For caregivers, providing patients with clinical summaries can be quite challenging, especially when meaningful use dollars are in play.
While the meaningful use criteria for clinical summaries says that they must be given to patients for over 50% of all office visits within three business days via in person or email, generating a meaningful clinical summary can be a thorny process for a few reasons, according to Robert Lamberts, M.D., a pediatrics and internal medicine physician based in Augusta, Ga.
Lamberts, who shared challenges in a Physicians Practice article, said that clinical summaries need to be put into a “reasonable format” when given to patients. By reasonable format, Lamberts means that some clinical summaries generated by EHR systems do not give the information the right way to patients after a visit.
Another barrier to generating a clinical summary is the impact it has on clinician behavior. Lamberts explained that generating a clinical summary will likely cause a change in provider workflow. In an effort to achieve a meaningful summary, a provider may alter care tactics in order to produce a comprehensive summary. This is a process that can ultimately add more work — a worrisome proposition for caregivers with productivity loss in mind. For example, if a patient does not understand a clinical summary they’ve received, the provider will have to spell out the details — and that takes time.
Lamberts took matters into his own hands by creating a handout that details what patients need, and want, to know after a visit. The reason for the handout was to ensure Lamberts’ care routine goes unchanged. Some of the handout questions are as follows:
- What was the diagnosis?
- What is the plan?
- Were any tests, labs, or consults ordered?
- Were any medications started or stopped?
The questions, it turns out, are components of a meaningful clinical summary. The handout, said Lamberts in the article, is easy to read on the patient’s end. Furthermore, the clinical summary as a whole has “become the culmination of the visit — something tangible that patients get for their time and money.” He added that, with his process, he communicates better and patients are happier.
This process shows that generating clinical summaries takes much more planning than just relying on an EHR system to produce one. That said, should more providers create a similar handout? That’s debatable. After all, it may take more work to create one.