Thanks to technological innovation, more and more healthcare facilities are now adopting the use of electronic health records (EHRs). Patients now have more opportunities to consult with their physicians about their medical records. Increased access to EHRs also means that providers will now be able to easily share patient information with other providers. The goal of increasing access to medical records is to improve the continuity of care, as well as enhance patient safety.
As more patients are able to access their records, they can impact the accuracy of the information contained within by asking questions about their medical information, by identifying inaccuracies in the information and also by giving additional information that may be useful in improving the correctness of the data. Incorporating feedback from the patients themselves implies that patients indeed do play a crucial role in improving the quality of information in their medical records.
The rewards of keeping up with your medical records are quite obvious.
First, it is the best way to ensure that your physician understands what you communicate to them. It is also a good way for the doctors to ensure that they understand what you communicate. Even though the benefits are clear, many people are often reluctant to request for their medical records. Worse still, countless individuals out there do not know that they can. Every individual is entitled to complete access to their chart from any medical facility that has ever dispensed care.
Not only are you obligated to share more information with your doctors, the information that you give makes a difference in how you respond to the treatment prescribed. Accurate information improves your chances of complying to the therapies prescribed successfully, which will consequently allow you to recover and heal in the shortest time possible.
What is contained in your medical records?
There is a difference between your official medical records and the scribbled notes that are typically handed to you after a consultation. Most scribbled notes simply contain a generic outline of your symptoms and a short prescription often written in a code that many individuals cannot understand. These, are not your medical records.
Your official medical records contain all the juicy details of your medical journey; your lab results, physician’s notes, the past and present allergic reactions and reactions to medicines, blood pressure stats and basically anything that concretely makes up your entire health profile.
T-Mobile recently became the first cell phone carrier to offer free inflight Wi-Fi (in support of Wi-Fi texting, as cellular signals are still not yet allowed) to all its customers. Admittedly, this was technically on the strength of partnering with a third-party platform, Go-Go, but the carrier gets the glory of being first among its big four peers to take even this step.
In-flight Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi calling, and similar services aren’t necessarily new technology, but having support for limited internet browsing and texting, all delivered through one of the top carriers in the nation, makes for a reasonably good elevator pitch—especially if you happen to be a T-Mobile customer. But the importance of the development isn’t just the novelty of the technology or the value of the service on offer; it is planting a shining pink flag in the market and staking that claim of being “first.”
Early Adoption, Arrested Development
Being first hasn’t lost its luster yet, even in a time when consumer expectations are sometimes a generation or two ahead of current technology. Hospitals and their leadership recognize this, and so, despite uncertainty on everything from insurance market regulations to the future of EHR integration, many are taking strides to do as T-Mobile has done — and find a way to get there first on a variety of issues important to consumers. And like T-Mobile, being first doesn’t have to mean getting into the weeds of proprietary innovation and product development—although plenty of larger chains and clinics do take that route; for many hospitals, being first can be accomplished through strategic partnerships with tech-centric companies.
If there is one lesson out of Silicon Valley that has entered the American zeitgeist, it is that being the first out with something can give a company, product or even team of creatives a lot of leeway in terms of going on to iterate, improve, and generally tinker. But on the healthcare front, we see how the drive to be first—or even keep pace with the rest of the industry—can create a “hurry up and wait” situation where meaningful progress sometimes lags fanfare or technology.
That is why the top tech trends in healthcare don’t change much year to year; end users, hospital administrators, and tech developers are all still trying to figure out what works, what works best, and how to integrate new tools into the clinical workflow, the patient experience, and the regulatory environment governing it all.
That is the story of EHRs is a nutshell: a good idea, a rush to adoption (both willing and coerced), and then a lengthy period of reiteration as all stakeholders struggle to recreate or wholistically reconsider the context in which this new system can, and should, operate. But the rush to adopt first and configure later isn’t limited to high-technology in the healthcare sector; it pretty well describes the legal environment surrounding health insurance.
Industry Leadership: Being First or Being Best?
From how it affects patients to what it is still trying to influence in the provider space, the conversation about care and coverage is still shepherded primarily by fear, secondarily by outrage, and in most other respects by confusion. So it looks like we’ll be shopping the exchanges for a while longer, even under President Trump’s watch.
After gazing into the abyss that was Trumpcare, the still-evolving status quo that is Obamacare is more popular than ever. Here again, the power of being first seems to provide some residual sticking power to a law frequently and publicly dragged through the mud by people and organizations with at least as much visibility and influence as one like T-Mobile.
At the beginning of their existence, electronic health records (EHRs) were primarily used as a document management system. Now, they have realigned their objectives and value to the physicians and practices they serve, to focus on data intelligence. If specialty practices want to stay independent they need to continue to evolve, prioritize value-based care and stay profitable. Moreover, they need the right partners to help enhance operational efficiency, increase patient engagement and achieve better clinical outcomes. As such, the scope of the EHRs responsibility for the practice’s health, growth, and sustainability has increased exponentially.
How will specialty practices ensure their future? By leveraging the power of clinical and operational data in their EHR and supplemental business applications, working together within the healthcare IT (HCIT) ecosystem. Businesses across all industries analyze data to measure overall industry performance. Metrics are the foundation for any successful business and physician groups are not excluded. Metrics should be the driving force behind every major decision that will boost productivity. However, physicians are not data scientists, but by utilizing the next generation HCIT systems, they can employ technology that will streamline the decision making process.
Challenges turn into opportunities
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), 171,000 physicians who did not collect and use data to comply with government regulations are looking at a three percent Meaningful Use penalty in 2017. Coupled with a new focus on value-based care requirements playing a critical role in care and outcomes, upgrading their data platform and capabilities should be the number one priority to comply with new industry standards. Data driven HCIT solution providers can prepare specialty practices for these coming changes. They help collect and analyze data to ensure effective treatment plans at lower costs.
Bottom line: This helps improve patient health and satisfaction.
Today’s HCIT systems are considered business tools that help physicians analyze data and reveal insights to use for enhanced decision making. Popular “big-box” HCIT systems try to be all things to all providers, yet they are tailored to hospitals and primary care physicians—many who typically see far fewer patients in a day than specialists. This puts a major burden on specialists, who rely on different clinical and operational data to help maximize outcomes.
Specialists potentially see up to 60 patients a day – and cover surgeries, follow-ups and everything in between. Generic HCIT systems fall short in relation to appointment volume. Combined with the fact those systems make data entry inefficient, impede clinical workflows, and lack business metrics, this is the major argument for specialty-focused HCIT solutions. Some groups acquired by hospitals or health systems have not adopted the integrated systems of their new parent companies. Instead, they stay with their specialty HCIT systems—interoperable with their parent companies’ technology—because of their ability to serve existing, proven workflows.
Data insights and a workflow makeover
Specialty HCIT systems that analyze a variety of data and provide practices with the knowledge to improve their performance will deliver the best outcomes for patients and practices. Analyzing operational data provides an understanding of how to deliver the best patient care at the lowest cost, thereby delivering optimal outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction levels.
Specialists should take the opportunity to re-evaluate their EHR and determine if their goals are helped or hindered by their current HCIT ecosystem. A productivity-boosting HCIT system can harness the power of data to deliver clinical and business applications, workflows, and insight through one user interface and make compliance with reporting requirements simple and straightforward.
In the U.S., more than a third of patients are referred to a specialist each year, and specialist visits constitute more than half of outpatient visits. Referrals are the link that make this connection between primary and specialty care. From 1999 through 2009 alone, the absolute number of visits resulting in a physician referral increased 159 percent nationally, from 41 million to 105 million. This volume and the frequency of specialty referrals has steadily increased over the years and will only continue. Yet despite this rise in frequency, the referral process itself has been a great frustration for years.
Specialty referrals are a complicated business. There are many moving parts and players that all have a crucial role to play within the process. By breaking it down and looking at exactly what a referral is, who is involved, and the challenges they face, we can then look to fix what is broken. What needs to be improved? And could there be a digital solution?
Let’s start from the very beginning by looking at the stakeholders and their unique interests and concerns.
Patient – The patient experiences a health concern and needs care to get it resolved. The primary physician doesn’t provide the full solution and refers them to a specialist with more expertise about the patient’s condition. This is where the referral occurs. Currently, the extent of the referral is the physician handing a phone number to the patient to call and schedule the appointment. It’s up to the patient to contact the specialist and follow through with the next step, which explains why 20 percent of patients never even schedule the referral appointment.
Provider –There is more than one provider involved in the referral process. First is the referring (or sending) provider and then the target (or receiving) provider. The referring physician is the provider recommending (referring) them to a specialist. The target provider is the specialist that has been recommended. For a health system or physician group, there are obvious financial and quality of care benefits associated when a patient is sent to a trusted provider within network. When patients don’t go to their referral appointment, the health system or physician group loses in several ways. First of all, they have lost control over providing comprehensive care to the patient. If a patient gets readmitted to a hospital because of their negligence to follow through on a referral appointment, the health system gets penalized for the readmission. The penalty could result in CMS withholding up to 3 percent of the funding provided to the health system. The system also suffers in terms of the perception of their quality of care. If a patient is not secured with a provider within network, they may go to a competing system.
Plan – Health plans have several important considerations when a referral happens with a vested interest on three fronts to ensure the patient goes to the target provider:
1) The health plan benefits if the patient goes to a target provider within their network. Not only will patients be directed to providers that best meet their needs, but the plan also benefits when patients are referred to the providers in their Smart Network. These providers are trusted for superior care for the patient and reduced costs for the plan.
2) When a plan member doesn’t get the care they need to maintain good health, their likelihood of having major adverse events rises dramatically. This means they will end up in the ER or needing other expensive care, which represents big costs for the health plan.
3) The current approach to referrals often results in long lead times, which makes for a poor patient experience and can increase costs.
Guest post by Lindy Benton, president and CEO, Vyne.
The world of denials management is a constantly shifting landscape, one that has changed dramatically with the onset of ICD-10. Now more than ever, denials management requires an organizational focus with built-in workflows for prevention, monitoring and tracking of claims through the system.
In the years leading up to ICD-10, providers were apprehensive about the potential drain it would place on both resources and reimbursement. CMS predicted that – with the onset of ICD-10 – denial rates would increase by 100 to 200 percent, days in A/R would grow by 20 percent to 40 percent and claims error rates would more than double. CMS warned that error rates could reach a high of 6 percent to 10 percent, significantly higher than the 3 percent average error rate with ICD-9.
Providers also feared cash flow problems stemming from coding backlogs, expected to increase by at least 20 percent because of the complexity of the new coding system. “A typical turnaround time for claims processing of 45 to 55 days could end up being extended another 10 to 20 days,” cited Healthcare Payer News.
And the change has been momentous. With ICD-10, the number of diagnostic codes increased from 13,000 ICD-9 codes to 68,000 ICD-10 codes. The new system challenges providers to document conditions more specifically, supporting codes with thorough and accurate medical documentation.
Despite the gravity of the change, many providers say it has been a smooth transition thus far, with minimal delays in productivity and reimbursement. But as the industry moves through this period of adjustment, providers must continue to seek opportunities to protect revenue and generate cash flow for a successful claims management strategy in the wake of ICD-10.
ICD-10 requires an organizational focus around the management, prevention and defense of denials. Denials management is no longer an effort reserved just for the revenue cycle but for all departments. For coding to complete a claim, pieces of information must be collected from multiple areas across the organization. For this reason, all departments should be educated on the part they play and how cross-department collaboration can aid the process.
In preparing providers for ICD-10, the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) noted, “Claims denials will not strictly be a matter of clarification that can be handled by a nonclinical person in the billing office. Denials will raise questions about medical necessity or the clarity of medical documentation supporting a code; such questions will require input from a physician, nurse specialists or outside expertise.”
Workflow processes are also critical as hospitals work to achieve accurate coding and get bills out the door. Technologies that streamline hand-offs between departments can help reduce bottlenecks that often delay reimbursement. A work queue keeps denials moving, assigning and tracking accountability at each checkpoint and monitoring progress to ensure no claim falls through the cracks.
Many hospitals, clinics and healthcare organizations today talk about going paperless. In fact, according to a November 2016 research report from IDC, more than 40 percent of healthcare organizations report that they have a paper-reduction initiative in place.
Yet even hospitals that have achieved late-stage meaningful use status still receive and process high volumes of paper. This is especially true for important printing workflows, such as medical records, administrative files, admissions documents, prescriptions and pharmacy information. According to a recent survey by HIMSS Analytics, commissioned by Nuance, 90 percent of survey respondents reported some clinicians still use paper-based documents.
There is no escaping that healthcare organizations are committed to paper, at least for the short-term future. For instance, the IDC study found print volumes are expected to remain flat for the next two years, before beginning to decline after that time period.
When you consider that this amount of paper is expensive (both in terms of actual printing costs as well as overall document management processes), hard to track, and poses serious security and compliance risks, you may wonder why so many healthcare organizations continue to rely on paper.
To help answer the question, we’ll take a closer look at the reasons cited in the IDC report. We’ll also offer a few best practices any healthcare organization can follow now to reduce its reliance on paper to address the challenges posed by manual or paper-based workflows.
Why Paper Use Continues
According to the IDC report, the top reasons hospitals, clinics and healthcare organizations continue to use paper include incompatible document management systems or technology. This issue is most notable between the organization and outside facilities, leaving default paper processes as the best workaround.
Another reason is that many workflows still require paper documentation, most notably patient check-in/belongings forms, records requiring signatures, consent forms and more. Additionally, the majority of prescriptions and pharmacy records are still paper-based. For example, only 10 percent of responding hospitals indicated that prescriptions were electronic.
Lastly, healthcare organizations are large-scale consumers of fax technology. Hospitals report that many still receive and send up to 1,000 pages per month by fax. Interestingly, these hospitals report that while faxing may be an antiquated technology, many are behind in implementing new technology and must continue to focus on what works for them.
Some people jokingly say they’re “addicted” to their smartphones or to browsing online. They use their devices to visit social media platforms and websites and send texts throughout the day. But the vulnerability created by these activities for employers is no joke, and the risks extend to every industry, including healthcare, since most data breaches are caused by human error.
In doctor’s offices and other clinical operations, the risk is especially acute for providers who use cloud-based systems that require constant connection to the internet. The always-connected nature of these solutions exposes offices to ransomware and malware designed specifically for Windows, which can exploit the internet connection to steal sensitive patient information.
While many high-profile hacking and ransomware incidents have occurred over the past several years, security experts project that 2017 will be even worse as cybercriminals exploit new vulnerabilities introduced by the Internet of Things (IoT) and hackers increasingly turn to Distributed Delay of Services (DDoS) attacks. These are techniques for data theft that are only used to compromise remote data centers with shared servers, commonly called ‘the cloud’.
Practice leaders can respond with training, instructing staff on how to avoid “phishing” scams, fake web sites, fake links, and other temptations and traps, but stopping hackers will take a concerted and comprehensive effort. Encryption, platform and common sense security measures can all play a key role in protecting patient data.
Encryption’s Role in Data Protection
Encryption — the use of an algorithm to make data indecipherable to criminals without an encryption ‘key’ — is an essential component of data security. To comply with HIPAA standards, practices should use software and/or hardware that utilizes Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), the only standard that can be called encryption according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
HIPAA requires that providers use secure, encrypted email. HIPAA also states that providers have a duty to encrypt electronic patient health information (ePHI) that is ‘at rest’ (i.e., on a server, terminal, backup device, etc.) and ‘in motion’(i.e., traveling through an office network or to and from remote connections, etc.) and that their database be further protected with a unique, encrypted password.
Unfortunately, most practice software does not have built-in AES encryption and some do not even have a unique password. Practices with software that does not have built-in encryption who use Windows will have to purchase outside expertise to implements and monitor security and make to help them be HIPAA compliant with regard to encryption.
Platform and Security’s Role in Keeping Data Safe
Practices that use Windows software without built-in encryption must pay for IT security services to deploy encryption on every device that houses ePHI. Mac users can handle the safety of data at rest by turning on FileVault in preferences. This is a glaring example of the difference platforms make in keeping data safe and the cost to the doctor.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are an option for practices to compensate for practice management and EHR software that does not encrypt data in motion, but VPNs increase costs and complexity and can degrade network responsiveness. But even with a VPN, practices must make sure their software provides a unique, encrypted database password; otherwise, they’re well advised to get software that does.
Hacking is on the rise, and ransomware is a huge problem for practices that operate on Windows. In March 2016 alone, 56,000 Windows users reported attacks. Practices that use native Mac software have not been affected by ransomware. Macs are also less expensive to operate in the long run: IBM gave employees the option to use PCs or Macs and found that each PC required twice as much support and cost IBM $535 more than a Mac during a four-year period.
Cloud software and hosting server farms aren’t the solution: Malware, including ransomware, can infect every device that connects to an infected computer, including offsite cloud servers and backup devices. The FBI says the only sure way to recover is to restore data from an uninfected backup that is not connected, followed by reformatting devices.
Note about “the cloud”: You have heard from cloud vendors that “everyone is going to the cloud.” What you may not have heard is that 40 percent of organizations that migrated their data and applications to the cloud are now bringing all or some of them back because of security and cost concerns. Also a recent survey of dentists indicated that of the top dental software perhaps no more than 3 percent of dentists are using cloud software, although it has been available to them for eight years.
Guest post by Abhinav Shashank, CEO and co-founder, Innovaccer.
Time is money, an adage the world follows. When providers realized paper medical records were time-consuming, Electronic Health Records were developed to make things streamlined. Early EHRs were only meant to capture basic clinical information, and over the time EHRs have taken the form of a digital version of paper medical records. In an industry as dynamic and as focused on value as healthcare, it’s not feasible to have physicians spend almost half their time on EHRs.
Challenges physicians face with EHRs
EHRs, in their current state, not only consume a lot of physicians’ time, but they also draw their attention away from their direct interactions with patients. Some of the several significant challenges physicians face are:
Data entry and administrative tasks take up a lot of physicians’ time, according to a study, during the office day, physicians spend as much as 49.2 percent of their time on EHRs.
The demands of desk work and administrative work are not being reconciled with patient priorities and clinical workflows; creating huge gaps between patients and providers. For example, during patient examinations, physicians spend 37 percent of their time on data entry and desk work, compromising on their direct interaction with patients.
Physicians are only reimbursed for face-to-face visits, lab work, and medical procedures and not for EHR tasks. This increases the misalignment in fee-for-service payments and compounds the risk of physician burnout.
Why can’t we do away with EHRs?
While EHRs are not without their own set of challenges, their implementation was necessary, and that still holds true. Only recently, under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), providers have started to make an effort to enhance value in the care they deliver and the meaningful use of EHRs has been included in MIPS with other substantial quality reporting initiatives. Besides that, there are many offerings of EHRs:
A quick and real-time access to patient records.
Reliable drugs and test prescriptions.
Complete clinical documentation, inclusive of patient medical history.
Accurate and streamlined coding and billing operations.
Reduced cost of operation.
EHR Optimization: Boosting your EHRs
EHR optimization is the process of enhancing and refining the operations of an already installed EHR, to enhance clinical productivity and efficiency. As more and more practices have begun the push for value-based reimbursement, they are demanding more integrated and efficient EHRs.
Opportunities for EHR optimization vary for every practice and range from simple to complex. However, the primary objective of every optimization is reducing the time consumed. Here are some ways healthcare IT platforms can optimize time spent on EHRs for improved patient outcomes:
Establish key performance indicators: Once a healthcare organization has examined its baseline performance, it can decide on goals and target a benchmark for future. Organizations can leverage advanced analytics to determine their progress across each key performance indicator which in turn, helps with quality reporting.
Comprehensive and complete clinical records: It’s important that a patient record is complete- right from their past medical history to their last lab test results. Along with that, if providers are able to look at all vital signs at once, the entire process of designing and implementing a care plan would become efficient.
Implementing clinical decision support: By combining clinical decision support with EHR data, providers can ensure safer and efficient care delivery by documenting every interaction and eliminating redundancies. With every information documented, providers can address the gaps in care well in time.
Sharing vital information across the network: More often than not, the delay in accessing information is the major reason behind improper or delayed care. It’s important that clinical data, lab test results, referrals, etc. are shared across all providers to ensure seamless treatment and population health management.
Monitor, evaluate and maintain results: To ensure the success of optimization isn’t short-lived, providers should continuously monitor their process improvement. Organizations should evaluate their growth and shortfalls and make their efforts to sustain and improve the results they achieve.
Guest post by Matthew Douglass, co-founder, SVP Customer Experience, Practice Fusion
In part 1 of this series, we reviewed the history of digital health tools and discussed why they are not yet fully satisfying the needs of many physicians.
If you think of the U.S. healthcare system as a vast nationwide transportation network, current electronic health record (EHR) functionality is the basic highway infrastructure. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided the incentives for those highways to be built and put in place the structure for ONC-certified EHRs to define the rules of the road via regulatory standards. The roads are now mostly in place: certified EHRs all offer roughly the same base functionality for use by physicians, store clinical information in standardized ways, and have the capabilities to securely communicate with each other.
Sixty-seven percent of medical practices in the U.S. are now using EHRs to run all or part of their daily operations. Patients’ vital signs are stored as discrete values for each visit. Encrypted messages between physicians and their staff are transmitted reliably. Chart notes are being digitally documented and can be shared confidentially with patients. Physicians that have chosen cloud-based EHRs can securely prescribe and refill medications from the convenience of their mobile phones.
Despite having this digital highway system in place, we haven’t yet reached a destination where use of EHRs achieves better patient outcomes or improved clinical experiences. Physicians want more from digital tools than simply receiving, storing, and displaying data values about each patient visit. Rather than devoting too much of their already limited time to data entry and retrieval, physicians want to provide the best patient care possible, and they expect technology to help them achieve this goal.
There is such a thing as too much data, which physicians are reminded of each time they open a digital chart. Clinicians very often are left swimming in more data than they can adequately process, which can erode the crucial patient-provider human relationship.
To address data overload and dehumanization challenges, software partners must go back to the drawing board and visualize dramatic innovations that can be built on top of the nationwide EHR foundation. Significant cognitive overhead is required to distill hundreds of disparate pieces of clinical data into a salient picture of an individual’s overall health. The vast amount of data now available in a patient’s chart is quite often far more than any medical professional, no matter how clinically experienced, can consistently and reliably assimilate.
Physicians and their staff need intuitive technology to be their always-available, intelligent assistant, from start to finish during a patient’s visit.
When a patient’s record is displayed on the computer screen, physicians shouldn’t have to dig for relevant information about that visit. Instead, the EHR should be able to display the pertinent clinical data and health insights for the physician to review and assess a patient’s health condition more quickly and effectively. For example, lab values and vital signs relevant to that patient’s chief complaint are likely already stored as discrete values in the patient’s chart. An EHR that learns along with the physician’s workflow preferences should display only the most relevant data through easily digestible visualizations.
Guest post by Matthew Douglass, co-founder and SVP of Customer Experience, Practice Fusion.
Despite enjoying broad technological advances in their medical practices over the past decade, many physicians still find little pleasure in having to use electronic health records (EHRs). Reasons for low satisfaction run the gamut, from a litany of potentially distracting alerts to overwhelming features that are difficult to learn. This flagging usability, combined with the growing burden of data entry and documentation, impedes physician satisfaction.
Physicians do not begin their careers in medicine so they can spend a majority of their time wrestling with technology. A recent study found that physicians spend three times as many hours working on computers as they do providing direct patient care. It is no wonder that physicians are reporting record levels of burnout and deep job dissatisfaction.
There are practical workarounds to the challenges of using EHRs, such as programs pairing physicians with scribes that are pre-med students who assist those physicians or plugging in additional technologies that reduce direct documentation overhead. However, these practical workarounds mask the root problem rather than address it; EHRs have yet to provide consistently actionable insights that will help to dramatically improve clinical outcomes.
When a physician opens a patient record in her EHR today, she is probably no better equipped than if she were to open that patient’s paper record 10 years ago. All the data points she might ever need are available for her to sift through, but where is the insight? How is she supposed to interpret clinical meaning in individual pieces of data scattered throughout her patient’s history? How is the EHR assisting her in making better, more informed care and treatment decisions for her patients’ lives that she has been entrusted with improving?
EHRs were originally created as a digital recreation of the physical paper chart that accompanied a physician into the exam room during every patient visit. Vital sign collection sheets were recreated as vital sign fields on the screen. SOAP notes that physicians judiciously completed with pen and paper after every patient visit became digital SOAP note fields in the EHR that still have to be typed by the physician or a physician’s representative at the end of every patient visit. Billing one-pagers with pre-printed ICD and procedure codes have been replaced with nearly identical digital superbills containing point-and-click picklists of diagnoses and procedures.
Although we have created a digital system, the healthcare industry lingers in an analog world: Everything still operates like paper.
In the early 20th century, Henry Ford envisioned a future where transportation was dramatically better than what the main transportation technology of the time (i.e., horses) could provide. Confronted with this problem, he didn’t try to re-engineer horses to run 10 times faster. Thankfully, he set his sights on an entirely different and improved solution, experimented with a few ideas, and succeeded in completely altering the future of human transportation by introducing the first mass-produced automobile.
EHR vendors have a similar opportunity today, as they imagine the future of digital health technology that will be highly usable and incredibly helpful for physicians. Fortunately, EHRs are now broadly distributed enough that there is a solid foundation in place on which to build . Now that the vast majority of patient clinical information lives in a digitized form, we can look to the future and ask a novel, crucial question: How can this rich repository of clinical data evolve into upgraded tools that can be used to broadly improve patient health and physician satisfaction?
To best answer these questions, EHR vendors need to reevaluate the specific assistance that physicians can garner from digital health tools. First, clinicians and their staff must be intimately involved in the functionality discovery process in partnership with EHR vendors. This research can then be converted into success metrics and key questions that clinicians and vendors’ product teams utilize as benchmarks for measuring overall successful implementation.
Am I happier as a clinician because of this functionality?
Am I able to devote more or less time to focusing on my patient because of this functionality?
Overall, did this functionality save or cost my practice time and money?
Are my patients healthier and more satisfied with the service my practice provides them?
Further, as physicians are evaluating which digital health technology vendors to partner with in their practice, there are a few advantageous traits they should consider. EHR vendors that operate in a secure cloud offer distinct advantages because they can roll out frequent updates that do not interfere with a practice’s day-to-day operations. If a bug or usability issue does arise, the problem most often can be addressed quickly and without interruption.