5 EHR Trends To Watch In 2020

By Kayla Matthews, freelance journalist, Productivity Bytes.

Kayla Matthews

Although electronic health records (EHR) are firmly established in the medical landscape, ongoing progress necessitates that providers keep up with emerging trends. Here are five of them.

1. Combining Artificial Intelligence and Voice Recognition with EHR

Artificial intelligence (AI) has already shown promise for assisting doctors with making diagnoses or recognizing historical trends about a patient’s condition. However, several companies are investigating bringing AI to EHR via voice recognition capabilities.

At Vanderbilt University Medical Center, providers can query the tools by posing questions in natural language. For example, a physician could ask a voice-enabled EHR system for details about a patient’s last recorded iron levels from blood tests. The system would inform the doctor of those levels, plus tell them whether they’re in a healthy range.

Allscripts and Northwell Health also recently struck a deal for a platform that blends AI with EHR and collects data from clinicians. Using voice commands within patient care could be especially useful for providers who have their hands full.

2. An Increased Emphasis on Mitigating EHR Errors

When the ECRI Institute released its 2020 report containing the top 10 health technology errors to be aware of in the coming year, EHR issues were mentioned multiple times. The first instance related to providers potentially being overwhelmed with notifications from EHR platforms, ignoring some of them and perhaps overlooking a genuine issue with a patient as a result.

The report also brought up the risk of medical data not including information about implants in patients that are sent for medical imaging. The study recommended providing a single place to enter or check for the presence of implant data in an EHR. Finally, the ECRI Institute cautioned that EHR mistakes could happen when a medication administration order sent by an EHR platform does not match the dosage time the provider intended.

This coverage of such mistakes will likely cause health care facilities to assess their systems and see if the issues exist there. If so, they’ll look for ways to reduce those problems.

3. More Efforts to Increase Patient Engagement

The benefits of moving to an EHR system are numerous. For example, Seattle Children’s Hospital sees 350,000 patients annually, and it uses an EHR platform to have all the information about those individuals in one place. Additionally, EHR systems allow monitoring people outside the hospital, such as when they’re at home. An EHR platform could gather data about a connected medical wearable, for example.

Some facilities also depend on EHR platforms to boost patient engagement levels and reduce manual tasks performed by administrative staff members. Many of its patients are tech-savvy, and there was a push to offer mobile-first services to them.

One effort concerned using an EHR platform to distribute appointment reminders to people via text messages. As a result, the facility lowered its cancellation rates by one-third, achieving a 4% average. That’s substantially below the industry average of 10.5%. Due to outcomes like this, a higher number of facilities will probably start using EHR platforms to increase patient engagement.

4. Continuing Preparations for the 5G Network

The widespread rollout of the 5G network is set to happen in 2020. In many residential areas, infrastructure updates are ongoing, and tests are occurring to check performance. However, some analysts think the health care sector is not ready for 5G yet. A primary reason for that shortcoming is the lack of compatibility between EHR systems.

The fear is that it won’t matter how fast the 5G network is or what benefits it could offer the medical field if that incompatibility remains. However, not all the preparations relate directly to EHR. For example, Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center installed 5G in one of its buildings because it no longer wanted to deal with vastly outdated wiring.

5G preparations will speed up in 2020. As they do, the responsible parties must consider how the improvements might impact EHR and other aspects of patient care.

5. Incorporating the Blockchain Into EHR

The supply chain industry is using blockchain to increase visibility about shipments and share the respective information with relevant parties. Potential exists to do that with medical records, too.

In one example from Brazil with insurer Metlife, a blockchain platform facilitated recording cases of gestational diabetes in pregnant patients by syncing with their EHR information. The patient data then facilitated a smart contract to trigger payouts associated with that illness without the need to prove a diagnosis or even file a claim. Blockchain technology for EHR is still in the early stages, but it should keep gaining momentum throughout 2020.

Impactful Changes Ahead

The trends mentioned here should reshape how providers and patients interact with EHR data. In the best cases, they’ll create mutually beneficial scenarios.

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