sourceaditya: 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

How much should I spend on technology for my practice and my patients? A Doctor's Dilemna

Ask any doctor this question and he or she will give varying degrees of numbers, but all will unanimously say they are willing to spend. So what can a Doctor spend on to improve practice and patient service? Before we examine that lets break down what qualifies a good doctor in terms of attributes other than his or her personal attributes and knowledge.

a. Doctor should have a clean clinic
b. Doctor should provide the patient with his or her medical record
c. Doctor should be able to recollect or see the patient’s history at each visit to give accurate treatment
d. Doctor should be able to provide proper bills and receipts to the patient for the service deemed
e. Doctor should be able to communicate with the patient or another Doctor, his notes and views in case the patient is travelling
f. Doctor should be reachable by the patient in times of emergency
g. Doctor should be able to communicate changes in clinic, timings, services etc to the patient and other stakeholders
h. Doctor should educate the patient on every disease, treatment or procedure as and when required
i. Doctor should take proper consents from the patient before any procedure or treatment
j. Doctor should have all records and accounts properly maintained for the clinic
k. Doctor should adequately reach out to the general public to educate them about his or her clinic and services
l. Doctor should not have an over-crowded waiting room and have a proper appointment system
m. Doctor should give proper instructions on steps to be done by the patient and also a clean legible prescription.

These I think any doctor will safely say should be a must. Off-course there are many things that can be done which can be considered extra or out of the way, but nonetheless those who wish will do them.

So to do the above things in a proper manner what are the things that should be looked at?

1. Having a good clinic or area of practice. It should be neat, clean and inviting.
2. Medical Records with patient history for the patient and also kept with you are a must
3. Prescription which you can access and the patient understand is needed
4. Tracking patient appointments and visits
5. Means to communicate with a single patient or all of them is a whole is also vital

So what are the cheapest ways to this?

While I can give you the conventional methods which seem that they are cheap to do the above things, in the long technology does provide majority of the answers.

• Software can improve your clinic area and make it paperless and uncluttered
• Software can help you maintain all your patient records, history and accounts
• Software can help you give out legible and accurate prescriptions
• Software can help you track your patient appointments
• Website can help you communicate with your patients and vice versa in a simple effective way

So a good software and website does help the Doctor improve their practice. Anyone saying “NO” is simply trying to fool themselves. So then why are doctors so wary of investing in them?
Because they are scarred, either they think they’ll get fleeced or they may not get the desired value out of their investment. A lot in fact are happy in their world and don’t want to change. Too bad the world around them is changing.

Any good investment or quality service comes at a price. Service and Security come at a price. There is a reason why the public hospitals are still trusted in India, they have quality due to the sheer man hours put in by the Residents, Honoraries and Teaching staff. Software companies too similarly put in hours of work into a good product. The end result comes at a price, in this case a value attached to the service that is being provided. We at Plus91 value what we are making in the EMR and Website space. It is time doctors realize this and invest accordingly.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do EMRs increase clinic or hospital profits?

What is the most common question asked by Doctors and Hospital Administrators when they meet me? Safe to say it is quote unquote: How does implementing an EMR solution increase my clinic/hospital profit?

Now first let’s go into the economics of the whole thing.

Profit = Revenue – Cost

So to increase profit an EMR needs to either increase revenue or decrease cost, and also factor in its own development, implementation and training costs.
So let us look at revenue first:
A good EMR system can drive revenue up in following ways:

1. Cause: Better customer service
SMS alerts, Quick Generation of reports, No confusion in terms of appointments, neat printed prescriptions, Doctors more attuned to patients with their complete history available, Emailing of reports
Effect: Patients keep coming back to you due to their pleasant experience, they develop a fan following and also recommend relatives and friends thereby driving up revenue.

2. Cause: Better Management of Time
Quicker access to Patient History, More Accurate Appointment schedules, Quicker Generation of Reports, Easy one Click Generation of Management Reports and Statistics
Effect: Man Hours saved by Doctors, Nurses and Attendants can be effectively used to see more patients’ thereby increasing revenue.

3. Cause: Minimizing Errors
Accurate prescriptions, Better Access to History, Improved note taking, Auditing of stored information
Effect: Less time spent on un-doing errors, less chances of revenue loss and time wastage on medico legal cases.

4. Cause: Portability and Access
Online Appointments, Online availability of EMR, Online Access to reports by Doctors, SMS and Email Communications
Effect: Access over the Internet to Patients and Doctors increases work time, provides more avenues for patients to interact with the hospital or clinic thereby potentially increasing revenues. E.g. Charging Patients to access their records online, or Doctors giving reports in quicker due to online access.

5. Cause: Offering More Services
Online EMR, Patient History Printouts, Fast Insurance Clearances, Multiple Doctor Schedules
Effect: New Services offered can be charged increasing the revenue streams

6. Cause: Better Decisions
Unpaid Bills Reports, Daily Registers, Medical and Administration Statistics
Effect: Where is your largest revenue coming from, which service, what kind of patients, which days, answers to all these questions which are now at your fingertips lets you plan better to increase and maximize revenues?

Increasing revenue is just one end of the bargain. The other is saving costs! How?

1. Decrease Staff Size: A good EMR system lets you maximize your efficiency especially on the administrative end. This lets you streamline your staff activities and in some cases even reduce staff.

2. Generating Important Reports: Report on Unpaid bills let you call the requisite clients to follow up and recover the money, a time consuming affair on paper. Or important statistics on schedules lets you find the bottle necks in Doctor Timings and improve the scheduling, decreasing losses to the setup.

3. Save Paper: Less work is done on Paper leading to long term benefits and gains.

4. Save Space: Less paper means less storage space required. Use the clinic and hospitals to provide new services or better service.

5. Manage it all: A good EMR allows you to manage your practice as well, integrating basic accounts and inventory to prevent losses, theft and effective reminders when stocks or balances run low.

Now for the down side, what costs are attached to the EMR?

a. Development: For a customized solution or a product you will spend on developing vis-à-vis buying a ready product, this is the direct sunk cost.

b. Hardware: Choosing a good EMR can greatly reduce this cost, but this too is a sunk cost.

c. Training: Time and effort required in training the staff and migrating to the new system takes time and since time is equal to money there is a cost attached to this.

d. Upgrade and AMC: Support costs are also involved with any software, so is upgrading it to newer versions. But this is vital to pay, because in the long run, PC problems do crop up and its best to be protected.

In the long run however, the ROI on a good EMR system can be tremendous.

Our product case studies for our Clinic Management Software Clinkare showed that a doctor using all the features of Clinkare in a multi-user setup can save upto Rs 15000 per month directly and in man-hour estimates.

But nothing will increase your Profit as much as using all the features of an EMR in a proper manner and fully utilizing its potential. The real value comes when you are ready to work with the EMR and not against it, when you can understand where all it can help you, increased profit is then certain.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Internet Musings with a Doctor

I met a doctor socially the other day, and we had a very interesting conversation about his practice. He has published a website with the help of Plus91 Technology’s Website For Doctor's initiative , and we were discussing the merits of a doctor using the Internet for reaching out to patients.

His first worry was: doesn't this amount to advertising? Because a website is personal digital real estate, he felt this was fine, but was very uncomfortable about using social media to reach out, because he felt this was unethical. I agree that flagrantly advertising and singing praises about yourself may be unethical, but not informing people about your services is also downright unethical ! Imagine a poor patient with a brain tumour who is forced to travel miles in order to talk to a good neurologist , just because the neurologist in his neighborhood doesn't bother to let anyone know about what he does!
Doctors in India are in short supply – don’t they have a responsibility and duty to let people know about their expertise, so that it can be used more efficiently ?

We then started talking about how his website has made a difference to his practice.

a. He now could interact with his patient via the site

b. He could easily give directions to his clinics and his timings by directing people to the site , which had all the information patients needed, including a google map. This saved his patients a lot of time and energy – and his staff did not have to keep on repeating the same directions to all his new patients !

c. The website did convey that he is a serious up-to-date professional, and his patients appreciates this.

Did it get him new patients? The ability of a website to do this depends directly on the web traffic coming to the site, and because his site was fairly new, the numbers were still small, so it was hard to say if this has had a significant impact. If he promotes his website effectively, it is common sense that it is bound to help him attract new patients ! It’s always hard to judge the return on investment ( ROI) on a website , since it takes time for a website to grow ! It needs to be nurtured carefully – and doctors who do this will find this a very cost effective option ! Even one new patient can help him to recover the cost of a year’s hosting ! However, he is reluctant to spend the money to promote his website ( using a search engine optimisation – SEO - firm) , so it’s possible that his website may not help him to grow his practice, making this a self-fulfilling prophecy !

His skepticism arose from the fact that in his experience, when patients search for a doctor, they usually ask a friend or a family member for a recommendation or a referral. Patients may do research online to find out more about the doctor, but not many patients in India today use the internet as a tool to find a doctor. , However , as time goes by, this is likely to change quickly, because many people change cities when they switch jobs; and few have a family physician they can trust. It’s becoming increasingly common for urban Indian patients to use the internet to select a medical specialist to help them get the best medical care.

Social media has a very important role to play, because it is the digital version of “word of mouth” marketing. Let’s take a doctor who specializes in arthroscopic knee surgery. If all his colleagues on twitter, facebook and orkut feeds know about this, they can create a lot of buzz for him. Anytime someone asks these people about knee surgery , they will be sure to say, “Hey , why don't you go in for mini incision surgery and avoid the big scar ? I know a guy who does this and his website is …..”. Here your website becomes a tool which allows others to refer their friends to you easily. If you have videos on your website displaying your surgical skills, as well as patient testimonials, this allows you to build your prospective patient’s confidence in your expertise, and helps to enhance your credibility !

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Patient Safety

Few Sundays ago I was privileged enough to be invited by Dr. Nikhil Datar, a pre-eminent gynecologist and medico-legal expert to witness his premier talk on Patient Safety. It was hosted by IMA Dombivali and had a strong audience of over 40 doctors waiting to hear Dr. Datar’s talk. Dr. Datar had recently returned from UK where he attended a program organized by WHO on Patient Safety. Plus91 Technologies believes in making patient centric solutions which don’t just automate the clinic or hospital but also improve quality and service. Keeping this in mind, the presentation was interesting not just for the doctors but also for us.

The doctors were interested in the talk, intrigued by what new information can they hear. It started slowly but filled with practical examples the doctors soon were eager to know more. More than that they realized in their own practice they need to reflect and close loopholes so that they ensure patient safety. The doctors really got involved with questions, interactive cases and videos. I think they all walked out little bit wiser. As a software company involved in Healthcare, I think patient safety becomes a vital cog in what we are doing and it works at multiple levels. 1. Creating solutions which ensure and promote safety, 2. using the patient safety angle to promote such solutions which benefit the doctor in many more ways, but they finally see it as useful when something hard hitting as this is spoken about and 3. Increasing patient interaction and service allowing patients to feel safer and learn on how they should protect themselves too.

So what all does patient safety entail? It covers a lot of ground from something simple like washing your hands before a physical examination to something complicated as giving instructions during a high pressure surgery. They key learning was awareness that things can go wrong and improving communications and processes to prevent minor errors from becoming major issues. Simple techniques like reading medicine names allowed, using color coding on various instruments, storing patient records in a neat and systematic manner help provide better quality care to the patient. I think from hearing his talk, the biggest initiative one can take in improving patient safety is increasing ones awareness in their surroundings. Being aware of the possibility and the effects of your actions goes a long way in preventing mishaps that can happen. Some major inferences were: Out of the 3.7% cases, only 1% could be called as negligent, 50% of these are preventable and most notable – majority of them were not individual failures but the system failures.

I think a lot of good work is now being done in this field by numerous players. The ones which Plus91 Technologies is directly involved with include Dr. Nikhil Datar an epxert in the field, PIET (Patient Information and Education Trust) and NGO, PEAS (Patient Education and Awareness Series) who make wonderful videos and content driven education material, HELP (Healthcare Education Library for People) which have seminars weekly apart from the actual library initiative and Dr. Malpani who is organizing a conference in October in Mumbai exclusively dealing with Patient Safety. As technology pervades healthcare, I can already envision so many places where Plus91 can actively help improve patient safety standards. The possibilities are exciting not only in their scope and challenge but also because this is probably one place we can actually be able to claim we saved a life and that thought gives us a tremendous boost.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Improved Patient Safety Using Software

Patient Safety is a vital aspect of healthcare. With a fairly large number of indirect deaths and also potentially life threatening situations resulting directly from lack patient safety it becomes a vital cog in the healthcare machinery. Software products are introduced in any setup to increase efficiency and accuracy, both important factors when trying to improve safety. I am going to highlight some basic examples how inherently as well by actual design patient safety measures can be improved through normal Electronic Medical Records or Practice Management Software.

1. Prescriptions and Medications: The most common errors are seen when doctors write prescriptions on paper and the patient or the chemist misread the prescription. This is a common occurrence and a printed prescription generated from software with already present Drug Data is the safest bet against such a mishap. Other errors which can be prevented include, mistakes made by doctors in writing the dosage or strength, which in software can be fixed to prevent wrong entries, also a check on concomitant medications interfering the drug can be done. These features are already present in the Plus91 clinic package Clinkare. Ensures no errors happen due to differing writing styles or hand writing.
Another neat feature is sending reminders to the patients/nurses to take the appropriate medication at the correct time via SMS. This ensures no missed dosage which could have lead to problems. This feature is available in ClinION the hospital management solution from Plus91 Technologies.

2. Patient History: Doctors in a hurry, if patient comes without papers can prescribe the wrong treatment in case the data is not properly documented. It is vital to know previous visit experiences which can help the doctor make a better decision. Almost all softwares allow storing overall patient and current complaint history which helps doctors make better and more accurate decisions thus ensuring patient safety. This feature ensures that reliance on memory is less!
In the new age software patient history can also be coupled with Clinical Decision Support systems to help the doctor make his or her decisions in a better and more accurate manner.

3. Patient Data Entry: This is an exclusively software based point. Accurate entry in the system can be ensured by various validation measures and checks. This may slow down the process but a good process ensures the software protects the basic problems that can happen. Some key examples are: a. Validated fields which take only certain values and anything outside throws an error, b. Every time a new page is opened or traversed the patient name is popped up to double check the correct patient data is being filled in, c. Two person check entries at very vital and critical data entry points (used often in clinical trial data management), d. SMS or Email alerts in case of a vital sign going outside normal range at the ICU

4. Consent Checks: A patient must know what procedure they are undergoing, the risks and also most importantly dos and don’ts. A software can for all the procedures ensure that the consents are filled using a reminder / validation system to ensure the patients have been given the once over either by the doctor as a series of questions and answers which are entered in the system or using a video/presentation format with a consent thumbprint or electronic signature taken at the end. This is vital so that the patient does not make mistakes because of not knowing he or she had to come empty stomach for a procedure.
Plus91 softwares automatically allow you to link vital consent forms to various tests, procedures and consultations and remind you to get them filled.

5. Check lists: The Indian Born adviser to the American President on Healthcare issues is Dr. Gawande just released his new book “The Checklist Manifesto”. A checklist is the doctor and hospital staffs most trusted friend. Often negligence cases leading to patient safety mishaps happen because proper procedure was not followed. Many types of software come with check lists which need to be marked as complete before the next screen of tasks can be accessed. This ensures that all important steps are carried out and in order.
Checklists can be determinate that is fixed in nature like an inventory for a particular type of surgery. Some check lists can be flexible, like an in house patient prescription check list or schedule followed for an entire ward. Using software both can be checked and managed without a fuss.

6. Improved analysis: Software allow us to collate all sorts of medical data, this data can now also be analyzed to make future decisions better. Knowing what kind of patients react to which medication, or which months cause more complaints of a particular type of disease or maybe information on which doctors have better recuperation rates vis-à-vis their treatment methods all allow the healthcare system to better prepared for future patients.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How technology helps doctors save time!

The basic underline need to incorporate technology and innovation in any field is to increase efficiency and improve accuracy. The same goes for healthcare where non standard processes have lead to an increasingly slow and painful integration of technology into that sphere of business.
However let’s take the case of an everyday Doctor, for this example say Dr. Thakkar. Now Dr. Thakkar is open to technology but is still unsure how exactly it will benefit him. So let’s list down the different applications, instruments and gadgets which can help Dr. Thakkar.
1. A website and Email Id
2. A Mobile Phone
3. A pen drive
4. A laptop or PC with Internet
5. An EMR solution
We have now listed down 6 common everyday solution used by doctors in their daily activities. Now let us go in depth and see how they actually benefit Dr. Thakkar.

1. Website and Email Id:
a. Contact Information with a map is readily available and hence it will save him time and give him peace of mind by not having to talk to his patients on phone about directions and numbers
b. Important information captured on the website: Dr. Thakkar likes each patient to fill in a comprehensive form before he sees them, this causes long lines. Now he can ask his patients to fill this form online and it comes to him as an email which he can read just before the patient comes in. Time saved, more patient seen.
c. Patient across the country or travelling abroad can now easily email their queries to Dr. Thakkar. This can help him provide service remotely to his patient improving his service levels and connectivity with his patients
d. Dr. Thakkar does procedures where he needs to give instructions to his patient for pre-procedure protocols. Often patients forget and keep calling him in the middle of consultations. Now he can re-direct them to his website where it is written down in detail and with proper explanations in multiple languages!

2. Mobile Phone:
a. Dr. Thakkar can now check his daily schedule on a mobile phone. The latest phones come with many calendar features and schedulers with alarms. Also by using Google Calendar or innovative EMR solutions get reminder SMSs on the phone for appointments and operations.
b. Dr. Thakkar will be able to access Email on his GPRS enabled phone which can let him see the latest blood report of his patient and take decisions quickly. All image files of low size can be easily seen on the phone helping him stay in touch with the patients vitals.
c. The latest phones also come with high quality cameras, now store all X-Rays and reports as images at the click on a phone button. Dr. Thakkar can now easily store 3rd party patient X-rays and Usg reports or Lab tests which he can access later on his phone. The latest Emr Solutions allow you to directly attach these images to patient records also!
d. The phone also comes in built these days with GPS navigation systems. Now find your way easily and be on time for the operation. Dr. Thakkar can get where he wants to go quickly and safely, especially if he is doing a house visit to the patient.

3. Pen Drive: A pen drive is a small and low volume file storage system.
a. Dr. Thakkar can carry all his patient report soft copies and word documents in his pen drive, hence he no more lug around a suit case to all the hospitals.
b. Dr. Thakkar can plug his pen drive into any PC and access his notes and presentation on the go. This saves him time in burning CDs or carrying and going through papers. All neat and put into folders.

4. Laptop or PC with Internet
a. Dr. Thakkar can actually maximize the use of all above technology by having his own PC or better still a laptop. Now all his data can be soft copy, easily transferable, viewable, and most importantly searchable with ease!
b. Dr. Thakkar can now access his emails and patient documents quickly and anywhere on his laptop. No need to go searching in the Folder closet.
c. Dr. Thakkar sometimes has queries on new medicines and procedures. Now he doesn’t needn’t wait for the MIMs books or a CME conference, he can simply go onto the internet and search and read about the same information. Why wait when it can all be at your fingertips. Saves time and also treat your patient with the latest knowledge!
d. Dr. Thakkar need not wait for hard copies of patient reports and test results. Now he can have the soft copy emailed to him so he can check them in his office or on his laptop on the move. This saves him time later when he would have to look at all together or make the patient wait for a diagnosis.

5. EMR solution: A software which helps him with his patients and clinic
a. Saves Dr. Thakkar time and improves accuracy in data retrieval of patient reports, statistics on his clinic and medical data, accounts, inventory and even referral management. No time spent auditing or searching in the clinic!
b. Email reports and send SMS reminders to patients and directly from the software to see that you and the patient are up to date on latest developments. Now Dr. Thakkar is always on time and so are his patients. No time spent waiting.
c. Dr. Thakkar likes to send his case reports to fellow doctors and writes to papers and makes presentations. Now he can do it quicker and faster with EMR softwares reports and stats modules. He can also instantly email the report to his associates. No more wasting time on post, fax or even scanning documents.

These are just some inputs on how technology can help you as a doctor get quicker and better on your feet. To know more how we help you with your pain points visit www.plus91.in

Friday, June 4, 2010

Website for Doctors – Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Website for Doctors went live in January 2010, it’s been about 5 months since then and the progress has been fabulous. Some feedback, knowledge, learning and more importantly positive reviews have been taken back in kind from the project. The experience has been wonderful as a lot of doctors and observers commended us on not only the initiative, which serves all stake holders but the quality of work due to the focus shown.
Below is a point wise analysis of the experience:
a. Many doctors show interest in getting a website, but very few actually end up coming through. This is not due to cost but mainly due to the work involved on their side. I think they do not find time or are just plain lazy to send in the information for the site. Also some think of it like a tattoo which once up might define them hence are afraid to put it up unless it’s absolutely perfect so don’t go through with it.
We counter this, by following up with the doctors on a regular basis. Emails, SMS, Calls, the avenues are many, the idea is to not let them slip away once they have the interest. Many have come back to us after 2, 3 months and gone through with the website.
b. Doctors come in different makes, we have the very enthusiastic kind, who send lots of data and information and follow up each day, these are fun to work with, but can take away some of the productivity. We have the uninterested kind, who seem to have decided to make the website as an afterthought and have to be followed up constantly to send data and take decisions, here the site may take long to get done. Similar to the previous kind are the doctors who want the site, but are too busy to make decisions and send in information. Lastly, we have the doctors who send information on time, take decisions quickly and appreciate the effort, and just like good scotch are rare 
c. Few things we noticed that doctors liked were: a. Choice of changing a selected template with some of their own images, b. wanting to display their attachments and timings on the home page, c. Reluctance to elaborate on the kind of work, specialized treatments they provide (personal insight: think they don’t what really to write), d. They love to put up images (a good thing!), e. they definitely need help in deciding a URL, some choose very complicated ones trying to fit all that they do in it, not really useful for SEO.
d. Bottlenecks at W4D: a. Information flow: Doctors don’t send required data on time or take decisions on time delaying the process, which ideally can be completed in less than 2 days for a basic site. b. Sending incorrect information is also high on the list, with numerous errors and mistakes, either it has to be sent back, or time spent on correcting it if it need be. c. Payments: Generally we do not publish the site unless the complete payment is made, hence when doctors’ delay payments we hold the work or do not make the site live, this is a rare case but it does happen. d. Too many changes or close inspection: doctors some times are over critical of their site, I guess from nature of the work they do. This can delay going live which is from the websites need point of view the most important part. I say get it ready, put it up and improve with feedback and time.
So if any of you doctors do want a website, go to www.websitefordoctors.in and send us a request. It takes 3 simple steps and 4 days to have your site up and running. Provided you follow the rules stated above. I think the more doctors are aware of this avenue the more they will promote it amongst their community. You have 3 flexible plans to choose from in terms of cost, complexity and features, so take a decision and take the plunge.
Some stats from our site: we receive nowadays on average 2 website request a day! We have completed over 30 live sites and 15 micro-sites. For some of the more apt key words we are already on the first page. And as for our work check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAxQ9aW4MzA
What’s been worked on for the future?
• A do it yourself content manager which will let you add information yourself to your site,
• Integration with Plus91 EMR solutions for Online EMR access and pre-visit information capture from patient
• New cool templates on more specialties
• New content which can now be sourced by you on various topics for the site, so no running around
• Patient education videos from PEAS

Thursday, May 6, 2010

As a Doctor I want IT to enable….an Indian Doctor's perspective!

As we improve on our software products and work with more and more doctors, we see trends which make us realize where the Doctors see Healthcare IT taking them in the future. This experiential learning is solely focused on Indian Doctors and our interactions with them. Highlighted below are some key points which enlighten us how Indian Doctors view IT as an enabler and in which processes. In an ideal scenario I think the topic name would be the ideal blog post highlighting the same age old points of what aspects should IT drive in healthcare services, but this isn’t one as doctors like other people have their own skewed requirements.

To begin with let’s see what the ideal points in order of importance would be:
1. Computer Based Medical Records (EMR)
2. Clinical Information Sharing Networks
3. Clinical Decision Support
4. Administrative Functions – Accounts and Patient Profile Management
5. Computer Generated Prescriptions
6. Better Patient Communication and Care

But interacting with Indian Doctors over the last 4 years, we have had a whole different set of requirements and priorities. It is an eye opener in some respects and helps us shape our business to the market needs. In some cases though it is wiser to take the higher road and try to change the doctor’s perspective.

So what does this list look like?

1. Accounts and (Mis)-Management
Indian Doctors give a lot of weight to accounting in their Clinic or Hospital Practice Management Software; they expect the package to bill as per their requirement. What is more surprising is their customization to deduct on the accounts despite capturing the details. Being a predominantly cash business, this is an understandable request; however we do not parley with such requests. The software must help them track their inflow so that they know what business they are generating daily, weekly or monthly.

2. Referrals
Referring patients to specialists and other clinicians is a common enough practice the world over, but in India it takes a monetary angle. Doctors want to know how many patients they were referred and by whom, so that they can make the necessary payments back to the referring doctors.

3. Medical History
Doctors want to keep their patient information with them to help make better decisions. While doctors are still uncomfortable with decision support tools, they however are opening up to the fact that medical history can be extracted any time once loaded on the software. This is a good beginning to convincing a doctor those other aspects to can now be automated.

4. MIS Reports and Registers
MIS reports and registers are a commonly asked feature or requirement amongst Indian doctors. Sadly the uninitiated ones forget that data needs to go “in” first for it to be extracted. The reasons for the MIS reports are both noble (research purposes) and mundane (government filing).
The biggest challenge here is designing forms and data capture mechanisms which give better reports, there is usually a big disconnect, where doctors want their templates in one way and expect relevant data to be generated out of it.

5. Custom Designed Templates
Plus91 Softwares have been designed in such a way that we can offer custom templates to doctors. Doctors love this feature, as each one wants to design something as per their understanding and specification. While it gives added power to the doctor, in the long run this feature isn’t ideal for healthcare IT as a growing network as it promotes multiple standards.

On a different note things which we would like doctors to focus on in the future:
a. Clinical Decision Support
b. Computerized Prescriptions
c. SMS/Email alerts and reminders
d. Online EMRs
e. Claims Management

We think these will give a definite boost not only to the quality of service and efficiency of their practice but also in the long run improve profitability.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Improving your Patient Interaction and Outreach

Technology enables, but man disables by not taking advantage of opportunities given to him. A doctor today has many such key touch points to increase and consequently improve their interactions with patients. Some are simple methods, some require a little bit of work, but what is the end advantage of it all? For one thing it makes you popular amongst patients; side effect could lead you to more business. Second it helps educate and provide information to patients and people who may read just what they need thanks to you! A little help goes a long way in accumulating blessings. Third, contributing to the general knowledge resource of the community improves the very community you are part off, it encourages others to follow suit. So now what do you need to do?

1. Reach out to many in the general audience: Start writing, the internet lets you update and express views, either as 160 character bursts on twitter, or a long blog detailing your experience.

Twitter: On twitter you can start putting up bursts of interesting cases you see, new techniques you here about, information about your local medical network which may help people in your area! Go onto www.twitter.com, register yourself and type away.

Blogging: Doing a lot of research which you think people should here about, or have an opinion which potential patients should here about, blog about it. Many people will find it online as they search for an information panacea for their problem and be happy to come across your blog.

2. Letting people contact you: For a start get a website. It helps you disseminate information about your services for people looking for the same. It isn’t advertising, it’s a service, people today face many choices and are hampered by lack of information, improving their ability to find information quickly is beneficial to them. On your website, don’t only talk about you, tell the patients more about what diseases and disabilities you treat, what are the latest treatments, generic advice and maybe even help them going to right person if you weren’t involved.

Use tools like interactive patient forms which can be filled before the patient arrives at the center, saving time and giving you a heads up on the patient’s needs. Use query forms on the website so that people can ask you about their problems, patients their doubts; this gives the feeling to your patients that you are available to them 24/7 without actually being there. Plus91 technologies encourages doctors to have their own websites through their initiative www.websitefordoctors.in, we not only make but also advice and guide you through the process for best impact on your patients and potential clients.

3. Using Software tools: Use softwares which improve communications. Invest in software which doesn’t just keep your records and accounts. The software should come with communications tools integrated and can be used with ease. Emailing of schedules and reports to patients is a must.

The software should also allow using SMSes to send reminders, alerts, prescription reminders etc. This is a new level of service, and patients will be thrilled to know there is always an alert to give them confidence in their moments of doubt.

Online Medical records allow patients to access their records remotely, insist on looking at software which promotes this feature if not today, but at least is compatible with this extension in the future. Plus91 Technologies provides EMR and PMS software products which come coupled with email, SMS and online EMRs. We encourage doctors to use these services to improve their service quality. You can see our products on www.plus91online.com

4. Accessing data and messages on your phone: Today you may be using you phone to send SMSs, read emails and play games online. Why stop there, use it to drive business wherever you are. Neat and simple apps provide you fingertip information, coupled with your own website, or software they can become powerful tools in your hands to handle patients remotely. Access patient alerts via the phone or your actual software to pull up data remotely. Plus91 Technologies already has a suite of products and apps which can run on phone browsers.

5. Contribute to journals and medical website online: Numerous sources are present where doctors submit their stories, research and experiences. The medical and patient community will be greatly benefited by your inputs, a little effort online will show you exactly where you should be adding your data.

6. Using new cool online tools to make education interesting: Nowadays making a presentation, cartoon strip or a cartoon movie to help educate your patients or interested clients is easy. Many tools are available online which let you render very interesting collaterals that can help ease patient doubts and also make it fun. Tools like www.bitstrips.com which we use to make cartoons helps in creating awareness in an educational yet informal way. Putting these up on your clinic facebook page or on your website is the best option.

These are just some pointers on how technology can help you as a doctor to interact with patients and also general public looking for information in your areas of expertise. It’s time to exercise your power using technology, so see you out there soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Single EMR - How far are we?

A unique medical record for each person is considered to be the Holy Grail in the world of healthcare IT – especially when applied to a country like India. When is this going to happen? To begin with a unique medical record would not have to be electronic, but logically speaking it needs to be. A physical record has constraints of sharing and updating, so let’s accept that this unique medical record needs technology to create it. This is a challenge – and a unique opportunity as well, as we do not have any legacy issues; and can piggy back onto the UID initiative started by the Govt of India and spearheaded by Nandan Nilekani.

What will this unique medical record contain? Simple - every piece of your medical history. From your birth, all your medical reports, your changing demographic biological profile, your health information, details about your insurance and your doctors, allergies and medications. It is a time-map of your health, created over time by a range of different people, and owned by you. It will be a combination of your EMR and PHR.

How will this help ? Any doctor you give permission to will be able to see your entire history, thus helping him to make better medical decisions. Today hiring companies and insurance companies are two corporate entities which constantly ask for health check-ups, which means a huge amount of time and money will be saved by giving them permission based access to the required part of the record. For the patients, a continuous record gives them the tool to manage their health better; having a constant record of the test gives a clear indication of what is stable and what is not. Many of us here in India rarely have more than even two previous reports stored properly ! On a much more global scale, statistical and empirical studies on medical data gleaned from these reports provides fodder for research. Predicting disease outbreaks, health hazards, improving living conditions - all require solid data to make proper decisions, all coming from the same source, your medical record. After all – all this data should benefit you !

The challenges to getting a unique medical record are plenty:

a. Lack of technology infrastructure. As PCs get smaller and cheaper (not to mention the entry of ubiquitous smart phones which can compute) and internet penetration scales progressively, this will slowly cease to matter.

b. Lack of cohesiveness in IT solutions . A hundred providers provide a multitude of solutions that look, act and store things differently, so how does one make a unique record, forget about integrating the paper records ? The technology itself is providing an answer , using clever new methods to interface and exchange information.

c. Lack of initiative. Patients and doctors have survived for many years without a unique medical record, and unless appropriate incentives are provided, the situation will remain as it is. Educating the public, providing low cost effective solutions; and providing competitive benefits to those that embrace this technology as early adopters it are a few things that can be done to fast track the change in mindset.

The challenges are vast, but the rewards are too big to not give it a good shot. I think we should also be realistic in what we can achieve. Even once the pieces are in place, entering data for even 10% of the population is going to be a massive task. Also the focus should at first solely be on getting people into the system and capturing all that happens after this point, rather than worrying about the past. The past information can be slowly entered later on. I think we need to move forward, rather than waste time thinking about how to get all the past records of a patient on board.

The ambitious UID scheme only provides the identification mechanism. Now it will be up to healthcare IT firms like Plus91 to integrate this UID mechanism into the software they sell and portals they start, using the UID system to tag each record to a unique person. Over time all providers can then either pool the information or provide access across their databases using this UID. I think a cloud like structure where your record is spread across multiple databases of various providers , but with the same unique tag , is a definite short term possibility. So for you accessing your record using a unique interface will feel like it’s a unique record, but in reality it is but 100 pieces of a jig-saw spread all over the Internet.

This is a challenge – and a huge opportunity !

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Website For Doctors - Going great guns...

Website for Doctors is finally live and kicking, and after touching are first 10 clients within the first month of going live, it is safe to say the idea behind the venture is a solid one. Doctors have a business to run and more importantly have information to provide and generate to give high quality service. A website becomes both a handy medium to communicate and a must to garner more business.
So why does website for doctors appeal to the clients who are signing up? Because it is a specialized service, like a boutique hotel or highly specialized clinic, servicing only a certain type of clientele, and specializing in dealing with them, knowing their needs, wants and what is best for them.

Every website completed by us so far has been within 48 hours subject to the doctor providing required information. What’s more important and what we see as a trend is that after the doctor takes the first step of choosing a template and sending his basic data, we have the dummy site sent to him by the next day. Seeing it in the flesh and knowing where this investment is going, doctor’s have been more upto date and innovative in sending their data after this stage. I guess it is truly a question of seeing the believing for them in this case.

Our specialization based galleries, dedicated team and more importantly insightful knowledge from our EMR products is helping us bond with the doctors and give them solutions which suit their needs. A website though standard in most cases, can be tweaked a little and content modified to give the target audience what they need from the website. A consultant exposure to international patients, a small city specialist publicity and directions which his side of the town, a super specialist’s site information about the services and forms which give pre-sight to the doctor before the patient’s actual appointment.

There is still long way to go in actually making websites from a doctor’s point of view, from a “want” to a “need”, but the process has begun, both psychologically and in the ease of getting one tailored to your tastes. Apart from the basic features of a website, there are some simple tools which can go a long way to improve a website experience for a doctor and his patients. Our aim at Website For Doctors is to recommend these tools apart from the normal stuff, these tools include health calculators, video galleries, online forms which can save time at the clinic, Map to the clinic, among other things.

You can check out some of our work at www.websitefordoctors.in
Some of our client sites include: www.ashutoshchaudhari.com, www.swatiallahbadia.com, www.charakchildcare.com

All these websites were ready in double quick time and to the satisfaction of the client. Even today we suggest and take suggestion to tweak and make them better. As Mercedes says “the road to perfection has no finish line” but it definitely gives us and the doctors who have decided to take this journey with us a goal for the future!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Clinkare Demo Video

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Increasing ROI on your clinic through EMR

Return on Investment is a very savvy term these days with everyone investing in the share market. Doctors too have been on this bandwagon and closer to home they traditionally invest heavily in their clinic and practice. So what do they invest in?

As a Doctor you would invest in a place, interiors, chairs and tables, medical equipment, cabinets, maybe some staff, etc. And the clinic is flourishing and doing well. So what more can be done by you; to increase your return on the investment that has been made? Well one option is by using technology effectively. Off course, this might require an additional investment but it is minuscule compared to the items given above. This can especially be closely tied with two aspects of the practice, increasing base through customer satisfaction and improving efficiency and productivity of the clinic leading to time and money savings. How you ask? Well first we can discuss the usual plus points, then some interesting aspects which tie into the process of the clinic and finally a good example at a radiology setup where EMR can improve ROI.

The usual plus points of an EMR system run something like this:

a. Better Management of Time – All reports and data in one location for easy search and recall, easy patient registration process, quick look up and reference of historical information, easy creation of bills and receipts, MIS reports generated instantly for tracking and decision making

b. Better Management of Space – Less Paper = More space, also less people in the waiting room now that reports are given instantly and appointments are better managed.

c. Better Management of Money – Know where you earn and spend by looking ledger reports across income and expenses, keep track of who refers you more patients, generate reports in Excel, and increase footfalls with better customer service.
d. Better Management of Patients – Integrated SMS and Email features allow you to keep the patient informed, provide reports in double quick time, generate and give old reports instantly, know your patient history before they walk-in.
All the above go a long way in increasing tangible and intangible returns on investment made on your clinic.

So now this was at a very macroscopic level, how about some interesting micro examples?

a. You as a doctor recently invested in a smart phone. A good EMR system will help you make your smart phone clinic smart. Now get SMS alerts about appointments, Emails of reports or images generated by your assistants for you to approve. Use the camera to take images of an X Ray or a Paper report and store it with the EMR instantly, no extra typing required.

b. You invested in an Internet connection, now use the power of the Internet to maximize your business. Imagine an EMR system which allows patients to access their records remotely, no more crowding in the clinic, or sends Email Reports to patient from abroad, may be this can be the start of your very own little medical tourism practice.

c. You recently invested time in creating just the perfect form to help you manage patient history and details so you can improve decision making. Now imagine if this form is a toy, inserting it into an EMR will be like animating the toy, huge return I would say if you were a kid . Use the power of the PC to capture data and display it in forms which help you maximize the benefits of the template you created. Smart little things like auto-completes, graphs, history look ups help managing information better.

d. You invest in staff, trusting them is an integral part of the learning curve. Get the most out of them by making them enter information which is safe and secure in to the EMR system, it is tangible effort. Also they get trained faster in your field using forms and information provided in the EMR system. Our EMR system comes with AV help files which help learning fun and easier. More importantly, save money in terms of possible loss due to the inventory and accounting modules in the EMR system that help you track all inflow and outflow preventing pilferage and stealing. Be on top of your clinic management because after all it is a business.

Now for the Radiology Clinic example I promised:

At a radiology clinic, the entire business revolves around the Sonography machine or X-Ray machine and the reporting system (On paper or on the PC). The doctor has invested in his/her place, interiors, assume a PC (using Microsoft word for reporting), Sonography Machine, along with other fixtures. So how can a EMR system help here?

Well, I am just going to outline a few points here:

1. Many clinics lose patients especially if they are small because of over crowdedness, patients waiting their turn and also for their due reports. Using a good EMR system like Ultrasite from Plus91 would allow them to better manage their appointments and create a good streamlined flow of patients. Also faster and quicker report generation using the EMR system means less waiting time for patients. This ensures that patients do not undergo too much waiting.

2. A good machine generates images, but the imaging and reporting using these images is what creates solid productivity. Using a good EMR system allows you to over time improve your ability to know what size images and how many are required for report generation. Also tools allows you to now directly import or attach images into the patient report, hence minimizing time required to separately print them from the machine. This is also further improved since to access the images you do not need to search for the image and the report separately but they are available at a single location in the EMR system. All this helps to improve the efficiency of the process in using the Sonography machine. It also saves time and indirectly money leading to better ROI.

3. Government rules require each and every sonography machine to be registered and the clinic to generate Forms and Reports for all female sonographies done as per the PNDT Act. This can be long and tedious with doctors investing manpower, time and stationery in creating this. Imagine if you could increase your ROI even on a government dictum. Ultrasite EMR system allows you to generate the PNDT Form Fs and the final report as part of the normal patient reporting and billing process. Save time and resources to invest in other work, increasing ROI. Also strictly followed formats as per the Act and Alerts keep you informed and in check with the Act. Also No Stationery is wasted due to overprinting or spoilage.

4. Radiology centers usually invest in staff due to the nature of their clinical process; now maximize the ROI on this investment, as staffs provide better reports, keep appointments, track referrals and accounts upto date in the software. Reports and MIS generated through the software is good ROI, which would never have been possible on paper.

5. ROI on time? I think almost all the points above lead to better efficiency and time management. So now you can invest this wisely in creating other avenues for growth.

6. And I think the biggest no brainer is for the PC. Most radiology clinics have a PC either being unused or being used to burn, print images or make reports using MS Word. I think to really use the power of the PC an EMR system is a must, in fact not using one is under utilizing a vital resource that you have!