How to leverage digital components of the EHR, optimize performance and value 

As healthcare continues to become less hospital-centric with more care delivered in outpatient and post-acute care settings, EHRs have been expected to adapt to rising technical demands brought about by this shift.

EHRs have traditionally focused on clinical data, which has left reporting gaps in other areas of the patient care journey such as financial and administrative information. By working with third-party vendors, healthcare organizations can enhance and extend their EHRs.  

During a July 31 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Ingenious Med, Dan D'Orazio, CEO at Sage Growth Partners, Laura Chapman, Ingenious Med vice president of product management, and Jason Cook, assistant vice president of medical management at Scripps Health in San Diego, discussed how to optimize non-clinical EHR functions as well as additional technological resources that can be leveraged when transitioning to a new EHR system.

With the growth of care settings like outpatient, skilled nursing facilities and home healthcare, technology will continue to be incorporated into these spaces. Remote patient monitoring and virtual care services have transformed the home healthcare industry, enabling patients and clinicians to connect and share digital health outcomes like never before, Mr. D'Orazio said.

Another technology-powered shift in the healthcare industry has been the push for price transparency, which demands providers make the true cost of care available to patients. As technology continues to empower patients to make more informed decisions about their care, providers must align their clinical, financial and administrative systems so they can stay up to date on each aspect of the patient's healthcare journey and improve the care experience, according to Mr. D'Orazio.

EHR achievements and room for improvement

While EHRs have excelled in various areas, including clinical data, patient documentation, order management, hospital reporting and push alerts, the technology still has room for improvement, according to Ms. Chapman.

"EHRs are a tremendous resource for us, but there's also a continued hunger for more…" she said. "Revenue optimization, value-based alignment and data intelligence are areas where you're seeing partners like Ingenious Med fill in their limitations."

However, the technology has yet to reach its full potential. Challenges related to interoperability and the documentation of patient information leave providers wanting more from the technology. Partnering with organizations like Ingenious Med and other third-party applications developers, healthcare organizations and EHR vendors can better support the demands of value-based care by creating technology solutions that allow patients full access to their health data.

"This is where the healthcare market is really moving to the consumerism of care, and we see where value-based care across the continuum is [emerging] as an important area of opportunity," Ms. Chapman said. "In order to do that, we need to have tools [for] both physicians and administrators, such as data visualization and benchmarking [that enable us to] track performance."

How Scripps Health optimized its EHR

As it implemented its new EHR, Scripps Health focused on three main phases to ensure it leveraged all the additional resources the new system had to offer, according to Mr. Cook. The three phases of the EHR implementation were pre-evaluation and selection, go-live and post go-live.

During the pre-evaluation and selection phase, Scripps Health analyzed its list of more than 300 third-party app vendors used within its clinical system.

"Because of the capital investment and the time and effort it takes, the pressure with any EHR selection has been to minimize that number [of third-party apps]," Mr. Cook said. "Ideally, [the goal is to] get that number down to one, which would be the EHR solution."

When undergoing phase one and evaluating its vendors, Scripps Health realized it wouldn't be able to nix all its third-party apps with the addition of the new EHR. By keeping some of its installed apps, the health system helped ensure a smoother go-live during phase two.

"During the go-live phase, really pay attention to the fact that your business doesn't change and your need to be fiscally responsible to deliver optimal quality doesn't change," Mr. Cook said. "You may need third-party apps at a minimum through the transition phase of a go-live and stabilization. It was clear to us that Ingenious Med provided a platform with our historical data and that when we went into a go-live phase we could recognize immediately changes to our business practice or other care team communication issues."

Once in the final phase, or the post go-live of an EHR, it is important that the organization has a strong platform with the ability to track benchmark comparisons. By keeping third-party apps on the new platform, the organization can monitor its productivity and system usage in the acute, post-acute, primary care and ambulatory environment.

"You want determine whether the EHR is performing optimally, and if not, where are those gaps and how do we deploy resources to close those gaps?" Mr. Cook said. "In many areas a third-party app like Ingenious Med or another is really the rose bush at the end of the vineyard that gives you the first line of sight into when your operations aren't returning back to pre-go live operational efficiencies. They really help you hone in and focus early on."

To access the webinar, click here.

More articles on EHRs:
California hospital to implement Cerner EHR: 4 notes
Cerner launches primary care, pharmacy centers for senior-living communities
Columbia U medical center enlists 900 'super users' ahead of Epic go live

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