Christopher Crow, MD, president of Village Health Partners in Plano, TX, was similarly frustrated by the inefficiency he saw in his early years in practice when trying to arrange care for his patients with specialists or other ancillary services.
After his residency, "I joined a group and within two weeks I realized I needed to get out of there," he says. "I was shocked that such a dysfunctional organization was seeing patients and people were paying them—and they were doing quite well."
So he decided to fix those inefficiencies himself. After starting an independent practice with a partner, and getting his MBA, he implemented an EMR seven years ago so that he could free up valuable clinical staff to deal with patients and automate common tasks, such as refills and lab orders.
Village Health Partners' comprehensive IT system is built around GE Healthcare's Centricity Physician Office system and its Centricity EMR, as is Westmed's. Village was the first practice in Texas to be certified by NCQA, and in 2008, the group received a HIMSS Davies Award for demonstrating superior utilization of its EMR.
Still, the problem of referrals outside his practice remained.
Crow says despite the automation in his own practice, he and his staff were still spending lots of valuable time "begging" specialists to make timely appointments with his patients. He says he and his staff often had to apologize when they would send patients to a local hospital ED.