Business Needs Drive Technology Solutions

My personal journey towards electronic health records (EHR) began as a search for a solution to a business problem. We were a growing and very busy primary care medical practice founded on the principle that everyone who needs to be seen today, is seen today.  Need was determined by either the patient or the medical practice.  A major issue we faced was a large volume of phone calls and the resulting need to obtain the medical record. Despite our best efforts we simply could not access a patient’s health information fast enough. Typically we would have to take a message and call the patient back.  The patient was often not available during our call back and when they in-turn called us back, we still had trouble laying our hands on the information since it was written on a single piece of paper sitting on someone’s desk.

At that time (1989) computers were not common place in small business but we did have a computerized billing system.  We dictated our patient visits, but the notes were transcribed onto paper.  We realized if we could transcribe the visit and have an electronic copy, we could later retrieve the electronic copy at moments notice. We could answer patient issues with the first phone call rather than play frustrating rounds of phone tag.

We looked at various document management systems (I wasn’t even aware of the concept of an EHR) none of which seemed to meet our needs.  I became aware of a product called Practice Partner that had been developed for medical practices.  We implemented the product and we were able to solve our business problem.

We were successful despite using cutting edge technology in a setting where not a single clinical individual had any computer skills.  It worked because technology solved a business problem that had been clearly defined. Since then IT has become a major part of my life.  I am constantly reminding myself that IT does not drive the Business, it is the Business that drives IT.

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