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July, 2012

The Hottest (And Most Useful) Technology for Your Practice

By Mark Sanna, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC

Lately, while much attention has been focused on electronic health records (EHRs) and other software solutions, technology innovators have continued to develop new tools and equipment to improve the cost and efficiency of delivering care in your practice. In this tech guide for your practice, I'll profile several new tools available for the chiropractic practice. Unlike EHRs, most of these devices could start paying for themselves right way – without having to wait for a government incentive check and without disruption to the operation of your practice.

Reception Area Patient Tablet Computers

The enormous popularity of the iPad has transformed the use of tablets in all areas of our digital lives, including the chiropractic practice. Reception room touch-screen tablet computers can be used to speed up the check-in process and create a better overall patient experience. Patients can pick up the tablet when they check-in at the front desk and can fill out forms electronically, view educational videos, as well as the internal marketing messages of your choice. Tablets help eliminate data entry errors and improve the efficiency of patient data input. Patients appreciate the idea of making the time they spent waiting more productive and any wait time seems to go by faster. A word of warning: portable devices can go missing if unsupervised. You can load the devices with a "LoJack" theft deterrent system that tracks the device if it is stolen. Another decision you'll need to make is whether you want a tablet that's 3/4G capable or a Wi-Fi only model. The iPad comes in both iterations, and so do many of its competitors. The Wi-Fi only models cost less, but of course the 3/4G models (which can also use Wi-Fi) offer more flexibility. Remember, though, that 3/4G service plan adds to the cost on a monthly basis.

Electronic Signature Pads

You can do away with paper sign-in sheets with an electronic signature pad. Patients sign the electronic pad, which is connected to your computer's USB port, to sign in for their appointment and to sign forms. As the stylus moves when the patient writes, all of the data associated with the signature is captured. Data, such as how fast and in what direction the pen is moving, is captured by the pad. This produces much more than a snap shot of the signature. Security software also compares signatures to prove authenticity. Having a digital signature on file facilitates the third party reimbursement process and reduces claims errors. Signature pads can also serve as a communication tool, connecting the various departments of your clinic. The digitally captured signatures are time and date stamped and can be used to monitor patient flow and wait time. This ensures that patients are cared for in the correct order and that patients waiting to be seen are not overlooked. For paperless practices, digital signatures are more convenient than scanning forms and most EHRs can integrate your practice management system with a signature pad.

Digital Dictation Microphones and Software

In the last several years, the accuracy of voice recognition software has improved by leaps and bounds. Digitally inclined chiropractors who want to dictate their notes but avoid transcription fees can use updated versions of the Dictaphone. Powerful noise-cancelling microphones are available that eliminate background noise for greater accuracy and cleaner transcription. Software applications such as Dragon can integrate with your EHR system and be used to navigate between fields and control the application. Spoken notes are automatically transcribed to the corresponding fields in the EHR. If you do not dictate your notes, you may find that digital dictation requires some alteration in your workflow in order to avoid awkward interruptions during patient encounters.

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