The Vacation Connection

The Vacation Connection

 

Many of my colleagues comment about how connected our patients are. Tweens share vacation pics on Instagram, teens tweet about their job and social life, and college students FaceTime with their friends anytime, anywhere. As pediatricians, are we still connected to our patients during summer vacation? Should we be? For me, the answer is “yes, absolutely!”

 

I can’t tell you how I used to dread returning from vacation in the days of paper charts. There would be stacks of charts on my desk, and the staff would creatively try to put the “most urgent” things on top. They would put charts on my chair so I couldn’t sit down (you could almost hear the chart saying, ”pick me! I’m the most important!”) and put Post-it Notes all over my phone. I wanted to run screaming from the office.

 

With a fully integrated EHR and patient portal, I can manage urgent charts and decide just how connected I want to be with my office and patients when I’m not there. I’m on vacation this week, but my partner is just returning from hers. I’ll periodically monitor patient messages from the portal through the weekend (the portal is used for non-urgent communication in my practice). On Sunday night, I will remotely reconfigure the portal options so patients can no longer send messages to me, but can send them to my partner. Patients continue to have access to our practice, and we can control where those messages go.

 

There are a few patients who I have on my radar–kids who are waiting for important labs and reports from a specialist–unusual cases I want to monitor.  I’ll likely log on and check on their status while I am away, at my convenience.  I am as connected as I choose to be, and I won’t have to feel like I’m digging myself out of a hole when I return.

 

Forms management with the portal:  You know all of those form requests that come across your desk over the summer for school and sports physicals? In the days of paper, they would pile up like crazy and the doc who was not on vacation would try to not drown in paperwork. With the EHR, you can print a school, sports, or camp form with a one click operation. Better yet, you can put it on the portal and let the parent download the completed form at home!

 

Portals for the patient:  From my perspective, it’s even more important that the patient remains connected to their chart and your office when they are on vacation.
  • What happens when a child needs stitches during a white water rafting trip, far away from home? Would a parent know the status of their child’s last tetanus shot? With a smartphone, parents and patients can log on to the portal and access their vaccine records.  
  • What if a child runs out of albuterol vacationing in Disney? Parents can request a refill through the portal and ask you to send it electronically to a 24 hour pharmacy in Orlando.
  • Does your patient with recurrent otitis media need to see an unfamiliar doctor while visiting their grandparents? Instruct them how to log on to the portal so the prescribing physician can see recent antibiotic and medication allergy histories.

 

Having the right information when you need it and the ability to control how connected you want to be is incredibly empowering. It’s great for patient care, and allows physicians to manage (and enjoy!) their vacation and return to the office in a manner which works best for everyone.