By Kali Durgampudi, chief technology, innovation officer, Greenway Health.
The electronic health record (EHR) industry continues to undergo a significant transformation, with many physicians asking themselves whether they consider their EHR a friend or a foe.
In too many cases, medical staff feel their EHR works against them, not for them. In fact, according to Medical Economics’ 2019 EHR score report, 60% of physicians said their current EHR system was harming their ability to engage with patients. In addition, The National Academy of Medicine found that as many as half of American physicians and nurses experience substantial symptoms of burnout. And, the same study found that poorly designed technology is a major contributing factor due to the increased amount of time needed to keep systems properly updated.
This should not be the case, and it’s time to change this narrative.
As we near a new year and a new decade, it’s time to focus on advancing EHRs to make the lives of physicians easier, while assisting in improving the patient experience, increasing engagement, enhancing administrative burdens, and more.
Required features and functionalities of EHRs in the next decade include:
Legacy EHR’s are typically thought of as outdated and lacking customization. Custom forms take months to build, cost extra and users ultimately lack control over the functionality. This is not acceptable by today’s standards. Every healthcare practice and specialty is different. So, the EHR must be customizable to fit each practices’ needs in order to optimize efficiency in data entry and management.
In addition, medical trends and challenges are constantly evolving. For example, opioid addiction has risen to epidemic levels in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that more than 130 people die from an opioid overdose every day. Fortunately, health information technology has emerged as a powerful tool for tracking prescription activity.
Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) support the collection of prescription data, and an increasing number of U.S. states have mandated their use. Meanwhile, an in-workflow PDMP checking feature allows providers to check their state’s database without leaving their EHR workflow — saving time and increasing efficiency.
Advanced data tracking
EHR’s hold a tremendous amount of data – data that can help physicians provide better care to a specific patient or population. Armed with these analytics, a practice can gain insight into population health — along with reporting requirements for government incentive programs and data to optimize billing and cash flow.
According to the CDC, six in 10 Americans live with a chronic condition such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, and about seven in 10 deaths each year are due to a chronic condition. Through its analytics capabilities, a population health management solution can help a practice determine its highest-risk patient groups, identify gaps in care, and reach out to patients to engage them in their care.
Data is powerful, but only if that data is organized, readable and actionable. So, when shopping for an EHR, consider one that’s integrated with analytics.
Smart decision making
The EHR of the next decade should be a tool for decision making. EHRs need to utilize advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make smart suggestions based on data.
An EHR should not just track if a patient is following their care plan, but alert providers when a patient has missed certain critical elements and make suggestions on how best to proceed. As such, the technology can be used to play a larger role in lowering no-show rates and helping predict which patients will have the most success – or biggest challenges – with certain treatment plans.
EHR’s should also be capable of helping physicians make the best financial decisions for their practices. In addition to increasing practice efficiencies and costs, EHRs assist in offering reduced drug and treatment plans with expected costs.
Integration with other technologies
Next generation EHR’s must be much more advanced in how they are accessed and how they share and receive information. EHR’s should be accessible on all smartphones and tablets to make data input easier and more convenient. They also should integrate with other healthcare technologies and leverage features like voice recognition to help cut down on administrative time. Interoperability is critical for practices to provide high-quality care and maintain independence.
All these capabilities, features and functionalities mean nothing if the EHR is not intuitive and easy-to-use. The goal of any solution should be to make the lives of medical staff easier and to enable them to spend more time with their patients and make better and more informed decisions. This starts and ends with ease-of-use.
High-performing practices rely on EHRs, as these solutions facilitate financial performance, allowing physicians to focus on what matters most — providing quality care. The next generation of EHR’s play a vital role in changing the dynamic, making healthcare technology part of the solution, not the problem. In fact, EHRs can and should be the backbone of the next generation technology while also providing the inputs and outputs in a very interoperable ecosystem.