EHRs are designed to promote legible, up-to-date complete documentation at the point of care, help physicians improve efficiency and meet their business goals, and share accurate, up-to-date, and complete information on care with patients and other providers. Medical transcription outsourcing helps physicians manage their burdensome EHR documentation tasks. However, recent reports point out that while digital patient records have been widely implemented across the U.S., EHR optimization is the key to harnessing its benefits.
Developments such as the drive for value-based care and reimbursement are driving the demand for EHR optimization among physicians. A recent Black Book Survey of ambulatory EHR product indicates that a majority of providers are dissatisfied with their systems and want advanced tools that offer on-demand data and visibility into financial performance, compliance tracking and quality goals. There are also several risks associated with cloud-based EHR systems.
What is EHR optimization? According to www.ehrintelligence.com, EHR optimization is the process of refining and installing EHR software to serve a practice’s own needs and which tends to focus on clinical productivity and efficiency. A recent EHR Intelligence report says that improving the use of these digital systems can help reduce physician burnout and strengthen the patient care process. Optimized EHR use can help providers improve diagnosis and care, and promote patient activation for better outcomes, while lowering the administrative burden.
EHR Intelligence recently reported on how Kaiser Permanente is helping providers fine tune their EHR use through “safety net programs” that support both patients and physicians to improve care. Kaiser Permanente demonstrated how EHRs can be optimized to close potential gaps in care. Kaiser Permanente Southern California uses its EHR to track lag times between test results and follow-up by the physician, which helps to ensure patients with abnormal results receive timely medical evaluation. This method has been applied in tests such as prostate cancer screenings for men and creatinine testing for patients at risk for potential chronic kidney disease (CKD). Of the CKD patients, more than 3,000 were newly diagnosed and then successfully treated. KP SureNet has also reduced the potential medication related safety risk for outpatients who have a history of falls or dementia by 70 percent.
Michael Kanter, MD, medical director of Quality and Clinical Analysis for Southern California Permanente Medical Group notes EHR safety nets can reduce misdiagnoses, ensure patients understands the results of their tests and physicians communicate next steps, so that the patient actually gets the test or follow up done.
Prospects for EHR optimization range from simple to complex and will vary by practice. To achieve this, healthcare providers must understand how to best harness new technologies and implement an integrated EHR system.
Keeping practice goals in mind is an important consideration when optimizing EHR for the specific needs of a practice’s clinical staff and business objectives. Such goals may include meaningful use, improved data collection and reporting, well-designed, customizable templates, etc. Physicians should assess their EHR system to understand the problems they need to address, and then develop an action plan to ensure the success of their optimization plan. Here are the important steps in an EHR optimization project:
- Usability assessment of the pre-existing system: The existing EHR system should be assessed fromusability, effectiveness and functionality perspectives as the goal of optimization is to improve these aspects. This would include assessing technology efficiency concerns, usability and security issues, and user interactions with the EHR. Such evaluation will help technology experts understand existing problems and areas where improvements are required.
- Determine an action plan: The next step is to develop an action plan to optimize this sensitive technology which is critical to physician workflow. HER Intelligence explains that optimization can improve various aspects of EHR such as point of care charting, computerized physician order entry (CPOE), clinical decision support, and the electronic medical administrative record. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) points out that determining which of these factors the project will tackle is part of the EHR optimization action plan.
- Form an EHR optimization project team: The next step is to assemble a team to carry out the project. Experts recommend a multidisciplinary team composed of people who perform various different functions within the healthcare organization and who know what the barriers are. Good communication with everyone involved, including stakeholders and business partners, is crucial. Getting everyone on board with the process is important for the project to benefit the entire organization. Once workflows are developed, IT professionals can work on trying to support them.
- Ensure end-user participation in the project: This is necessary for the success of the project. Physicians and other end users should be involved in the EHR assessment so that their objectives are met. In fact, an EHR optimization project goal would need to be reassessed and revised for usability if it is found that that the goal will not meet the expectations of the end users or is posing more problems for them.
EHR optimization supported by medical transcription outsourcing can support both physicians and patients, reducing administrative burdens while ensuring that patients are properly diagnosed and receive timely and efficient care.