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CTO's Need to Know: This is a Key Limitation of Your EHR

May 10, 2022
By
Kendall Shadley
2 mins

In part one of this series, I discussed the clinical view of the electronic health record. Most providers agree, the EHR is an invaluable tool for securely storing patient information and enabling access to that information across organizations. They also agree that it contributes to clinical burnout.

If you’re a CTO, to an extent you may be thinking – that’s not entirely avoidable. And you’re right. As also mentioned in part one, the EHR isn’t going anywhere. Neither is using them for documentation. And while it’s true clinicians should spend more time at the bedside and less behind a computer screen, some administrative processes will not be entirely avoidable. With improvements on behalf of EHR vendors, however, those processes can be made simpler and more efficient.

Yet, beyond interface and interoperability issues, there is one other key limitation to the EHR – data exploration and accessibility.

Data is Powerful – Outside the EHR

Efficient access to key patient information is essential for care delivery. The EHR struggles to help in this arena.

As Subha Airan-Javia, MD, former associate CMIO at Penn Medicine described to Health Data Management, “Current EHRs ‘are stuck in the 20-year ago model. There’s a ton that we can do to make it easier for clinicians to find the information they need. Right now, the tech stack (of EHRs) is handcuffed, and it’s hard to change them. We need a bit of a revolution.”

Not only is finding the right information difficult within the EHR, drawing actionable insights from data found is near impossible. EHRs lack the malleability necessary for clinicians to measure, analyze, and derive actionable intelligence from patient data.

In addition to data exploration, EHRs struggle to continuously capture patient-reported information. There have been investments to try and do this more effectively. For example, Epic Care Companion seeks to proactively prompt patients to provide information relative to medication adherence and symptom progression.

The problem, however, is that solutions such as Care Companion lack the ability to scale patient outcome data collection. Additionally, they do not have the expertise to automate patient-reported outcomes collection based on clinical diagnoses, procedure, or other clinical markers. The ability to solicit information from patients at the right point of care across their entire care journey – even years post-intervention – is imperative. Only then will clinicians have a comprehensive view of patient progress that enables them to understand how treatment decisions impact patient outcomes.

Patient Outcome Platforms – The Right Solutions for Extending Your Tech Stack

The failure of EHRs to effectively collect, measure, and analyze patient outcomes data led the development of third-party patient outcomes platforms. These platforms are the answer to the clinical data challenges plaguing providers.

Patient outcomes platforms automate the collection of patient outcomes data through integration with the EHR and by leveraging patient engagement functionality to solicit patient-reported responses. However, like most technology solutions looking to solve the same industry problem, not all patient outcome platforms are the same.

As simplifying the tech stack remains a key operational goal for most healthcare technology leaders, identifying the right patient outcomes platform to work in tandem with the EHR is essential.

As Brian Cole, MD, Managing Partner and Associate Chairman and Professor in the department of Orthopedics at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush discussed at the AAOS Annual Meeting, it is not enough to have a patient outcomes platform. The platform must be able to collect patient outcomes effectively (showcased through high compliance rates) and it must be able to derive actionable insights from the data that was collected. Without that analytical element, a patient outcomes platform is no better than the EHR. After all, what’s the point in having data if you cannot utilize it to learn, iterate, and improve?

With the right platform, Midwest Orthopedics at Rush has realized improved clinical outcomes – and saved more than $500K in the process.

Still Not Convinced?

Adding to the tech stack must be justified – there is no doubt. No one is advocating for complex tech stacks or redundant solutions. These are often top concerns of technology leadership. And while the clinical value of patient outcomes platforms is clear, it can sometimes be challenging for technology leadership to see other return on investment for the organization.

Patient outcomes platforms can collect patient satisfaction information that enable organizations to assess and improve quality – without doing so, reimbursements relative to the patient experience are at stake.

Additionally, patient outcomes platforms can be used to compare organizational performance to competitors – showcasing areas for improvement and investment that will allow for increased patient retention and recruitment.  

And, because patient outcomes platforms are cloud-based, they are simple to implement. For example, the University of Colorado Health implemented a platform and integrated the technology with Epic in just 13 days. Additionally, maintenance of the platform does not require resources from internal teams, allowing them to be directed toward other initiatives.

There are times when leaning on the EHR further is a business-sound decision – for CTO’s and clinicians. However, the patient outcomes platform is the solution healthcare organizations need to solve for the most evident EHR shortcomings.

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