Benefis CIO Mark Simon: Key ideas to optimize EHRs and limit the technology burden

Mark Simon, senior vice president and CIO of Great Falls, Mont.-based Benefis Health System, discusses how the health system optimizes its electronic medical records.


Question: What is your strategy for optimizing your EMRs?

Mark Simon: We maintain two primary EMRs, Meditech and NextGen. From an optimization perspective, we have focused primarily on integrating billing/revenue cycle functions between the two EMRs, integrating data flows between the platforms and building out our data warehouse as our primary source for systemwide data analytics.

Q: How do you approach clinician training and communication to ensure EMR’s are a tool instead of a hindrance to care?

MS: Our informatics team works directly with clinicians providing ongoing training and daily 'at the elbow' support. The informatics team hosts comprehensive training sessions, such as a recent Meditech retraining for our entire nursing staff. Additionally, the informatics team rounds daily with clinicians to provide real-time training and support.

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunity for health IT to improve the patient experience?

MS: Clinicians are overburdened with the plethora of technologies we have implemented over the past 20-plus years. We can do a better job of reducing the burden of technology by reducing clinicians' need to interact with technology physically, thereby simplifying their interactions with technological solutions. We must focus on giving clinicians more time to engage with patients and less time engaging with technology.

Q: What are the terms or conversations in health IT you most dread? What is the most cringe-worthy?

MS: The main thing I dread is the notion that technology can solve all of our problems.

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