Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems are fundamental and necessary for any successful health system. They generate orders and aggregate and trend results; they assemble nursing and provider notes that encompass the patient story within and across episodes of care; they capture charges and automate the revenue cycle management functions. Most EHRs now also have a patient-facing interface where patients can communicate with their providers, view test results and schedule visits.
Initially designed and conceived of as a primarily transactional system, EHRs now serve many health system operations well. But, they are very complex, multi-purpose tools built to serve a wide range of types of health system and healthcare provider users. Arguably, with that complexity, they aren’t as sophisticated or nearly as intuitive as your favorite website or app.
While health systems strive to improve the usability, ease and intuitiveness, add functionality and transform the way the EHR is used to deliver better care, there are several factors that are getting in the way:
• All EHRs and EHR versions have different levels of functionality. While healthcare IT has lots of standards, there are highly variable interpretations and implementations of those standards. If you have seen one EHR, you have seen one EHR.
• Many health systems and providers are still struggling with simply implementing basic functionality because of cost, resources and/or competing priorities.
• With different levels of maturity of functionality and/or adoption, the lowest common denominator between EHRs and health systems often defaults to a very basic level of functionality – making consistent and advanced integration difficult.
• Healthcare, as an industry, is undergoing significant change resulting in mergers, acquisitions and non-traditional partnerships, all of which may require EHR consolidation and/or implementation efforts. These efforts often take priority over implementing advanced, innovative functionality.
• EHRs are highly proprietary, and it is not necessarily in their financial best interest to facilitate interoperability with other companies.
Bottom line, there is still quite a bit of basic blocking and tackling going on in healthcare IT. So, given this reality, what are those health systems focused on transformation and innovation to do?