on becoming meaningful users of electronic health records. CHITREC delivers education, training, tools and assessments to help primary care providers achieve meaningful use of EHRs. If you or a provider in the 606xx zip code region would like to know more about CHITREC’s services or federal payment incentive eligibility, explore our website or contact us.