EHR Stories: Medical speech pathologist improving care with tech

This post was written by Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP, a medical speech pathologist and licensed nurse with more than 25 years of healthcare experience. In this installment of EHR Stories, Mary discusses her EHR adoption and why she believes the future of healthcare is in the cloud.

2009 was the first year that speech-language pathology could independently bill Medicare. Living in Southwest Florida where 98% of my clients were Medicare-aged, I decided to leave my hospital-based practice to pursue private practice.

Allied health professionals like myself aren’t eligible for Meaningful Use incentives, but we are required to fulfill PQRS measures. That, coupled with the fact that digging through paper records is becoming an archaic notion, encouraged me to convert to an EHR. At the end of 2012, my billing company suggested that I try Practice Fusion.

EHRs aren’t just for MDs
As a sole proprietor, the fact that there was not a huge cost did influence my decision. However, because I am a speech-language pathologist and not a medical doctor, I was not sure if the forms and templates would be user-friendly for me. It did take me a few weeks to transfer my current patients into the system, download my own templates, and make the system work for me. Now, it has actually saved me time in preparing for the day and documentation, and is a seamless way for me to submit my billing.

Plus, the EHR is helping me connect with my patients—especially those I consult abroad.

Improving patient engagement with Practice Fusion
I first bought a laptop thinking that I would type up my notes and fill out the charts while I was with my patients. But one of the most common things I hear from patients is that physicians no longer look at them when they’re using a computer. So, I decided to be fully present with the patient when I was with them, jotting my notes down and then typing them up in the evening after finishing my day. While this might sound counterintuitive, it only takes minutes to do my EHR reporting, giving me much more time with the patient.

Since nearly all of my patients have computers and access to email, I’ve been encouraging them to check their charts and track their progress. I often videotape my patients to document their speech and voice improvements. This has been especially useful as I’ve started offering online virtual coaching, and use Practice Fusion for those clients as well. Sharing my notes with my patient through Practice Fusion’s EHR (rather than an email attachment, for example) gives me a sense of security that every transmission of information is taking place in a safe, HIPAA-compliant environment.

Advice for small, independent practices
If you’re kicking and screaming about converting to an EHR, my advice is to just get it over with sooner than later, because the paper trail will keep piling up. Set a date with a goal for converting, and then just do it. The most overwhelming part is pulling all of your active patients into the EHR system, but once they’re in, documentation is easy.

If I can do it (without any secretarial support in my office!) then anyone can. Practice Fusion provides everything you need without a costly set-up—all it costs is a little time. And then, you’ll feel an enormous sense of relief. I promise.