EHRs have profoundly impacted the healthcare industry. The EHR was initially seen as a way to digitize the patient’s chart and record, but by doing so EHRs have impacted the healthcare industry through the exponential increase in the amount of data that is now available to clinicians. The healthcare community is at the early-stages of trying to figure out how to use this onslaught of data to change and improve patient care. Organizations are trying to leverage the EHR as a database, not only for quality improvement and safety, but also for general population health.
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The potential that EHRs and digital transformation efforts have on the medical industry underscores the importance of continuously optimizing EHRs. If there’s one thing for certain relative to the use of EHRs, it’s that healthcare systems need to continue to explore and evolve the use of these technologies in order to offer increased patient care and streamline healthcare operations.
Four examples of how EHR optimizations can drive improvement were recently detailed by the 2016 HIMSS Award Winners:
- Patient Engagement Workﬂow integration and redesign helped a large medical group increase face-to-face time by 27% for 15-minute appointment time slots
- Clinical Workﬂow A federally qualiﬁed health center increased its colon cancer screening rates from 30% in 2013 to more than 60% in 2016 with a clinical workﬂow redesign
- Care Coordination A university hospital's EHR supported its care coordination strategy, which reduced readmissions by 2.27% and ED visits by 12.53%
- Lower Operational Costs By deploying analytics and a dashboard, a top cardiovascular hospital achieved a total savings of $9.42 million across perioperative departments for all surgical procedures
To achieve these types of benefits and optimize your EHR, the United States government offers the following strategies when seeking to optimize use of EHR at the point of care:
- Map the workflow and process as they are being performed. This includes discussing with the individuals performing the process about what the issues are. Have those issues identified alongside ways to either adopt the improved workflow or to revise it for easier implementation.
- Directly observe how the individuals are using the EHR. Any number of factors can cause issues, many of which can be easily corrected with additional training or some slight modification of the system. Typical modifications or program additions include:
Finally, it’s important to understand the role of additional technology implementation in EHRs such as the fact that optimizing the EHR technology may involve implementing elements such as smart forms and other discrete documentation to ensure the technology is working efficiently. By standardizing order sets and templates, optimization efforts often focus on enhancing the technology itself. The result is minimized documentation and streamlining billing functions, something every organization should strive to achieve.
- Reinforced training on the application itself;
- Training to improve all users’ general computer skills;
- Redesigning templates;
- Adding data capture aids into the application (i.e., favorites lists, larger font size);
- And providing for greater sensitivity to the needs of clinical decision-makers (only “important” alerts trigger, adding a longer cable to a barcode wand, and any other little things that can add up to big productivity boosts over time).