Time is money – an adage world follows. When providers realized paper medical records were time-consuming, Electronic Health Records were developed to make things streamlined. Early EHRs were only meant to capture basic clinical information, and over the time EHRs have taken the form of a digital version of paper medical records. In an industry as dynamic and as focused on value as healthcare, it’s not feasible to have physicians spend almost half their time on EHRs.

Challenges physicians face with EHRs

EHRs, in their current state, not only consume a lot of physicians’ time, but they also draw their attention away from their direct interactions with patients. Some of the several significant challenges physicians face are:

  • Data entry and administrative tasks take up a lot of physicians’ time- according to a study, during the office day, physicians spend as much as 49.2% of their time on EHRs.
  • The demands of desk work and administrative work are not being reconciled with patient priorities and clinical workflows; creating huge gaps between patients and providers. For example, during patient examinations, physicians spend 37% of their time on data entry and desk work, compromising on their direct interaction with patients.
  • Physicians are only reimbursed for face-to-face visits, lab work, and medical procedures and not for EHR tasks. This increases the misalignment in fee-for-service payments and compounds the risk of physician burnout.

Why can’t we do away with EHRs?

While EHRs are not without their own set of challenges, their implementation was necessary, and that still holds true. Only recently, under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), providers have started to make an effort to enhance value in the care they deliver and the meaningful use of EHRs has been included in MIPS with other substantial quality reporting initiatives. Besides that, there are many offerings of EHRs:

  • A quick and real-time access to patient records.
  • Reliable drugs and test prescriptions.
  • Complete clinical documentation, inclusive of patient medical history.
  • Accurate and streamlined coding and billing operations.
  • Reduced cost of operation.

EHR Optimization: Boosting your EHRs

EHR optimization is the process of enhancing and refining the operations of an already installed EHR, to enhance clinical productivity and efficiency. As more and more practices have begun the push for value-based reimbursement, they are demanding more integrated and efficient EHRs.

Opportunities for EHR optimization vary for every practice and range from simple to complex. However, the primary objective of every optimization is reducing the time consumed. Here are some ways healthcare IT platforms can optimize time spent on EHRs for improved patient outcomes:

  • Establish key performance indicators: Once a healthcare organization has examined its baseline performance, it can decide on goals and target a benchmark for future. Organizations can leverage advanced analytics to determine their progress across each key performance indicator which in turn, helps with quality reporting.

  • Comprehensive and complete clinical records: It’s important that a patient record is complete- right from their past medical history to their last lab test results. Along with that, if providers are able to look at all vital signs at once, the entire process of designing and implementing a care plan would become efficient.

  • Implementing clinical decision support: By combining clinical decision support with EHR data, providers can ensure safer and efficient care delivery by documenting every interaction and eliminating redundancies. With every information documented, providers can address the gaps in care well in time.

  • Sharing vital information across the network: More often than not, the delay in accessing information is the major reason behind improper or delayed care. It’s important that clinical data, lab test results, referrals, etc. are shared across all providers to ensure seamless treatment and population health management.

  • Monitor, evaluate, and maintain results: To ensure the success of optimization isn’t short-lived, providers should continuously monitor their process improvement. Organizations should evaluate their growth and shortfalls and make their efforts to sustain and improve the results they achieve.

The road ahead

When time is of the essence, being able to flow efficiently through the workflow is critical. Healthcare providers should not worry about how data is being fed into EHRs and how it is being utilized, they should focus on how to realize their goals as efficiently as possible. EHRs were developed with the aim to unify disparate and paper-written data and to make the entire process of documentation time-effective, and value in care can not be realized if physicians are overloaded with type-and-click tasks. It’s time to bring about a change and optimize the functioning of EHRs to obtain clinical, financial, and professional satisfaction outcomes.

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Abhinav Shashank is the CEO and Co-Founder at Innovaccer , one of the fastest growing big data and analytics company based out of silicon valley. Innovaccer recently raised $15.6 million Series A led by Westbridge Capital Partners.

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