Written by: John Lynn
The idea of eliminating staff is a really hard one to talk about. Often the staff in a medical office becomes a family and so it’s really hard to think about losing a staff member in order to pay for the EMR. In fact, it’s incredibly common for staff in a clinic to fear an EMR implementation because they’re afraid that their job is in jeopardy.
From my experience, it’s incredibly rare for any existing staff to lose their job during an EMR implementation.
There are two main reasons why it’s unlikely that someone will lose their job because of an EMR implementation. The first is that most healthcare organizations have a natural employee attrition. When this happens the organization can just choose to not replace the departing employee. This is one way to save money on staff without having to actually fire any employees.
The second reason that people don’t lose their job to the EMR is that those people get reassigned to new jobs. For some people this can be nearly as bad as losing a job, but for many it’s basically a shift in job responsibilities. This shift can often be welcome since the EMR implementation can free them up to do work that they always wanted to do and never were able to do before.
The areas of healthcare that I’ve seen most affected by an EMR implementation is medical records, transcription, billing, and the front desk. We’ve already written previously about transcription and EMR. The front desk and billing can be affected, but generally stays close to the same from what I’ve seen. A lot of this depends a lot on what type of staffing you had before the EMR. I have seen some organizations implement an EMR and save money on front desk and billing staff.
Medical records (or HIM if you prefer) is usually the most impacted. Certainly they still have an important place in the office for things like release of records and other records management functions. They also have to continue to deal with the legacy paper charts. However, their days of finding, organizing and filing charts are over when an EMR is put in place. In some cases the chart organizing and finding gets replaced with things like scanning into the EMR. In other cases, there isn’t as many medical records staff needed.
Many who are reading this post are probably balking at the idea of eliminating staff being a benefit of an EMR implementation. They’d no doubt point to the EHR backlash that we see from many doctors who complain that an EMR makes them much slower and takes up too much time. This is an important item to consider when evaluating the benefits of an EMR in your organization. It’s not much of a benefit to save other staff cost if the doctor spends twice as much time per patient.
However, on the other side of the coin is those doctors who swear by the efficiency their EMR provides them. I’ll never forget this older OB/GYN I met who told me he would NEVER use an EMR. Two years later that same OB/GYN was proclaiming his love of EMR. He described how he wouldn’t be able to see nearly as many patients as he did each day without the EMR. He acknowledged the slow down that occurred when they first implemented the EMR, but once they adapted to the EMR workflow they were able to see most patients.
No doubt Eliminating Staff can be a mixed EMR benefit basket depending on your unique situation. Although, this is true with almost every EMR benefit we’ll cover in this series. This can be a tremendous benefit of EMR or it can also be an expense as you find you need to hire more staff.
Getting Lean with Your Practice: Five Tips for Improving Provider Productivity with an EHR
One of the major reasons that health care providers resist implementing an electronic health record (EHR) system is the belief that using it will slow them down, reducing the number of patients they can see and therefore reducing practice revenue. In fact, an EHR that is designed around an efficient workflow can enable providers to work faster and more efficiently. “Lean” methodologies, originally introduced by Toyota, have recently been used by health care providers such as Massachusetts General Hospital, ThedaCare, and Beth Israel Hospital (Boston) to streamline patient workflow. By understanding and measuring the workflow, health care providers can determine best practices, which will ultimately enable them to achieve the level of efficiency they desire.