When you look at the world of hospital and health system EHR implementations, it’s fair to say that we can say Mission Accomplished. Depending on which numbers you use, they are all in the range of about 90% EHR adoption in hospitals. That’s a big shift from even 5-10 years ago when it comes to EHR adoption in hospitals. It’s amazing how quickly it shifted.
While it’s easy to sit back and think “Mission Accomplished” the reality is that we still have a LONG way to go when it comes to how we use the EHR. Yes, it’s “Mission Accomplished” as far as getting EHRs implemented. However, it’s just the start of the mission to make EHRs useful. I’d suggest that this is the task that will take up CIOs time the most over the next 5 years.
I think that most people looking at their EHR think about next steps in two large baskets:EHR Optimization and Extracting Value from EHR Data.
Most EHR software was slammed in so quickly that it left the users’ heads spinning. Hospitals were chasing the government money and so there was no time to think how the EHR was implemented and the best way to implement the EHR. We’re paying the price for these rushed EHR implementations now.
What’s most shocking to me is how many little things can be done for EHR end users to make their lives better. Many EHR users are suffering from poor training, lack of training, or at least an ignorance to what’s possible with the EHR. I’ve seen this first hand in the EHR implementations I’ve done. I know very clearly that a feature of the EHR was introduced and the users were shown how to do it and 6 months later when you show that feature to them they ask “Why didn’t you teach us this earlier?” Although, they then usually sheepishly say, “Did you teach us this before? I don’t remember it.” At this point it’s not about who we blame, but is about ensuring that every user is trained to the highest degree possible.
The other EHR optimization that many need is an evaluation of their EHR workflow. In most EHR implementations the organization replicates the paper processes. This is often not ideal. Now that the EHR is implemented, it’s a great time to think about why a process was done a certain way and see if there is a different workflow that makes more sense in the digital world. It’s amazing the efficiency you will find.
Extracting Value from EHR Data
As I just suggested, most EHR implementations end up being paper processes replicated electronically. This is not a bad thing, but it can often miss out on the potential value an EHR can provide. This is particularly true when it comes to how you use your EHR data. Most hospitals are still using EHR data the way they did in the paper world. We need to change our thinking if we want to extract the value from the EHR data.
I’ve always looked at EHR data like it was discovering a new world. Reports and analysis that were not even possible in the paper world now become so basic and obvious. The challenge often isn’t the reporting, but the realization that these new opportunities exist. In many cases, we haven’t thought this way and a change in thinking is always a challenge.
When thinking about extracting value from the EHR data, I like to think about it from two perspectives. First, can you provide information at the point of care that will make the patient care experience better for the provider and the patient? Second, can you use the EHR data to better understand an address the issues of a patient population? I’m sure there are other frames of reference as well, but these are two great places to start.
EHR Optimization and creating value from EHR data is going to be a great thing for everyone involved in healthcare and we’re just at the beginning of this process. I think it’s a huge part of what’s next for EHR. What’s your take? What are your plans for your EHR?