Information Technology holds the promise to spur innovation in the healthcare industry. However, if IT investment is focused on simply meeting mandates and not on driving a specific differentiated business objective, then it begins to look a lot like what we are seeing today – extensive capital and resources spent on implementing and supporting IT initiatives that, so far, have provided little to no financial returns. But this does not mean that the promise of IT is empty. Instead, it calls attention to the need to look at IT not as a way to “check the box” and either collect federal incentive dollars or avoid eventual penalties, but rather as a key tool to remain competitive in the market as well as provide quality care.
In light of recent federal mandates under meaningful use regarding the implementation of electronic health records, many EHR vendors are now propagating the idea that their software is not only compliant with regulatory statutes, but is also a singular comprehensive and strategic IT investment. However, this is just half the truth.
Under the pressures of time and expiring incentives, many healthcare executives have leapt after EHR investments without understanding the real strategic reasons for making IT investments for their enterprises. Otherwise savvy and well-meaning healthcare leaders are allowing EHR vendors to convince them that an EHR is the answer to their business needs and will provide them with an edge over competitors in the market. In reality, EHRs fail to provide a competitive advantage once most or all hospitals in a geographic market have implemented the tool. How can an organization claim it is superior in IT if it is operating the same systems as every other provider in the market? EHRs must be approached as a one-time operational input or business asset similar to hospital equipment and not the core component of a broader IT solution needed to support a sustainable business strategy. As with most investments, it is what you do with it which matters, not that you simply own it.
Health IT pain points seem to be lingering long despite the never ending promises and hope eternal new technology innovation seems to offer. Every sector has its prickles, no doubt, and much is left to overcome in healthcare, but given the complexity and the copious amount of change and development here, it’s of little surprise that pain is being felt.
What may be surprising, though, is that like patient engagement, there seems to be a different type of pain, and severity of pain, depending on who you ask.
With that, for greater clarity, I decided to ask some of health IT industry insiders what they’re pain points were and why. Their responses follow:
Dr. Trishan Panch, chief medical officer, Wellframe
One of the biggest pain points for hospitals is that we’ve come across a health system’s inability to scale care management resources. They are effective in improving outcomes when patients are engaged, but because of limitations around existing models (i.e. human interaction via phone or in-person) only a small proportion of the patient population can be engaged. That’s why organizations are turning to technology solutions to scale care management resources to reach more people.
One of the biggest pain points for physicians today is the lack of interconnectivity between different IT systems. Participation in the meaningful use program has helped create some common standards for communication but, for a variety of reasons, these have not yet lead to widespread, effective clinical data sharing. Few physicians can operate in the ecosystem of a single electronic medical record, since they often work in systems that are different, from practice, various hospitals and other places of care.
Interoperability is a pain point in healthcare IT, particularly when it comes to transitions in senior care. Connecting the care delivery ecosystem to provide safer transitions of care is critical to long-term care. While some individuals may require short-term rehabilitative care, others may need home-based care, assisted living or long-term and hospice care. As seniors move through these different stages or between acute care and post-acute care, these transitions pose challenges for healthcare providers. Ideally, all the information that clinicians need to treat the individual will be available when he arrives at his new destination. However, this is not always the case. Healthcare providers, both long-term and acute, must invest in an infrastructure that supports seamless transitions of care; interoperability plays a vital role. Connecting healthcare providers across the care continuum will allow for better health outcomes, help reduce unnecessary hospital re-admissions, as well as keep healthcare costs down.
There are various statistics about the negative impact paperwork has upon providing healthcare. The AHA has estimated it adds at least 30 minutes to every hour of patient care provided. A main pain point continues to be the ability for IT to implement efficient EHR systems. At the core of any EHR system are its image capture capabilities. It must be simple to use throughout the workflow process. This includes image capture, editing, saving and sharing. The capture, or scanning, must be speedy. Editing features must be clear in how to use. This minimizes learning curves at the start. It also optimizes the speed of processing documents during the life of its use. Easy saving to local or network locations should also enable simple and secure sharing too. When one, some or all of these areas stall, it can cripple the realization of benefits from digital document management.