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  • Rebecca Anderson

Blog: Beyond the EHR - What's Next for Health IT

(Written for Change Healthcare)

Better patient care. Improved access to clinical data. Higher staff productivity. These are just some of the potential advantages of a well-implemented EHR system.

While most healthcare systems are realizing some of these benefits, there is still room for optimization. In a recent survey, only 36% of physicians reported that their staff had a positive opinion of their EHR system. Only 42% said the EHR had even slightly improved their quality of care.

How can healthcare and industry move beyond the current limitations of the EHR to create a system that lives up to the promise? Here are four ways.

1. Enhance Ease-of-use

Even the most high-tech gadget can become a paperweight if it is too difficult to use. Unfortunately, many providers continue to feel that the EHR only adds to their workload, offering little in return. The EHR may even be seen as a source of problems. In fact, one recent study noted a possible link between EHR usability issues and patient harm, specifically related to order placement, system automation and defaults, and alerts.

Improving the ease-of-use of EHR systems will go a long way towards improving data quality and reducing issues associated with usability errors. Innovations by EHR vendors are leading to smarter processes, more user-friendly dashboards, and integrated systems that won’t require multiple workstations or disrupt the provider’s workflow. Healthcare organizations can also increase staff comfort with EHR systems by providing comprehensive and ongoing training on key features and functionality.

2. Increase Interoperability

The average hospital has 16 different EHR systems in place, with only 2% using a single vendor. While a single source would be the simplest solution, such a big change may be beyond most health systems’ budgets. Speciality EHR systems, which account for a high number of instances within a hospital system, have functionality that simply cannot be replaced by the standard EHR—at least for now. The challenge is to ensure the flow of patient data across the disparate EHR systems, a burden that rests primarily on the shoulders of EHR vendors.

Progress is underway, thanks to a push from regulatory agencies and from consumers eager to track their own health data using apps such as Apple Health. While the challenge of EHR interoperability won’t be solved overnight, providers don’t need to sit idle. Instead, providers can identify data flow issues across EHR systems and ensure that any new vendors share a commitment to interoperability.

3. Collect More Data

The evolution of mobile technology in the consumer space continues to shape expectations for how providers would prefer to interact with healthcare technology. So, it’s not surprising that mobile EHR systems for iOS and Android devices have emerged as a significant growth area. Data collection features include hands-free notes using voice recognition, clinical image capture using the camera on your mobile device, and even remote charting which allows providers to add to charts and notes without logging into the workstation.

In addition to data collection, mobile solutions are also poised to facilitate earlier order entry, and time associated with data management while increasing the time physicians spend interacting directly with patients. While numerous apps are currently available, ensuring data security on mobile devices is a continued area of research.

4. Organize & Surface Relevant Data

In order to support provider preferences, most EHRs allow users to add data in numerous formats, both structured and unstructured. But it’s one thing to collect information and quite another to put the data to good use. While patient notes and imaging observations can be significantly easier to capture in a free-form narrative, it has been historically challenging to leverage this type of unstructured data in future diagnoses across the healthcare system.

Health IT already exists to help radiologists in their quest for organized and searchable data. Using machine learning, these intelligent systems can facilitate aggregate analysis of unstructured data in the patient record, making it significantly easier to gather data for a comprehensive radiology report. The software can also uncover key findings and track recommendations made by the radiologist to the referring physician. The end result is potentially improved access to real-time patient data for better decision-making at the point of care.

Take Your EHR Further

Realizing the full value of the EHR may take time, but existing solutions can provide an immediate boost to your EHR’s effectiveness. Contact Change Healthcare to learn how Enterprise Medical Imaging Solutions can help radiologists take their EHR further.

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