Guest post by Num Pisutha-Arnond, managing partner, Curas, Inc.
Now that we are approaching the final stage of meaningful use, what has all of this regulation, incentives and penalties gotten us? The answer to that is unclear. Instead, what we are starting to see is a more introspective look at electronic health records. The real question has nothing to do with meaningful use, which was an externally mandated set of systems and requirements. Today, practices find themselves internally motivated to examine exactly what they would like to get out of this system that you have spent a lot of time, money and effort putting in. How can they improve operations, their finances, patient care and experience? What is the practice itself trying to accomplish? The answer to that varies significantly by specialty, practice size, geography, and your goals and priorities as they relate to your practice.
Because we’re already beginning to see life after meaningful use, and have been for the past 18 to 24 months, we can provide insight into some common goals and how practices are moving beyond meaningful use to achieve what cannot be measured by the criteria set forth by CMS.
The primary goals that we have experienced with our clients can be broken down into a few categories:
- Better patient care
- Better patient experience
- Improved practice profitability
- Provider and staff quality of life
Better patient care
Items related to this category often include the creation of patient dashboards/reports and patient recalls/campaigns to stay engaged with patients. However, the most effective, and often tougher initiative to implement, is a point of care system that lets providers and staff know when a patient should possibly have a certain test or procedure performed without having to search for data across different progress notes or screens.
Better patient experience
Most practices and vendors immediately jump to patient portals, kiosks and apps when discussing these goals. However, these are just a few of the tools that can be used to improve patient experience. In some cases, these tools may actually not enhance the experience if they are lacking in usability or if they are deployed in an uncoordinated manner. What is needed is a look at the overall patient experience from when they first call to the practice to when they have left the practice and need to be contacted by the practice. In some cases, the existing software and tools that have been implemented will work if the process is refined. In other cases, new software and tools may be needed. In others, you might even consider eliminating some of the technology to make a better experience for the patient.
When looking at profitability, practices often focus on RCM reports and processes. However, the processes and reports are within the confines of the existing system or workflow. To truly impact practice profitability, practices have found that is necessary to have actionable analysis of financial data and to work towards workflows that remove data entry and tedious tasks from the overall workflow, starting with patient registration/appointment scheduling, continuing through the office visit and ending with billing processes.
Provider and staff quality of life
As practices have been squeezed to see more patients and to do more for patients, the quality of life for providers and staff has steadily declined. To improve the quality of life for its providers and staff, the practice needs to find ways to eliminate non-value added activities and reduce the amount of time spent on tasks not directly related to patient care. In addition to removing the amount of unrewarding work from a practice’s processes, adding flexibility through mobile access and time shifting can also be a way of improving quality of life for its providers and staff.
These are far from the only categories of goals and priorities that a practice may strive to achieve. However, what we have learned is that understanding the goals and looking holistically, not just from a system perspective, is necessary to truly achieve the desired results. The comments here are applicable (and achievable) with most systems that we have encountered. What matters more than the system you are using is first deciding what you truly want out of your EHR, looking at both the system and your processes when trying to achieve your goals. That comes from inside your practice, not externally mandated regulations. This is life after meaningful use.