EMR Optimization Is the Hottest Thing Since … EMRs

By Ken Congdon, content marketing manager, Hyland Healthcare.

Ken Congdon

Due in large part to the HITECH Act and the meaningful use incentive program, electronic medical record (EMR) initiatives have dominated the IT efforts of healthcare providers for the better part of the past decade. Most of the focus over this time has been placed on simply implementing the technology and getting clinicians to embrace it.

Now that more than 95 percent of hospitals in the U.S. are currently using EMRs*, it seems the focus is beginning to shift. However, the move isn’t away from EMRs to some other groundbreaking technology. Instead, the focus is transferring from simply implementing EMRs to optimizing the software in order to squeeze more value out of it.

You see, most healthcare providers aren’t very happy with the ROI they are currently getting from their multimillion-dollar EMR investments. In fact, only 10 percent believe they are getting a positive or superb return from their EMRs, according to a recent survey of 1,100 healthcare professionals by Health Catalyst.

The remainder describe the ROI as terrible, poor or mediocre.

As a result, healthcare providers are turning their attention to enhancing their existing EMR systems. According to a recent Black Book Market Research survey, 61 percent of healthcare respondents say technology optimization is the highest priority IT engagement for their organizations by the end of 2020. Not surprisingly, EMR software and revenue cycle management systems are the primary targets of these optimization efforts.

5 tips to enhance your EMR

Improving the ROI of an EMR requires an investment in critical strategies and technologies to enhance the software’s overall capabilities and performance. The following are a few steps to get more value out of this core clinical platform.

  1. Standardize documentation

If your paper-based documentation processes were disorganized and based on individual clinician preferences, then simply digitizing these efforts will result in limited efficiency gains. To maximize digital workflows, you should standardize documentation processes across the enterprise. Work with your clinicians to gain consensus on how they should document patient encounters and ensure they adhere to these new processes.

  1. Streamline documentation

It was initially believed that EMRs would reduce the documentation requirements on physicians. Unfortunately, largely because of industry regulations, the technology has actually increased this burden. Where possible, healthcare providers should aim to reduce the data entry requirements EMRs place on their physicians and allow them to focus on care.

  1. Address usability and access

Optimizing your EMR means making it a true single source for all patient data. That means ensuring all patient information — not just discrete health data, but unstructured documents and DICOM and non-DICOM medical images — are accessible from the EMR platform. Focus on making patient data easy to find and use from within the EMR, and reduce instances where physicians need to search for the data they need to make the most informed clinical decisions possible.  

  1. Address interoperability

Your EMR shouldn’t just be another silo within your enterprise. It should be as open as possible to ensure interoperability with other systems and healthcare stakeholders. Work with your EMR vendor and invest in complementary technologies that make it easier to exchange and share patient information with partners to facilitate collaboration and ensure continuity of care.

This can have a dramatic impact on healthcare outcomes and the overall patient experience. Also, making patient data “liquid” is a key step to reducing duplicate testing and providing safe, effective care.

  1. Add decision support and data analytics

Coupling decision support tools with your EMR can ensure your clinicians have the right information at the right time to make appropriate medical decisions, ideally when they’re still in front of the patient. Data analytics can help you use the data stored in your EMR to identify patterns and trends that you can use to make population health improvements.

Effective solutions should include making clinical documents, DICOM studies, point-of-care images, video and more accessible to clinicians via the EMR interface — increasing adoption of this core clinical platform by making it a more valuable tool in the delivery of care.

* Data from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

2 comments on “EMR Optimization Is the Hottest Thing Since … EMRs”

Very nice summary Ken! On #2, in my opinion there was an additional factor in play. The EMR entered the scene and promised discrete data for use in standardizing care and performing research. The progressive leaders in implementing EMRs were over-zealous in trying to create everything as discrete data entry, and this created the burden on data entry for providers (and nurses). Sometimes just because you can automate something doesn’t mean you should. A narrative note goes a long way to telling pertinent details without pages of text boxes or copy/pasted information. My two cents.

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