"If I had more resources, I'd be 10 times further along than I am now."
That's both an affirmation and a lament about technology's potential from Dr. Marcus, who's trying to computerize the business and clinical operations of her practice as well as add to the roster of time-saving functions on the practice's Web site.
The practice is about to redesign and upgrade its Web site to give it "more of a spiffy look" without loading it up with graphical objects that would take too long to download.
Another short-term goal: taking patient histories online before scheduled appointments. That way, doctors and nurses would have the preliminary data in hand and could concentrate on diagnosis and treatment in the time allotted.
With e-mail addresses piling up as more patients use the Web site, Marcus would like to be able to sort among subsets of patients to issue alerts and reminders by e-mail. The practice could send flu shot reminders or news about the availability of a new vaccine to atargeted population, for example, or warn certain towns about a localized outbreak of whooping cough.
The Newton, Mass., doctors group is working to implement a practice management information system from MicroMed Healthcare Information Systems and an electronic medical record known as NextGen from Clinitec International, both subsidiaries of Tustin, Calif.-based Quality Systems.
Though she likes the NextGen system, Marcus says individual or small group practices "have a hard time affording it." The monthly maintenance alone costs $1,000 or more.
The vendor is talking about delivering the system through the Internet for a monthly fee, which could turn the tide for small practices if the charge could be held to about $500 per month, she said. "I would pay that in a heartbeat."