EHR Investments Key, But Not a Silver Bullet To Resolving Coordinated Care Issues

By Rick Halton, vice president of marketing and product, Lumeon.

Rick Halton

For the past decade, EHR investments have been touted as the key to unlocking a transformative, cost-effective, and efficient healthcare industry. A recent study found that spending on EHR systems will continue to dominate healthcare’s technology spend in 2019. But if budgets continue to be prioritized towards optimizing EHR systems, why are there still so many issues related to delivering coordinated care? EHR vendors often do not clearly explain that new issues can arise after implementation, and even make certain processes more complex.

Despite significant investment of EHR systems over the years, care processes continue to be inconsistent and labor intensive. Not only does this result in overwhelming operational costs for hospitals, but it also leads to massive variance in outcomes.

EHR investments are important, but they aren’t a silver bullet. EHRs can only go so far towards improving care outcomes and operations, as they do not address the true problem: disjointed care process issues. Hospitals must consider the broader context that EHRs play into, including investing in greater orchestration and automation of patient care.

By directing investments toward automated digital care plans that are supported by EHRs, hospitals can more effectively connect patients along their entire care journey, and only engage the care team when necessary. Just as the airline industry found success with their equivalent, the “flight plan,” the healthcare industry must provide its own “care traffic control” to deliver coordinated care. This approach is increasingly recognized as care pathway management (CPM).

Opting for “care traffic control?”

The airline industry has successfully crafted and fine-tuned the entire digital trip experience for passengers, which the healthcare industry can utilize in its own way. For example, airline passengers can find out real-time flight status, receive automated updates about seat availability, find information on airports, and be sent data on flight delays.

Both boarding and takeoff are efficient and seamless procedures, with airlines connecting preflight checklists to central airline and airport IT systems. This gives flight crews current policies, procedures, and alerts, while traffic control systems coordinate which planes can take off at which times.

This same approach can effectively be used in healthcare. Automated protocols throughout the care plan can help providers pull relevant information from all necessary care teams and orchestrate operational processes in the background. Tasks can be completed in an efficient and timely manner, with managed expectations creating a seamless care pathway.

With a “care traffic control” approach, care teams manage by exception. Care plans are digitized, automated, and orchestrated across teams and settings, letting care teams be efficiently tasked at the right time and at the right place. Additionally, care teams can capitalize on virtual patient engagement techniques and will intervene only when manual engagement is needed.

For example, patients are typically considered high-, medium- or low-risk. With care traffic control implemented, high-risk patients—like the elderly or individuals with comorbidities—are passed through a highly scrutinized pathway with frequent manual intervention. Comparatively, low-risk patients can receive a slightly more hands-off approach, including digital coaching.

Care traffic control is a universal benefit

Healthcare providers need to implement an end-to-end, branded provider experience to stand apart from their competitors and keep patient care a top priority. Patients deserve a true care traffic control experience, but the right CPM will also help numerous players in the healthcare industry.

For example, CPM directly benefits patients. Because it’s a patient-centric model, based on individual needs and circumstances, it ensures that patients are more engaged with managing their health – leading to improved individual outcomes. For healthcare organizations, offering this end-to-end, fully integrated patient experience means that patients are likely to keep coming back.

Furthermore, an automated and seamless experience will benefit care teams and profit margins. A care delivery operation platform will help providers efficiently use their current resources, including their EHR, to deliver care consistently. Providers will also be able to protect themselves from margin erosion, providing advantages in the short- and long-term. Being well-prepared for the future as alternative healthcare models focus on value-based care become widespread will be increasingly important.

Digitizing the patient journey and care plan through the right automation platform will help providers maintain control of the patient journey, guiding patients toward a fast and improved recovery. With this approach, we can address the true problem plaguing health care and resolve coordinated care issues.

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