Dr. Satinder S. Bhullar, MD. OH USA
BALANCING PATIENT CARE AND TECHNOLOGY: HOW A FAMILY DOCTOR IS SETTING AN EXAMPLE
THE LEGACY OF THE FAMILY DOCTOR
In this day and age it is increasingly rare to find a physician who fits the traditional description of the “family doctor” – a general practitioner of such long and distinguished service they have taken care of families into the third and even fourth generations. That tradition lives on today through Dr. Satinder S. Bhullar. After serving a tour of duty as an Army doctor in the Vietnam War, in 1971 Dr. Bhullar settled in the small West Virginia community of Wheeling. After practicing for 20 years in a large clinic, in 1991 he began a solo practice that has since expanded to a second location. Thus for over 42 years Dr. Bhullar has been taking care of individuals and families in the Wheeling area who have come to trust him as their family doctor. His wife Tej Bhullar noted “We are in a small community where everyone comes to know you. Entire families come to see us.” which according to Tej includes not only parents and children but also their extended relations such as aunts, uncles and cousins. Many of his early patients today bring their own children or grandchildren to him for medical care.
THE FAMILY DOCTOR IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Like many physicians of his generation, Dr. Bhullar has not had much experience with computers. Tej humorously pointed out “He never even learned to type.” She continued, “They, the older generation of doctors, never learned about computers or typing and they can’t sit there with one finger typing it takes too long and they get frustrated with that.” She recalls how her husband attempted to use dictation software to transcribe his notes in an electronic format. The results were very unsatisfactory, with translation errors occurring over 40% of the time, resulting in far more time consumed than was saved. Nonetheless Dr. Bhullar also recognized that with the new Department of Health and Human Services regulations requiring practices receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to begin using an Electronic Medical Record system (EMR), his offices had to modernize and adapt. The process of implementing an EMR can be daunting for any physician, but especially so for those completely unfamiliar with computers.
When they committed to embracing the use of an EMR, Tej became more involved in her husband’s practice. Prior to this she had rarely even visited his office, except to take the kids for shots, and did not really know a great deal about computers herself. She and her husband had heard stories from other doctors in the area about the difficulties they experienced with earlier versions of EMR software, including a steep and difficult learning curve, mixed performance and lost billing revenue during the transition to electronic records. Undaunted, she was determined to oversee the transition of their offices to using an EMR. After visiting a couple of other physician’s offices already using EMR, she turned for help from her son-in-law, whose career involves extensive work with computers. She told him she needed a software solution that would not only be effective but would also be easy to learn and implement. With his help the practice selected ZH Healthcare’s OpenEMR, in large part because of how easy it was to learn. “Without the ZH Healthcare program I could not have completed the EMR implementation. But because of the simplicity of the program, because of the support of the program, I thought we could do it.” she says. Both Tej and Dr. Bhullar have since been very happy with that decision. Not only have they been able to meet the HHS requirements for “meaningful use” of an EMR, their own internal processes have become much more efficient, resulting in better patient care and less time spent processing data such as billing records. Dr. Bhullar has been very pleased with being able to use simple diagnostic codes for Medicare billing, and the freedom from cumbersome dictation since he can now scan his hand-written notes into patient records. He and his staff also like how easy it is with ZH Healthcare’s OpenEMR to customize report templates for their office, enabling them to better meet the needs of their patients. Tej in particular has been very satisfied with the help they have received from the ZH Healthcare Customer Care team, who quickly alleviated the Bhullar’s anxieties about adapting an EMR. “My support person has been very, very helpful” says Tej. “We needed a lot of help and service and they do a very good job.”
IF HE CAN DO IT, WE CAN DO IT TOO
Dr. Bhullar’s successful transition to EMR has caught the attention of other physicians in their area. Like Dr. Bhullar himself, many of his colleagues had limited experience with computers. “Older physicians are very afraid”, said Tej. “They don’t have the time to learn computers. They say ‘I can’t take time, so I need to have something that does not take too much time to learn.’” But as Tej laughingly pointed out, they also say “If he, Dr. Bhullar, can do it, we can do it too!” Thus far six other doctors in the area have purchased ZH Healthcare’s OpenEMR on the Bhullar’s recommendation, and a seventh is presently looking at it. “I keep telling everybody how good this is,” said Tej, “and many doctors are watching us.” She also notes that the expected loss of income during their transition to EMR never happened, in large part because of how easy it was to get ZH Healthcare’s OpenEMR up and running. It has worked so well they have requested that their outsource billing company begin using the ZH Healthcare program to process all of Dr. Bhullar’s patient billing.
Being a trusted family physician for multiple generations is an honor that is earned only after many years of faithful and distinguished service. Dr. Bhullar is not only setting an example of excellent patient care for the new generation of physicians following after him, he is also setting an example for those of his own generation who have been reluctant to transition to using an EMR.
ZH Healthcare is committed to providing excellent software resources, extraordinary customer service, and consistent customer care to physicians like Dr. Bhullar, helping them maintain and improve their patient quality of care as they modernize their practices with 21st century EMR technology.