Healthcare IT News

8 mistakes that make EHRs less effective

So you’ve done due diligence, made deliberate purchasing decisions, and – thanks to smart planning and strategic teamwork – your rollout was near-flawless. Congratulations. You’re the proud owner of an electronic health record system. But is your staff now using it to its fullest potential?

Too often, providers aren’t making the most of their EHRs, according to Ed Simcox, healthcare practice leader for Logicalis Healthcare Solutions, a managed service provider.

“Many hospitals use only a portion of the capabilities available in an (EHR) today, and many applications are not configured in a way that promotes usage of their deep capabilities,” said Simcox, in a press statement. “Hospitals and physicians have made significant investments in (EHRs); now it’s time to improve and optimize their utilization.”

The biggest missteps have to do with clinicians who have the wrong expectations of EHRs and administrators who don’t fully leverage the problem-solving capabilities of the systems, he said. Earlier this month, Logicalis put the spotlight on eight areas where providers can do better when it comes to putting their EHRs to work.

Incomplete records

An inability to access all available data on a patient is a big – and depressingly common – drawback when it comes to EHRs. Oftentimes, clinical data exists in many different systems, and a lack of interoperability even within a hospital’s walls mean caregivers aren’t getting the full picture. “Connecting data sources would offer a single view to the provider looking for a consolidated patient record making interoperability a priority for CIOs,” according to Logicalis. “While possible today, this is not yet the norm.”

Missing Images

While there are plenty of PACS vendors, most don’t offer a single source for all images associated with a given patient. Many EHRs still lag when it comes to offering easy access to images beyond radiology, according to Logicalis. That’s a big blind spot as images of different types become more critical to a wide array of treatments. The most effective EHRs offer a view of all images related to a patient.

Failing to embrace best practices

Too many EHR rollouts go south thanks to lack of adequate training, says Logicalis, which suggests that organizations consider applying system-based process improvement techniques such as Lean and Six Sigma to drive better performance, leading to time saved and costs reduced.

Ignoring Disaster Recovery

Now that hospitals and health systems are utterly dependent on EHRs, any system downtime can be hugely costly – not just in dollars but in patient safety. Beyond just doing drills on downtime procedures, health organizations have to perform periodic data center assessments to sniff out areas of weakness. Not addressing these gaps leaves hospitals vulnerable. When disasters do happen, being able to bounce back is critical, according to Logicalis, which encourages its healthcare clients to consider cloud-based disaster recovery-as-a-service.

Not striving for Stage 2 meaningful use

Stage 2’s prescriptions for putting EHRs to work have proven very hard to comply with for most providers, but those users who’ve been able to attest will reap the benefits of those new functionalities and workflows. With portals offering patients access to their own data and expanded health information exchange requirements, the rules are meant to drive improvements in care quality. There’s also another issue, Logicalis points out: Providers

Lacking in mobile strategies

Physicians want to use their own smartphones and tablets in clinical settings, of course. But keeping them secure is essential, lest HIPAA violations, unwelcome headlines and huge fines follow a breach. Strategies to address each device and individual user may include turning to an experienced outside party that can help offer tailored device management tools, according to Logicalis, which also suggests that organization ensure they regularly update their device usage policies.

Lagging on ICD-10

The surprise delay in the ICD-10 implementation deadline this year caused some providers to slow down their readiness efforts. But Oct. 1, 2015, is sooner than many realize, and providers who continue to drag their feet will be ill-prepared to address the big changes ICD-10 will bring. While the switchover will increase the number of codes from 17,000 to 141,000, says Logicalis, with judicious planning, providers will usually only need to train clinicians on a small subset of them. But managing this huge transition requires lots of testing and advance preparation.

Not using analytics

Now that they’ve got EHRs in place, filled with more clinical information every day, hospitals and medical practices suddenly find themselves dealing with huge volumes of patient data. The big challenge is locating and analyzing that data and putting it to good use. That means deploying analytics tools to glean insights from those data sets to improve care, lower costs and improve outcomes for patient populations. But technology is only part of the answer, according to Logicalis. The bigger task is developing smart data governance strategy to make optimal use of clinical and financial data.