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Experts recommend you follow these 12 steps to ensure your practice makes a successful transition to higher technology:
1. Make sure you have enough computers in your office and they are in the right places. A computer at the front desk is a must, says Michael J. Alper, president of Meridian Health Care Management, a managed care consulting firm in Woodland Hills, CA.
2. Don’t use cost as an excuse not to act now. "You can buy a top-of-the-line computer for $600 and connect to the Internet for $20 a month," Alper points out.
3. Invest in a cable modem or DSL line, rather than relying on dial-up Internet access. This will save money and time in the long run, says Genny Jacks, senior advisor with the Health Technology Center, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that promotes the use of new health care technologies.
4. Look to your professional organizations for guidance on how to use the Internet and other technology.
5. Investigate options in your community. For instance, your hospital affiliates may be able to make information available to you through physician Web portals.
6. Team up with payers who can support you in your use of technology, and take advantage of payer products that can help you run your practice more efficiently.
7. Check out application service providers that can give you access to technology for a reasonable price. Systems that help with prescription writing, checking for formulary compliance, and drug interactions and dosages may give your practice the greatest return, says Henry Golembesky, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician and principal with CSC Consulting in San Francisco.
8. Whether you sign up for an application service provider or buy the software yourself, make sure that whatever technology you are using will meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance standards.
9. Choose a company that has good support. Getting your people up and running with technology is a quick way to get a payback, Jacks says.
10. Train your office staff to use the computers and familiarize them with the Internet.
11. Stay current with software and technology support.
12. Plan on a transition period to the new system. Over time, when you get your patient base into the system, the amount of work is going to decrease, Golembesky says.