Case Study: Genesis Internal Medicine Saves $10,000 per Year With CureMD EMR SoftwareOctober 10, 2013 by Victoria Garment
Dr. Ahsen Sheikh, MD, always knew he wanted to practice internal medicine. As he went through his rotations in medical school at Universidad Iberoamericano in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, “it was just something that appealed to me the most,” he says.
Post graduation, Dr. Sheikh moved back to the United States to complete his residency in internal medicine at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint, MI, all the while thinking ahead to the day when he’d be able to start his own practice.
After receiving his license in 2005, Dr. Sheikh relocated again. This time it was to upstate New York, where he spent four years as a hospitalist before he came across—and seized—the opportunity he’d been waiting for. In January 2009, he opened Genesis Internal Medicine in Geneseo, a small town in the Finger Lakes region of central New York State.
Deciding to Use an EMR System From the Start
Genesis Internal Medicine has just four staff members—Dr. Sheikh, his secretary, an office manager and a nurse—and approximately 2000 patients. As with any new business, there were many decisions to weigh concerning how things would operate daily, but Dr. Sheikh was absolutely certain of one thing: he wanted the practice to run on an electronic medical record system (EMR) from day one.
“When I did my residency, all I worked with were EMRs; I had never worked with outpatient [paper] charts before,” he explains. “As I finished my residency, when I was looking at primary care practices, everyone had charts at that time, and I knew I didn’t want to do that—I wanted the efficiency I knew an EMR could provide. When I decided to open my own practice, I said, ‘We’re not going to have any charts, because we want everything to be electronic.’”
A few months before Genesis Internal Medicine was slated to open, Dr. Sheikh began shopping around for an EMR system that was Web-based, easy to use and had electronic prescriptions and lab integration. After evaluating three other systems, he selected CureMD, as it was the best and most cost-effective fit for his new practice.
Training Sessions Ensure a Smooth Implementation
Dr. Sheikh knew he had to get the system up and running before he could open his doors, so implementation began in December 2008. Even though the process took place during the busy holiday season, Dr. Sheik says CureMD’s customer service was impressive, and everything went smoothly and according to plan. The system was fully set up within just a few weeks, and Genesis Internal Medicine was ready for business by mid-January.
Staff were trained on the system via hour-long GoToMeeting sessions, which taught them how to use all features of the system, regardless of whether these features were necessary for their position. “Everyone was accustomed to the system by the time we started,” Dr. Sheikh says. “I made sure that everyone knew how to use even those areas they don’t use daily so everyone was on the same page.”
Despite being a new practice, Genesis Internal Medicine did have patients to see on opening day. “We advertised in local newspapers, and the hospital I was affiliated with began advertising for us around two months before we opened,” Dr. Sheikh explains.
Although business was still a bit slow in the beginning, this worked to Genesis Internal Medicine’s advantage, allowing staff time to ease into using the system with patients. “It gave me the opportunity to really get to know the system,” Dr. Sheikh says. “By the time I became a decent sized practice, both I and my staff were very familiar with it. As with any new EMR, things can always be a bit chaotic in the beginning, so for us, having a gradual process worked out really well.”
Digital Templates Reduce the Chance of Errors
With CureMD, appointments at Genesis Internal Medicine run efficiently throughout the day. The practice, which is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday, sees anywhere from 20 to 28 patients daily. Patients check in at the front desk, where the secretary uses CureMD for insurance eligibility verification. The system also tells her how much of a co-pay is required for that particular visit so it can be collected prior to the exam.
CureMD’s patient insurance eligibility verification feature
After check-in, patients are taken to an exam room. The nurse takes their vitals and enters this information directly into CureMD via laptop. When Dr. Sheikh enters the room, he pulls up one of several pre-created templates in the system depending on the type of patient he’s seeing, i.e. if it’s a new or pre-existing patient.
With an existing patient, for example, he uses a template called “Routine Follow-Up Progress Notes,” which, based on information gathered from previous appointments, is pre-filled with the patient’s entire history, medication lists, surgical history, allergies, etc.
As he conducts the exam, Dr. Sheikh enters all information collected from the physical in this template. He can also order blood work, X-rays, prescriptions, CAT scans and so forth with a single click.
In addition to making patient exams a smooth process, Dr. Sheikh says entering notes in a digital format significantly reduces the chance for mistakes due to lost files or misread information.
“With paper charts, it’s like looking through a book. Sometimes you may not find what you’re looking for and things can get easily misplaced or lost,” he says. “Most of us have horrible handwriting—I know I do—so sometimes I can’t read something I may have written even two, three days ago. Since everything is digital in CureMD, that is a huge, huge benefit.”
Electronic Prescriptions Improve Patient Experience
All bloodwork Dr. Sheikh orders is performed at Noyes Memorial Hospital, with which Genesis Internal Medicine is affiliated. When the exam is finished, the patient is given a printout that lists the tests Dr. Sheikh has ordered, such as a lipid profile or radiology test. The patient then brings this printout with them when they arrive at the hospital, which speeds up the process and eliminates any uncertainties about what tests they’re there for.
In the future, Dr. Sheikh hopes to further streamline this process. “We’re working on creating a direct connection with the hospital and the labs, so when we order blood work, it will be sent electronically to the lab right away along with all of the patient’s information, so all they have to do is show up,” he says.
For prescriptions, all Dr. Sheikh has to do is enter the medication into the system, and CureMD’s ePrescribing tool automatically sends it to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice so they don’t have to go through the hassle of dropping it off themselves.
“The only prescriptions we don’t send this way are narcotics, as this is prohibited by New York State law,” Dr. Sheikh explains. “In this case, CureMD will automatically create a printout, which we give to the patient to take to their local pharmacy.”
Educational Materials Lead to Better Patient Care
After the exam is finished and any necessary labs or tests have been ordered, Dr. Sheikh uses CureMD to go through an education process with the patient. The system features a module with educational materials that provide detailed information on numerous health issues to help patients understand and treat their conditions.
“If I have a hyperlipidemia patient, for example, all I have to do is go into the educational materials, find the information I want to give them and click a button that says ‘Print for Patient,’ and my staff can hand them that information as they walk out the door,” Dr. Sheikh explains. The system also gives Dr. Sheikh the ability to rate the patient’s ability to understand the material, so if they’re having trouble, he can make a note to spend more time reviewing it with them.
Another benefit of CureMD is it allows Dr. Sheikh and his staff to provide all patients with a clinical report when they leave, or send it to them via email, which helps them stay more informed and up-to-date on their progress. Information in this report includes the patient’s medication list, vitals, diagnoses and any upcoming routine tests they need to undergo, such as a colonoscopy or any vaccinations. Patients can also access all of this information securely online through the patient portal, which they can log into from anywhere with an Internet connection.
An Accessible System Saves Thousands of Dollars
Dr. Sheikh is constantly on the go—in addition to seeing patients at the Genesis Internal Medicine office, he also treats patients at a nearby nursing home as well as at Noyes Memorial Hospital. This means that the ability to access patient data, regardless of where he is, is a significant benefit of CureMD.
“Whether I’m at home, the hospital or visiting a friend, I can access the system,” he says. “If a patient calls me on the weekend and says, ‘Hey doc, I’m out of such-and-such medication,’ I can easily go in and order more. If a patient calls me and I can’t remember anything about them, I can easily log onto my computer and look up their chart. I can look at their labs and their old notes, even if I’m at home—I don’t need to be in the office.”
The staff at Genesis Internal Medicine also enjoy using CureMD. “They’re thrilled they don’t have to pull up charts anymore!” Dr. Sheikh says with a laugh. “I’ve seen other offices where they can’t even find patient charts sometimes. Here, everything is in the system, so there’s never a problem.”
CureMD’s ability to store patient data that can be easily accessed anywhere, anytime is more than just convenient—it also saves the practice approximately $10,000 per year. This figure comes from two areas: first, the office space can be used to see more patients, which results in additional revenue, and second, no additional space needs to be rented to house files. “The area of the office that I would have used to store charts is now an additional exam room,” Dr. Sheikh explains.
EMRs: An Integral Medical Tool
Dr. Sheikh is just one of many physicians to experience the benefits of implementing an EMR solution like CureMD. He believes systems like these are changing the way doctors use technology on a daily basis by adding a new tool to their arsenal.
“A computer has become almost like a medical tool, like a stethoscope,” he explains. “For so long, stethoscopes and paper charts have been perhaps the most recognizable items a physician carries with them. Now this is changing—when physicians walk in to examine a patient, they also have a laptop or a tablet to input the information into the system. Technology is quite literally changing the face of medicine.”
For Dr. Sheikh, the most beneficial part of this technology is that it helps him focus on what matters most to him. “Patient care is the most important thing to me,” he explains. “CureMD allows me to have all of my patients’ information at my fingertips so I can provide them with the best possible care I can.”