Optimizing EHR investments is easier than ever

Big bucks are being spent to fund electronic health record (EHR) systems.

According to a recent Becker’s article, hospitals and health systems shell out millions — sometimes billions — of dollars to implement EHRs. Given the sizeable investments being made in EHRs, it should come as no surprise the expectations for the technology are very high. And while EHRs have quickly become the go-to platform for patient information management, room for improvement remains.

EHR limitations

EHRs provide quick, consistent access to patient information. They serve as a powerful system for housing patient medical records, which include physician and nurse notes, problem and medication lists, discharge summaries and more. As a result medical errors are reduced, communication is improved, and providers can more effectively diagnose and treat patients.

While the benefits associated with EHRs are many, as is common with technology, limitations are present. EHR access is typically limited to hospital staff. This means coordination with physician offices, anesthesia groups, vendor reps and other external parties critical to a surgical case is limited to unreliable and error-prone methods such as phone and fax. In addition, most EHR systems are primarily focused on the care a patient receives while physically at a facility, yet today’s modern patient care starts well before they enter a hospital. It starts at a physician’s office and continues through discharge as the patient recovers at home.

Fortunately, advances in web-based surgery coordination technology enable hospitals and health systems to optimize their EHR investments. This technology leverages the information within an EHR to further streamline case communication. In doing so, web-based technology changes how surgeries are coordinated and improves outcomes —a key component of value-based care.

Leveraging Web-Based Technology

Surgery coordination applications are growing in popularity for their ability to extend communication to everyone involved in a case. This technology breaks down communication silos, where information is trapped within four walls, and opens dynamic communication and information sharing. For example, surgery coordination applications serve as a project management platform for coordinating and communicating real-time case information. In doing so they enable physician office teams, hospital staff, anesthesiologists and ancillary teams including medical reps, radiology and pathology to seamlessly work together and share information. Because everyone is continuously on the same page, errors are avoided and outcomes greatly improve.

Surgery coordination applications utilize the scheduling and patient demographic information housed with a hospital’s EHR system. With information in hand physician offices can easily schedule into available OR times at a hospital. If a hospital scheduler changes the OR time, everyone involved in the case, including the physician office is immediately alerted. Once a case is scheduled, anesthesia assignments, staffing assignments, vendor reps and other resources critical to patient care are coordinated through the application. Meanwhile, real-time case updates and patient alerts are proactively sent to everyone involved in the case to ensure no change, medical issue or update is missed.

Web-based integrated patient engagement technology also provides customer-facing benefits throughout a patient’s entire surgical episode. From automated pre-op reminders to post-op check-ins, integrated patient texting technology enables care givers to improve the patient experience and outcomes. For example, sensitive patient responses are triaged and sent to the nurses for review and follow-up. Patient texting also minimizes the time nurses spend on the phone. Rules can be set to automatically notify staff if a critical response has been received, and all flagged responses can be easily managed.

Integrated patient texting takes patient communication to the next level as it leverages the data within the surgery coordination application (which utilizes EHR data). Therefore data is current and texts are coordinated by those involved directly with the case. The result is an increased level of patient confidence and improved outcomes. This technology empowers patients with information about their procedure so they have a high level of confidence in the care they are receiving.

Driven by necessity, hospitals and health systems will continue to invest big money into EHRs. And while EHRs have come a long way, limitations remain. Web-based technology provides a quick, affordable and reliable way to take EHRs to the necessary next level for improved communication and outcomes.

By Gavin Fabian, CEO of Casetabs

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