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In today’s information age, as our lives are getting increasingly digitized, health data is valuable. Health data is required for maintaining our health records, for helping physicians and health care professionals review patient information and collaborate on providing health care services and for driving health-related decision making, whether for an individual patient or for broader analysis such as determining the efficacy of health procedures or medication or monitoring emergency medical situations.
Hospitals and health care providers implement electronic health record (EHR) systems to digitize their health data and processes. While this seems like an obvious and essential idea that should provide benefits, in practice, it has proven to be problematic and extremely expensive. The U.S. government provided funding to hospitals to implement EHR systems, leading to over 90% penetration of EHR among health care providers across the nation. These EHR implementations cost billions of dollars but have several systemic issues:
• The biggest problem, perhaps, is that these systems are cumbersome to use. Several credible studies have reported that EHR systems are the biggest contributing factor for physician burnout in the United States, with doctors spending on an average 48% of their time in documenting medical cases in EHRs.
• There is a proliferation of several highly specialized EHRs for various types of medical practices and specializations, so a single hospital can often have multiple EHR systems for different departments and specialties.
• EHRs have been implemented as silo systems that do not interoperate. Siloed EHR systems cannot exchange information between hospital departments, let alone more broadly across organizations.
• Health care staff needs to manually sync up and update data across EHRs within the same organization, and while sharing information across organizations, manual overhead and security problems occur with this manual transfer of information.
• Health care facilities struggle with adapting their medical processes to the EHR systems they are using and are often further restricted because they entered long-term contracts with one or more of their vendors. This restricts them from accessing and updating data for their own patients.
If you look globally at developing regions, they are much further behind in digitization because of the high cost and problems with implementing EHR systems. They simply cannot afford the expenditures that advanced countries such as the United States have undertaken.
Hospitals and health care facilities should consider EHR implementation as more of a process engineering project than a technology project — one that adapts their organization and health care staff to modernized health care processes that make use of a technology system. This focus on medical processes allows you to use the EHR system as a tool to make work more efficient, rather than letting the technology dictate the work of your staff. Use the following best practices and tips to make your EHR implementation more successful.
Assess Your Needs
Take a process engineering approach and focus on understanding the medical processes at the hospital and how these need to be changed and adapted to use an electronic system. Form a joint team with the EHR system implementation vendor and key hospital staff members and shadow the medical processes at the facility to understand and document them and visualize how they will adapt to the electronic system.
Choose A Flexible Platform
Choose an EHR platform that is flexible and can be adapted to handle the requirements of multiple medical specialties and departments. On the surface, it may seem quicker and easier to get multiple different specialized EHRs for different medical practices and departments, but the effort of integrating these systems and making them work together is much harder and more problematic as opposed to updating a single flexible system to handle multiple specialties and departments.
The EHR system should provide flexible APIs and bidirectional data integration for supporting interoperability. There will be cases where you have to integrate a very specialized medical product or device with your master EHR system; therefore, your EHR platform must allow this.
Check Your Contract
Pay attention to your EHR vendor contract to have ownership of your medical data and also adequate access to it. It’s not enough for your contract to give you ownership of your data. If your vendor is managing the data completely, you may struggle to get access to the data and have to pay significant fees. Your contract should have provisions to give you flexible access to the data along with ownership so you can do reporting and analysis as required and integrate the EHR with other products and devices for future growth and advancement.
Make Sure Support Is Available
Ensure you have enhanced support for the first three to six months of operation. You should expect to find gaps and areas for improvement when you first put the system live. You should have the flexibility to make updates and adjustments accordingly until your system stabilizes for long-term use.
EHR platforms are essential for health care digitization but, implemented incorrectly, they can lead to issues and overheads and cause problems and frustration. On the other hand, taking the correct approach can provide health care organizations with a system that improves efficiency, reduces documentation and administrative effort, provides automated access to reporting and analytics and lays the foundation for future improvements and growth of the organization.
May 15, 2019 at 08:08AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs