By Zachary Blunt, manager of product management population health, Greenway Health
Electronic health records (EHRs) were expected to revolutionize healthcare practices, making them more efficient, reducing costs and enabling them to provide more coordinated care.
But ask healthcare providers about the EHRs they’ve deployed, and the results are far from what was expected.
In fact, more than 60 percent of healthcare professionals rank their return on investment (ROI) for EHR systems as “terrible” or “poor,” according to a recent survey from Health Catalyst. Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated the costs of billing and insurance-related activities using EHRs ranged from $20 for each primary care visit to $215 for inpatient surgery, totaling 3 percent to 25 percent of professional revenue.
So, why aren’t EHRs living up to the hype and delivering the promised investment? In many cases, it has to do with these systems not being used to their highest potential.
Here’s a look at five steps healthcare practices can take to address challenges resulting from EHR implementation and maximize their ROI.
Get Buy-In Across the Board — from IT to Finance to Front Office Staff
Adopting EHRs to manage clinical activities impacts many revenue cycle-related functions, such as patient registration, insurance eligibility, scheduling and the services/treatments a patient received during each clinical encounter. To achieve ROI, EHRs must be able to improve several operations of a practice and streamline the workflows of different departments. It’s best practice for all clinicians and staff to weigh in before installing new systems or technologies.
Provide Strong Leadership, Communication and Training
Changes in common practices during EHR implementation can result in significant resistance from users or a longer learning curve that hampers efficiency and adds to the cost of the system. To achieve results, healthcare leaders should clearly articulate the EHR implementation plan, prepare themselves for a transition period and develop a training protocol so all users understand their roles in using the system. In addition, users should have a solid background and understanding on how their roles factor into the overall success of the system and the practice at large.
Improve Staffing Efficiency While Improving Operating Margins
Labor costs can account for nearly half of a healthcare provider’s operating costs. But providers often fail to take a strategic look at how adjusting staffing can improve the bottom line. Often, providers use historical averages to determine staffing levels at their practices, resulting in an outlay of overtime pay outside the planned budget when unexpected staffing demands occur. Data from EHR solutions, as well as enterprise resource planning (ERP) sources, can be analyzed to gain a better understanding of historical staffing trends. Accenture estimates that by getting insights from EHR and ERP data, U.S. healthcare providers could save more than $77 billion over the next five years by reducing overtime and overall labor costs.
With the increasingly “on the go” nature of technology and communication, information is accessible from the palm of a user’s hand in the form of mobile devices. Subsequently, the success of modern EHR software lies in the moment accessibility on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
The addition of mobile functionality for EHR systems is driving the adoption of electronic health record systems and software in the industry and contributing to meaningful use for patients and physicians alike. Patients benefit from doctors and staff who can make informed decisions by easily accessing their medical records from an easy-to-use mobile interface. Mobile EHRs allow practice staff and physicians to access valuable and crucial patient records, while increasing communication between healthcare facilities in a more efficient, secure manner.
This is incredibly useful in critical care or emergency situations; allowing physicians and other care staff to quickly, securely and accurately view patient information on the fly is a major advantage when emergency surgery or care has to be administered. With the continued scourge of the opioid epidemic requiring investments in patient and physician safety and with continued staffing shortages in the industry leading to further implementation of AI and technology based solutions, mobile EHR will be a critical tool in a healthcare staff’s arsenal, allowing the relaying and accessing of accurate information in a constantly evolving environment.
In addition, the internet, office tools and desktop computers are no longer necessary for effective documentation; mobile EHR allows offline record populating whenever and wherever it’s necessary, increasing the accuracy and timeliness of documentation. By allowing physicians and staff to accurately and conveniently exchange documentation and patient records through a secure, mobile platform, informed decisions can be made 24/7. This drives meaningful use by improving quality, safety, efficiency and care coordination for public health.
By utilizing EHR on mobile platforms, staff and physicians can increase their efficacy and accuracy when updating documentation or accessing patient files. By creating a friendly, innovative platform to access crucial information, EHR software that features mobile functionality is a necessity in modern EHR applications. It will continue to drive meaningful use and accessibility in the healthcare industry going forward as evidenced by the infographic featured below.
Federal healthcare organizations, such as CMS, have spent billions of dollars over the years trying to bridge the gap between medical data and quality patient care with interoperability requirements and data integration, the mesh used to try and bridge the gap. Many government rules have been written to address the type of mesh needed and many EHR companies have claimed to meet these government requirements and claim the throne of the ultimate mesh maker.
However, hospitals and clinics found the mesh contained many holes, such as enabling hospitals to customize EHRs, but only if the EHR customers purchased the EHR systems for the manufacturers for millions of dollars that hospitals could ill afford. Also issues such as proprietary connectivity to their own brands that left the hospitals’ other EHR systems to serve as dead-end data silos. Rules and solutions came and went, but few had any teeth until now.
Anyone for A Slice Of PI?
To end the lack of interoperability morass and data duplication, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued 1,883 pages of proposed changes to Medicare and Medicaid. The changes rename the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) Advancing Care Information performance category to Promoting Interoperability (PI).
CMS announced the change as part of a proposed rule that will transform the EHR Incentive Programs commonly known as meaningful use under the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and the Long-Term Care Hospital (LTCH) Prospective Payment System (PPS). The proposed policies are part of the MyHealthEData initiative, which prioritizes patient health data access and interoperability improvements.
But this time the name change wasn’t just that. For the first time a new CMS rule specifically requires providers to share data to participate in the life blood of hospital reimbursement—Medicare and Medicaid. The rule also floats the idea of revising Medicare and Medicaid co-pays to require hospitals to share patient records electronically with other hospitals, community providers and patients — a clear-cut demand for interoperability.
PI also reduces hospital interoperability requirements from 16 to six, revamping the program to a points-based scoring system and is requiring that hospitals make patients’ EHRs available to them on the day they leave the hospital beginning in 2019.
Does Your EHR Have the Right Stuff?
While this news from CMS appears to be a step in the right direction to solve a problem that has plagued the healthcare industry for many years, it must first be made a reality by those ultimately responsible for its implementation—hospital HIT organizations. The days of data obstruction and silo logic must end with a focus on new EHR markets built on interoperability.
Interoperability requires multiple layers to demonstrate an EHR system can be accessed. Meanwhile, every EHR system claims to support some form of interoperability, ranging from web interfaces to API protocols or to the lowest and highest cost HL7. However, healthcare systems will have to demonstrate their operability to CMS to abide by PI and therefore allow access of their EHR systems. Hospitals and clinics can encounter many challenges with this, such as HIPAA compliance and support for their infrastructure for open secure access, requiring an HIE and the funds to support data synchronization and IT support.
In January 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services set a goal to tie 50 percent of the Medicare payments to value or quality by 2018. This transition has put physicians on the frontlines of healthcare, as they play a major role in the value-based roadmap of an organization.
However, on the downside, this shift is causing substantial physician burnout — PCPs are spending more than 50 percent of their workday in the EHR doing documentation, order entry, billing, and coding, instead of spending time with their patients. There is a need to reduce physician’s IT usage by giving them easy and quick access to actionable information such as care-, and coding- gaps, thereby allowing physicians to focus on things that matter most – delivery and improvement of care.
Regardless of how many patients physicians see per day, they have to put in an equal, if not more number of hours in front of the EHRs for logging in every single detail. Physicians are likely very interested in quality care and making the care processes efficient; it is important to understand the implications that would be created on their reimbursements with a solution that mitigates IT usage burnout. Physicians should automatically be updated instead of having to inquire about information they need at any given moment as it might be disengaging. It is possible to engage physicians so that they can take forward the quality improvement efforts.
Alternative Physician engagement methodologies and their adoption
Making improvements to the healthcare system are the top of the agenda but how does the current scenario of physician engagement compare to this? Addressing the problem of physician burnout, several methods for engaging physicians have surfaced over the past few years:
Print / Fax PVP
Push data back in EMR
Medium in young physicians
Low in older physicians
Another Web Portal
All of these methods are sub-optimal – either they are labor-intensive, or costly to implement, or require physicians to leave the EHR and go to another portal, thus decreasing the physician adoption rates. It is critical to engage physicians in a timely and effective manner to bring information transparency across the network and allow for prompt identification of low-quality care outcomes and unnecessarily high-cost events.
The solution: Engaging physicians with point of support for smarter and holistic care
Addressing above limitations, there is a dire need for a smart point-of-care support for physicians that is automated, easy to implement, and user-friendly. A support system that operates right besides EHR, pinpoints and surfaces only relevant insights, including care gaps and risk factors, which will help physicians right at the point of care without being overloaded with too much information.
Providing precise insights
Physicians require a solution that pops up just the precise insights like care gaps and risk factors to assist them in working with the patient within the EHR at the point of care. Moreover, creating a holistic picture of patients remains highly essential for physicians, however, it is still a challenge because of siloed data storage platforms in healthcare. This lack of a 360-degree view for every patient is a major barrier to collaborative and coordinated care efforts. These challenges can be addressed by integrating various patient-specific datasets, including clinical and claims and surfacing key insights on the physician’s screen in nearly real-time.
Personalizing patient interactions
Almost 80 percent of healthcare data is unstructured, and thus, to create impact at scale, physicians need pioneering analytic capabilities. For example, if a patient has visited the ED three times in the past two months, he needs to be tagged as a ‘frequent ED visitor.’ Giving physicians access to this information will guide them to revisit and optimize their care-programs for this patient such that the patient’s ED visits go down, which would further translate into decreased overall spend for the network.
Sherlock Holmes famously captured the popular imagination with his uncanny ability to make wild, but accurate, leaps of logic to solve mysteries. By observing Dr. Watson’s suit jacket sleeve, upon their first encounter, he was able to deduce that Watson was in fact a surgeon, in the British Army, and had recently returned from Afghanistan, where he had sustained an injury.
When he slowed down to explain his reasoning, it was easy to follow; what made his deductions impressive was how quickly he would skip from observation to conclusion. I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but it seems to me that chatbots are poised to take over much of modern healthcare.
As more data is moved to portals through EHRs and digital documentation, there is increased patient interest in and demand for other digital and remote encounters and health resources. This, along with improving technology and competitive solutions, is helping increase adoption of telehealth. So, patient portals lead to increased telehealth adoption.
Finally, although part of the premise and value of telehealth is enabling face-to-face encounters between caregivers and patients without respect to geography, hospital waiting rooms, or other physical barriers, it changes certain expectations. Like all mobile and web-based services, telehealth feeds a consumer mindset that expects everything on-demand, all but instantaneously, and highly customized at that.
While portable patient records facilitated by EHRs and interoperability can help this, customization and on-demand healthcare doesn’t just put pressure on records and data. Patients want fast and personalized answers. As customer service centers, tech support, banks and virtually every other consumer-facing industry has learned, a lot of the on-demand load can be pushed onto increasingly sophisticated chatbots.
So, telehealth leads to growing expectations for on-demand clinical encounters and chat, which is provided by chatbots.
The Case for Chatbots
Retail has previewed much for healthcare: See how customer service upgrades have turned everyone into “The Most Important Person Here” wherever they go, in person or online. Consumers demand personalization, expedition, authenticity and they want it all exactly when and where they want it. And now, see how AI is not yet taking over the world, but is making FAQs and other routine customer service interactions painless for those answering, and interactive enough for those asking.
Retail is even making inroads to healthcare, as consumer-facing devices promise to measure and track all manner of health metrics. Statistics-loving sports fans witness the increasing digitization and quantification of athletes, games, injuries and training, and they want a similar level of insight and precision for their own care. Mobile technology is redefining and disrupting even the oldest and most stable of markets and industries, bit by literal bit.
So how long until the dry, repetitive questions doctors routinely must answer in check-ups and physicals are ethically and effectively offloaded onto chatbots programmed to triage and educate patients without wasting valuable human resources? How long until using telehealth to keep nonemergency patients out of the emergency room merges with using chat and AI — the basic recipe for chatbots — to keep healthy but curious or concerned patients from wasting time and money going through full encounters simply to get their general questions answered?
It doesn’t take a lot of sophistication to realize the benefits of AI at scale. Google has all but taken over the modern world by connecting searchers with answers to their questions; Wikipedia has all but bankrupted the encyclopedia industry with free, accessible, general knowledge. In a world where health literacy is so lacking in the majority of the population, some interactive resources could go a long way to chipping away at ER overuse and healthcare overconsumption, just by giving people an alternative to seeing the doctor.
Automation of Care, Automation of Crime
As quickly as potential benefits can scale, very real risks and both moral and financial hazards scale even quicker.
The growing popularity and implementation of chatbots has given hackers and cybercriminals a new way to scam, defraud, and generally abuse unwitting consumers. Sometimes that means hackers take over a company’s chat system with their own bot and solicit data. Sometimes fraudsters attract visitors with a spoof website, then use a bot to similarly extract volunteered data at scale from misled visitors. However it is done, it scales almost as well as a more conventional data breach, and can be harder to detect or track.
In time, this particular attack did manage to spread internationally from Europe over to America, but that only provided further evidence that ransomware, and cyber attacks more broadly, are a threat of seemingly unlimited potential. The failings of American healthcare to get its data safely organized look far less damning when the scale of cyber risk is made explicitly global, and even the NSA is caught off-guard by their own tools being turned into weapons in enemy hands.
Not Alone, but Not Ahead
Of course, that American hospitals weren’t the primary targets for once doesn’t remotely get them off the hook; nor does the jarring impact of this particular incident reflect a growing resilience among health data security in the U.S. American health data may not be alone in its vulnerability or attractiveness to thieves, but neither are our health systems leading the pack in protecting against ransomware, or any other form of cyber attack. Sadly, this wakeup call seems more likely to be heard outside of healthcare than within it; the scale makes it almost universally noteworthy, but otherwise it resembles a new status quo for data leaks in modern health systems.
Credit card data is relatively to protect; thieves are easily and quickly locked out of accounts, if not caught, thanks to everything from increased scrutiny by lenders and processing companies as well as consumer-facing transparency and 24/7 account monitoring via mobile credit card alerts and apps. Health data, by contrast, remains largely vulnerable. Clinics are not particularly good at recognizing fraud when thieves have a person’s medical data; hospitals have proven themselves no better at keeping that data secure in the first place. So compared to traditional identity theft leveraging plastic, digital health data presents a softer and more lucrative target end to end.
T-Mobile recently became the first cell phone carrier to offer free inflight Wi-Fi (in support of Wi-Fi texting, as cellular signals are still not yet allowed) to all its customers. Admittedly, this was technically on the strength of partnering with a third-party platform, Go-Go, but the carrier gets the glory of being first among its big four peers to take even this step.
In-flight Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi calling, and similar services aren’t necessarily new technology, but having support for limited internet browsing and texting, all delivered through one of the top carriers in the nation, makes for a reasonably good elevator pitch—especially if you happen to be a T-Mobile customer. But the importance of the development isn’t just the novelty of the technology or the value of the service on offer; it is planting a shining pink flag in the market and staking that claim of being “first.”
Early Adoption, Arrested Development
Being first hasn’t lost its luster yet, even in a time when consumer expectations are sometimes a generation or two ahead of current technology. Hospitals and their leadership recognize this, and so, despite uncertainty on everything from insurance market regulations to the future of EHR integration, many are taking strides to do as T-Mobile has done — and find a way to get there first on a variety of issues important to consumers. And like T-Mobile, being first doesn’t have to mean getting into the weeds of proprietary innovation and product development—although plenty of larger chains and clinics do take that route; for many hospitals, being first can be accomplished through strategic partnerships with tech-centric companies.
If there is one lesson out of Silicon Valley that has entered the American zeitgeist, it is that being the first out with something can give a company, product or even team of creatives a lot of leeway in terms of going on to iterate, improve, and generally tinker. But on the healthcare front, we see how the drive to be first—or even keep pace with the rest of the industry—can create a “hurry up and wait” situation where meaningful progress sometimes lags fanfare or technology.
That is why the top tech trends in healthcare don’t change much year to year; end users, hospital administrators, and tech developers are all still trying to figure out what works, what works best, and how to integrate new tools into the clinical workflow, the patient experience, and the regulatory environment governing it all.
That is the story of EHRs is a nutshell: a good idea, a rush to adoption (both willing and coerced), and then a lengthy period of reiteration as all stakeholders struggle to recreate or wholistically reconsider the context in which this new system can, and should, operate. But the rush to adopt first and configure later isn’t limited to high-technology in the healthcare sector; it pretty well describes the legal environment surrounding health insurance.
Industry Leadership: Being First or Being Best?
From how it affects patients to what it is still trying to influence in the provider space, the conversation about care and coverage is still shepherded primarily by fear, secondarily by outrage, and in most other respects by confusion. So it looks like we’ll be shopping the exchanges for a while longer, even under President Trump’s watch.
After gazing into the abyss that was Trumpcare, the still-evolving status quo that is Obamacare is more popular than ever. Here again, the power of being first seems to provide some residual sticking power to a law frequently and publicly dragged through the mud by people and organizations with at least as much visibility and influence as one like T-Mobile.
Guest post by Abhinav Shashank, CEO and co-founder, Innovaccer.
Time is money, an adage the world follows. When providers realized paper medical records were time-consuming, Electronic Health Records were developed to make things streamlined. Early EHRs were only meant to capture basic clinical information, and over the time EHRs have taken the form of a digital version of paper medical records. In an industry as dynamic and as focused on value as healthcare, it’s not feasible to have physicians spend almost half their time on EHRs.
Challenges physicians face with EHRs
EHRs, in their current state, not only consume a lot of physicians’ time, but they also draw their attention away from their direct interactions with patients. Some of the several significant challenges physicians face are:
Data entry and administrative tasks take up a lot of physicians’ time, according to a study, during the office day, physicians spend as much as 49.2 percent of their time on EHRs.
The demands of desk work and administrative work are not being reconciled with patient priorities and clinical workflows; creating huge gaps between patients and providers. For example, during patient examinations, physicians spend 37 percent of their time on data entry and desk work, compromising on their direct interaction with patients.
Physicians are only reimbursed for face-to-face visits, lab work, and medical procedures and not for EHR tasks. This increases the misalignment in fee-for-service payments and compounds the risk of physician burnout.
Why can’t we do away with EHRs?
While EHRs are not without their own set of challenges, their implementation was necessary, and that still holds true. Only recently, under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), providers have started to make an effort to enhance value in the care they deliver and the meaningful use of EHRs has been included in MIPS with other substantial quality reporting initiatives. Besides that, there are many offerings of EHRs:
A quick and real-time access to patient records.
Reliable drugs and test prescriptions.
Complete clinical documentation, inclusive of patient medical history.
Accurate and streamlined coding and billing operations.
Reduced cost of operation.
EHR Optimization: Boosting your EHRs
EHR optimization is the process of enhancing and refining the operations of an already installed EHR, to enhance clinical productivity and efficiency. As more and more practices have begun the push for value-based reimbursement, they are demanding more integrated and efficient EHRs.
Opportunities for EHR optimization vary for every practice and range from simple to complex. However, the primary objective of every optimization is reducing the time consumed. Here are some ways healthcare IT platforms can optimize time spent on EHRs for improved patient outcomes:
Establish key performance indicators: Once a healthcare organization has examined its baseline performance, it can decide on goals and target a benchmark for future. Organizations can leverage advanced analytics to determine their progress across each key performance indicator which in turn, helps with quality reporting.
Comprehensive and complete clinical records: It’s important that a patient record is complete- right from their past medical history to their last lab test results. Along with that, if providers are able to look at all vital signs at once, the entire process of designing and implementing a care plan would become efficient.
Implementing clinical decision support: By combining clinical decision support with EHR data, providers can ensure safer and efficient care delivery by documenting every interaction and eliminating redundancies. With every information documented, providers can address the gaps in care well in time.
Sharing vital information across the network: More often than not, the delay in accessing information is the major reason behind improper or delayed care. It’s important that clinical data, lab test results, referrals, etc. are shared across all providers to ensure seamless treatment and population health management.
Monitor, evaluate and maintain results: To ensure the success of optimization isn’t short-lived, providers should continuously monitor their process improvement. Organizations should evaluate their growth and shortfalls and make their efforts to sustain and improve the results they achieve.
Guest post by Matthew Douglass, co-founder, SVP Customer Experience, Practice Fusion
In part 1 of this series, we reviewed the history of digital health tools and discussed why they are not yet fully satisfying the needs of many physicians.
If you think of the U.S. healthcare system as a vast nationwide transportation network, current electronic health record (EHR) functionality is the basic highway infrastructure. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided the incentives for those highways to be built and put in place the structure for ONC-certified EHRs to define the rules of the road via regulatory standards. The roads are now mostly in place: certified EHRs all offer roughly the same base functionality for use by physicians, store clinical information in standardized ways, and have the capabilities to securely communicate with each other.
Sixty-seven percent of medical practices in the U.S. are now using EHRs to run all or part of their daily operations. Patients’ vital signs are stored as discrete values for each visit. Encrypted messages between physicians and their staff are transmitted reliably. Chart notes are being digitally documented and can be shared confidentially with patients. Physicians that have chosen cloud-based EHRs can securely prescribe and refill medications from the convenience of their mobile phones.
Despite having this digital highway system in place, we haven’t yet reached a destination where use of EHRs achieves better patient outcomes or improved clinical experiences. Physicians want more from digital tools than simply receiving, storing, and displaying data values about each patient visit. Rather than devoting too much of their already limited time to data entry and retrieval, physicians want to provide the best patient care possible, and they expect technology to help them achieve this goal.
There is such a thing as too much data, which physicians are reminded of each time they open a digital chart. Clinicians very often are left swimming in more data than they can adequately process, which can erode the crucial patient-provider human relationship.
To address data overload and dehumanization challenges, software partners must go back to the drawing board and visualize dramatic innovations that can be built on top of the nationwide EHR foundation. Significant cognitive overhead is required to distill hundreds of disparate pieces of clinical data into a salient picture of an individual’s overall health. The vast amount of data now available in a patient’s chart is quite often far more than any medical professional, no matter how clinically experienced, can consistently and reliably assimilate.
Physicians and their staff need intuitive technology to be their always-available, intelligent assistant, from start to finish during a patient’s visit.
When a patient’s record is displayed on the computer screen, physicians shouldn’t have to dig for relevant information about that visit. Instead, the EHR should be able to display the pertinent clinical data and health insights for the physician to review and assess a patient’s health condition more quickly and effectively. For example, lab values and vital signs relevant to that patient’s chief complaint are likely already stored as discrete values in the patient’s chart. An EHR that learns along with the physician’s workflow preferences should display only the most relevant data through easily digestible visualizations.
Guest post by Matthew Douglass, co-founder and SVP of Customer Experience, Practice Fusion.
Despite enjoying broad technological advances in their medical practices over the past decade, many physicians still find little pleasure in having to use electronic health records (EHRs). Reasons for low satisfaction run the gamut, from a litany of potentially distracting alerts to overwhelming features that are difficult to learn. This flagging usability, combined with the growing burden of data entry and documentation, impedes physician satisfaction.
Physicians do not begin their careers in medicine so they can spend a majority of their time wrestling with technology. A recent study found that physicians spend three times as many hours working on computers as they do providing direct patient care. It is no wonder that physicians are reporting record levels of burnout and deep job dissatisfaction.
There are practical workarounds to the challenges of using EHRs, such as programs pairing physicians with scribes that are pre-med students who assist those physicians or plugging in additional technologies that reduce direct documentation overhead. However, these practical workarounds mask the root problem rather than address it; EHRs have yet to provide consistently actionable insights that will help to dramatically improve clinical outcomes.
When a physician opens a patient record in her EHR today, she is probably no better equipped than if she were to open that patient’s paper record 10 years ago. All the data points she might ever need are available for her to sift through, but where is the insight? How is she supposed to interpret clinical meaning in individual pieces of data scattered throughout her patient’s history? How is the EHR assisting her in making better, more informed care and treatment decisions for her patients’ lives that she has been entrusted with improving?
EHRs were originally created as a digital recreation of the physical paper chart that accompanied a physician into the exam room during every patient visit. Vital sign collection sheets were recreated as vital sign fields on the screen. SOAP notes that physicians judiciously completed with pen and paper after every patient visit became digital SOAP note fields in the EHR that still have to be typed by the physician or a physician’s representative at the end of every patient visit. Billing one-pagers with pre-printed ICD and procedure codes have been replaced with nearly identical digital superbills containing point-and-click picklists of diagnoses and procedures.
Although we have created a digital system, the healthcare industry lingers in an analog world: Everything still operates like paper.
In the early 20th century, Henry Ford envisioned a future where transportation was dramatically better than what the main transportation technology of the time (i.e., horses) could provide. Confronted with this problem, he didn’t try to re-engineer horses to run 10 times faster. Thankfully, he set his sights on an entirely different and improved solution, experimented with a few ideas, and succeeded in completely altering the future of human transportation by introducing the first mass-produced automobile.
EHR vendors have a similar opportunity today, as they imagine the future of digital health technology that will be highly usable and incredibly helpful for physicians. Fortunately, EHRs are now broadly distributed enough that there is a solid foundation in place on which to build . Now that the vast majority of patient clinical information lives in a digitized form, we can look to the future and ask a novel, crucial question: How can this rich repository of clinical data evolve into upgraded tools that can be used to broadly improve patient health and physician satisfaction?
To best answer these questions, EHR vendors need to reevaluate the specific assistance that physicians can garner from digital health tools. First, clinicians and their staff must be intimately involved in the functionality discovery process in partnership with EHR vendors. This research can then be converted into success metrics and key questions that clinicians and vendors’ product teams utilize as benchmarks for measuring overall successful implementation.
Am I happier as a clinician because of this functionality?
Am I able to devote more or less time to focusing on my patient because of this functionality?
Overall, did this functionality save or cost my practice time and money?
Are my patients healthier and more satisfied with the service my practice provides them?
Further, as physicians are evaluating which digital health technology vendors to partner with in their practice, there are a few advantageous traits they should consider. EHR vendors that operate in a secure cloud offer distinct advantages because they can roll out frequent updates that do not interfere with a practice’s day-to-day operations. If a bug or usability issue does arise, the problem most often can be addressed quickly and without interruption.