By Tom Romeo, general manager of healthcare IT, Quanum Solutions, Quest Diagnostics.
As of 2017, nearly nine in 10 office-based physicians had implemented an electronic health record (EHR). Despite widespread adoption, a 2018 Quest Diagnostics survey was among the first to cast doubt on overall usefulness of “basic” EHRs. Only 39% of physicians surveyed believed their EHRs provided all the data and functionality needed to care for their patients.
Today, providers expect more than their EHRs alone can provide. They want relevant insights at the point of care that enhance interactions with patients and streamline practice operations. What’s more, they want this with minimal disruption to their existing workflow.
Lab data in the clinical setting
The 2018 Quest survey also showed that providers wanted easier access to lab data, and this isn’t integrated within most EHRs where it can be easily accessed prior to or during a patient visit. Improving access is critical since 72% of physicians said lab data informs many, if not most, clinical decisions. To overcome these limitations, some practices choose to implement separate systems, but working across applications that are poorly designed around practice workflow can consume valuable time.
Physicians want timely, accurate lab data to guide treatment plans. Today, it’s possible to see relevant lab data, including historic result trends, in one place, a few clicks away. When reviewed prior to or during a visit, this can prompt a discussion with the patient about progress or barriers to adherence at the most opportune moment, while it’s still possible to influence behavior and affect change.
Streamlining lab-related administrative tasks
In addition to providing clinically relevant insights that improve patient care, better access to lab ordering, results, and reimbursement can help practices streamline multiple touchpoints across the patient journey, positively affecting the patient experience and the practice bottom line. Reported benefits range from more efficient and reliable lab test ordering to improved billing accuracy and timeliness.
- Lab test ordering is a highly routine task for physicians, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or error-free. When lab test ordering is streamlined practice-wide, clinicians can order labs in as few as three clicks. This includes the ability to easily select from a list of a practice’s most frequently ordered tests and do so electronically. This saves time, which can be spent with patients, while removing another point in the workflow where transcription errors often occur.
- Lab test tracking gives physicians immediate visibility into the status of lab orders and results. Everything related to a patient’s past and current lab tests is easily available for review or discussion with a patient.
- Billing accuracy – or, more concerning, inaccuracy – affects patient experience and practice financial performance. Missing information or errors in a patient’s billing information, which is common when processing is done manually, can result in denials and a lengthy follow-up process to ensure proper reimbursement. Electronic billing trailers can be embedded in the electronic record to flag missing information early, ensuring billing accuracy across all touchpoints.
Despite widespread implementation, EHRs can’t provide everything practices need. By supplementing the EHR with technology that fits seamlessly within the practice’s workflow, however, practices can address gaps, such as disconnected lab ordering processes, that affect patient care and experience as well as their bottom line.