Across the United States, it can be hard to find a common fixture in the physician’s office. With regulations and requirements differing from city to city and from state to state, equipment, specialties and services can radically vary from any given practice to another. But hidden in a room next to the janitor’s closet or tucked away under the admin’s desk is a hunk of plastic and aluminum that one can now expect in any doctor’s office: a server running the office’s Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system.
Electronic Medical Records comprise all the information necessary to deliver quality healthcare to patients. From known allergies to past X-rays to the date and time of their next appointment, the data stored in the EMR can be confidential and is vital to their medical care. Despite the critical value of this data, the modern American practice relies on EMR technology that is monolithic, feature-scant and embarrassingly out-of-date.
The Problem With EMR Data
Mike Neighbors knows the pains of this out-dated system all too well. His wife’s practice in Hunstville, Alabama had an old-school EMR with a big-time problem to be solved: getting data hidden from the patients that need it. The data in most Electronic Medical Records systems is stuck in monolithic, proprietary software, effectively locking valuable information patients need inside a dusty old Dell. Mike found that lack of portability impaired the quality of care a physician could provide. “Really, when was the last time the doctor said to Grandma, ‘Now I know you may forget a few things I mentioned today so I’ll ring you up on Tuesdays and Fridays about medicine X and on Thursday and Saturday about medicine Y?’” asked Mike.
Messaging is an important driver to “compliance,” the measure by which physicians judge a patient’s frequency of following medical instruction. SMS and phone reminders for recurring medical advice can create huge differences in care. Mike’s solution is MOM – the Medical Office Messenger. This cleverly named Twilio application interfaces with the EMR system in the practice and delivers much needed reminders via phone and SMS to patients.
Solving The EMR Quandary With Twilio SMS
The technology driving MOM is tailored for the infrastructure common among EMR vendors. Mike describes, “[t]he portion of the software that resides in the physician’s office is written in Microsoft Access and runs on any internet connected PC that supports an ODBC connection to the practice management database.” Access/ODBC requirements are common in the EMR space, making MOM easily adaptable to most practices. “The fact that MOM does it all with only data read from an existing EMR makes adapting it to new EMRs very easy,” Mike explained.
To find a good solution to connecting the data from the Electronic Medical Records to phone systems, Mike conducted a nationwide survey. Mike discovered few options that he liked until a blog comment pointed him to Twilio and to Kevin Morrill, who connected the dots that became the MOM service. “I guess Kevin and I are the team as in ‘Ma, Pa and I shot a bear,’” Mike laughed. “Well, I was there but Kevin was doing the shooting.” 20,000 messages and $10,000 in cost savings later, MOM has become an irreplaceable part of the practice’s infrastructure.
The Start of a Must Have EMR Plugin Feature
“MOM’s SMS and phone-based Quick Messages and Care Messages are revolutionary ideas in a physician’s office although seemingly common place in other venues,” Mike explained, “In five clicks on the laptop, Grandma’s compliance shoots from 25% to 95%.” He continued, “I would encourage Twilio developers to look for opportunities in the medical market. I have yet to see an Electronic Medical Record vendor with a really nice solution for integrated communications. MOM is just the tip of the iceberg.”