More than a vendor: What hospitals should consider when forming new EHR partnerships

Modern technology is continuing to advance at a rapid rate, and healthcare and EHRs are moving right along with it. But with rapid advancements come multiple options, which leaves hospitals and health systems to choose between multitudes of EHR vendors.

When selecting an EHR vendor, hospitals should consider companies as more than just a service provider but a partner in achieving their organization's overall goals. During a June 11 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Allscripts, Salman Naqvi, M.D., clinical practice leader and CMIO at Allscripts, and Allison Arant, Allscripts assistant area vice president of professional services sales, discussed the importance of selecting and building the EHR-hospital relationship as a partnership, not a vendor relationship, and why healthcare organizations should choose partners that align with their own strategic goals.

"There's often a box around EHR vendors, a perception where the EHR vendor can only provide a technology, a help desk, a service or an outsourcing staff," Ms. Arant said. "But truly, if we start looking at the strategies and outcomes that are important throughout the hospital or health system and our industry, the EHR vendor becomes an incredible partner to help support the organization to achieve those outcomes."

Transitioning to a modern EHR can help a hospital achieve goals such as increased quality and safety and improvements for clinical quality scores. Additionally, a modern, updated infrastructure helps support the hospital to expand and create new technological developments, while an older infrastructure may hinder the system's ability to make cost-efficient upgrades. And modern EHRs are designed to assist health systems move to a single, integrated patient record, which allow providers and patients to use a single EHR across all care settings for clinical and financial data.

"From an information technology team's point of view, moving to this modern technology is absolutely helpful achieving objectives such as quality, safety and translating system goals to business goals," Dr. Naqvi said. "There are organizations which are more independent now because of their new technology that drives development toward their locally creative solutions, whether it’s modifying their workflows to meet changes in the scope of service they're providing the health system and so forth."

Workflow drives everything

It is vital that hospitals understand how to meet the needs of their patients who receive care in multiple settings. EHRs can be built to support workflow, or how a patient comes in and out of a clinical service and what actions are necessary to provide comprehensive care in different settings.

An EHR's build comprises data foundations, documentation, orders and financial functions. Recognizing EHR build, IT and clinical teams can collaborate to develop technology in the EHR specific to the organization's needs, such as simplified user experience, patient access improvement and provider burnout.

"Everything in the EHR is a data point that can be measured, analyzed and reported to show how workflows benefit patients, providers or systems," Dr. Naqvi said.

The pillars to choosing the right EHR vendor

A hospital or health system that is looking to establish a new EHR vendor partnership should consider whether its goals align with the vendor across four main areas: clinical, administrative and revenue cycle, population health and analytics. The healthcare organization should do research to find out what types of outcomes can be achieved by using the vendor's technology, solutions and services.

"A layer that excites us the most when working with clients is essentially working with the four pillars, figuring out what are the things that the organization's team which is joining the clinical IT team can tell themselves they are most proud of?" Dr. Navqi said. "Or what are the sorts of things that organizations don't have time to pay a whole lot of attention to. The EHR vendor allows them to focus on all these aspects when it's the right vendor that you want to have a long-term relationship with."

After choosing the best EHR vendor that matches the health system's goals, organizations must be able to determine their success in meeting those goals. To do this, hospitals should identify the measurable outcomes they want to achieve and compare them to what the EHR vendor is able to offer through software and services. This launches an outcomes-based partnership on day one, which is critical to the success of both the organization and the long-term relationship with the EHR partner.

To access the webinar, click here.

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