One thing recently became increasingly important to Metro Imaging and Radiology, an independent radiology practice with five locations throughout St. Louis, Missouri: meeting meaningful use.
In 2012, Metro Imaging added an electronic health record after having used NextGen’s billing system for several years. Along with the EHR, the chain added the Anoto digital pen.
With more than 100,000 annual patient visits, the practice sought a viable solution to help streamline the intake process and reduce some practice inefficiencies, like scanning and filing paper patient forms.
“We knew it was going to be difficult to reach meaningful use, and we needed something that was going to be very efficient,” said Christine Keefe, chief financial officer at Metro Imaging. “We couldn’t have anything that slows us down too much.”
The Anoto pens seemed like the best solution. The pen stays charged for 10 hours and can hold 200 pages filled out top to bottom.
The practice was sold on the pen because of its ability to capture the information being entered onto paper forms, especially the patient intake forms. According to Keefe, the pens were only considered based on a recommendation from it NextGen representative, but since implementing it, they have completely done away with any manual scanning of patient forms.
On top of that, the clinic has completely gotten rid of paper (except for the patient in take forms used at the front of house) and it no longer keeps papers files.
The first week following implementation was the most difficult, she said, but since everything has settled back to normal and there have been no hiccups. The EHR was probably a more significant change than adding the pens. After all, the patients rarely notice there’s something different about the slightly larger ball points.
The pen captures the data entered into the fields of the paper forms by the patient through a small camera on the pen. It snaps 70 images per second as a patient enters the required data, storing until the pen is docked on a charging station, at which point it downloads all of the information contained into the practice’s EHR through a USB port.
“A great thing about the pen is that you can dock it, ignore it and by the time you’re done doing other things, everything is downloaded and you can use it again,” Keefe said.
An immediate benefit, other than reducing the amount of manual input required of clinical staff is that the forms that are used by the practice are customized and capture data in a structured manner.
Staff that previously focused on transcription, scanning and filing now have had their resources reallocated to claims and billing administration and patient relations. For example, staff has more time to follow up with patients and address any billing and claims issues that come up.
The practice currently uses 25 pens; five per practice. Each costs $385 and there is a $1,000 license fee. Additionally, the practice pays a regular maintenance fee. The pens can be used for hours without re-charging and can capture multiple people’s records without needing to be docked.
The pens are also Bluetooth-enabled and can transmit information wirelessly back to a healthcare setting, making them appropriate for home health workers and others that work outside the four walls of the practice.
They are the ideal technology too, since today more than 80 percent of physicians still rely on traditional pen and paper to capture patient information. Finally, digital pens offers a simple, alternative way to capture data and transfer it into an EHR, especially for physicians concerned about a computer or tablet PC getting in the way of their patient’s experience.
“We like the flexibility the pens have created for us,” said Keefe, “anything to cut down on work at the front desk.”
Metro doesn’t use them in the clinical setting yet, Keefe said, but there has been some interest in bringing them into the exam room. If things continue to go as smoothly as they have, that decision would be like hand meeting glove.