Variances In Clinician EHR Use Can Hold Back Interoperability Efforts

Given that clinicians have different styles, it’s hardly surprising that they document care in different ways. Unfortunately, however, these idiosyncrasies are one of the obstacles that stand in the way of better interoperability, according to an article by Corepoint Health.

In a piece published in mHealth Intelligence, the vendor notes that one of the biggest obstacles to improved interoperability is variability in the way clinicians use EHRs.

The piece says that as things stand, clinician use of EHRs can vary not only from one organization to another but even between departments in the same hospital. Some examples of how these differences play out include the following:

  • Health system usage standards: Often, hospitals and health systems struggle to share or aggregate patient data from outside of their walls because those institutions use different systems or have different naming conventions in place. These challenges are even harder to tackle when individual providers or even whole specialties use the EHR in a unique way.
  • Specialty-based naming conventions: In some cases, specialists unique naming conventions unlike those used by the rest of their organizations. This can impact how patient data gets entered into an EHR, as well as how it’s interpreted and aggregated for population health analytics. For example, the Corepoint article notes, when treating patients with breast cancer, most relevant diagnostic detail gets captures in notes fields or radiology files, largely because ICD-10 codes convey little useful diagnostic information in such a situation. This can pose big problems when IT and informatics professionals try to aggregate diagnostic data.
  • Individual physician styles: In addition to the issues cited above, the special ways in which individual physicians use EHRs can also create challenges. Even when healthcare organizations have adopted specific ways to manage workflow differences, physicians bring their own idiosyncrasies to the table when they use the EHR.

To tackle these problems, the authors note, one important step is to make clear interoperability goals a strategic priority. While clinicians may continue to work in unique ways even under threat of financial penalties, they might see clinicians and employees feel more motivated to make changes if they’re working toward a goal, they suggest.

Of course, the goal also must be meaningful to those employees and clinicians. As we all saw, it brought clinicians forced to use the first wave of EHR platforms little comfort to know that adopting them might help hospitals bring in a few more bucks.

However, as they begin to find clinical value in EHRs – particular as they’re supplemented with AI and data analytics tools —  they’re becoming more willing to work towards larger goals like data interoperability and patient health data access.  Under these circumstances, we might see goals like eliminating documentation variations seem like worthwhile projects.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.