Getting your EHR (electronic health record) technology up and running involves a lot of hustle and bustle for every healthcare organization. It's no picnic, but it's worth it because it's all done. Wrong! Unfortunately, it's only the beginning. Then, the hard work or EHR optimization starts, where health plans, physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers must refine the software to their own needs, clinical productivity, and efficiency. Plus, according to EHR Intelligence, "....the push for value-based care and reimbursement has raised new needs for EHR optimization among physicians." So, even if you want to stop at implementation, you will always have to upgrade, optimize, and increase your level of EHR service and functionality as Medicare and other commercial payers shift to pay-for-value incentives.
EHR optimization challenges
In a recent survey done by KPMG and CHIME (College of Healthcare Information Management Executives), "...38 percent of respondents said EHR optimization would continue to be a top priority over the next three years." Yet, ...optimization is still a thorn in the side of many healthcare executives."
Many medical organizations are facing optimization challenges that improve clinical and business processes, especially EHRs. While integrated, cost-effective, operationally effective solutions improve value and outcomes, tweaking EHR systems is difficult for doctors and nurses, who are resistant to changes, busy treating patients, facing burnout, and finding it nearly impossible to continually learn new procedures. Additionally, conservative budgets make upgrades and optimization difficult.
In order for enhancements to occur, healthcare organizations like yours could use outside consulting help in cost-effectively augmenting the current technology and helping personnel quickly learn to take advantage of the improvements.
7 steps to a smoother EHR optimization
- Assess the value of your EHR technology. Dig deep and ask yourself specific questions: Where are the opportunities for more value? How can my organization better tailor our EHR system to our unique organization's needs? Is the technology right-sized to our organization and our expectations? According to EHR Intelligence, "A fair and objective assessment of current EHR technology will highlight its proficiencies and deficiencies, the latter of which serve as the target of EHR optimization efforts."
- Work with a trusted, reliable EHR advisor/partner. EHR optimization is a collaborative effort, both internally and externally. A critical initial step for many healthcare organizations is to partner with an experienced EHR consultant. Choose expert senior-level professionals from a specialized consulting organization like Blue Eagle, who have a 13+ year track record with healthcare clients and are well trained to help with a wide variety of EHR systems, including Cerner, Epic, Trizetto, Meditech, McKesson, Allscripts, Athena Health, eClinicalWorks, GE Centricity, and more. This proven expertise will help you quickly get the maximum efficiency and return on investment.
- Engage physicians. Involve them part of the process. Invite them to participate on the optimization team. Discover what their pain points are, what they expect in the way of enhancements, and what they believe their patients expect. This grass-roots involvement can make the difference between physician burnout and physician satisfaction.
- Set realistic EHR optimization objectives and opportunities. These will greatly vary from simple to complex and from organization to organization. Perhaps, you just want to reduce the number of clicks, a common complaint with EHR users. You want to get the data into the system as easily as possible.
- Standardize, standardize, standardize. According to a study archived in the National Library of Medicine at the National Institute of Health, problems with EHR standardization can hinder the success of primary care teams in the process of optimizing their EHR systems. "This inability to enforce standard use of health IT is emblematic of a larger problem with enforcing standardization across care settings," states an article from EHR Intelligence.
- Address EHR data reporting requirements. While federal reporting requirements are outside the realm of what healthcare organizations can modify or improve during an EHR optimization project, they can do what they can to meet requirements by increasing efficiency without increasing workload.
- Improve EHR usability. This involves addressing and enhancing technical design and data presentation in more intuitive ways that make sense for users.
EHR system upgrades and optimizing your system are critical to improving the way your technology operates. It simply is not a one-and-done system. Regular assessments, upgrades, and optimization are needed to continually reap the benefits of your EHR investment.
Having customized EHR technology requires you to commit to both the optimization and maintenance of the system, well beyond the initial go-live. In fact, many system providers recommend a major upgrade/optimization every 12 to 18 months to stay current and help assure customer satisfaction with flawless, efficient, and effective software solutions.