The EHR or electronic health record is perhaps one of the best technological advances in modern times with certain specific objectives. It is expected to improve patient care and coordination of care across the healthcare spectrum, and make processes such as medical record analysis easier. However, the objectives of EHRs can be realized only if there is healthy and effective interaction between clinicians and EHR vendors.
Studies show that physicians spend more than a third of their time with patients on EHR and administrative tasks. This is quite distressing to most physicians. EHRs are complex and a great deal of functionality gets heaped onto these systems. To make EHRs friendlier and easier to use, provider-vendor interaction is crucial. Thankfully, many frontline vendors such as Athenahealth, Allscripts, Epic Systems Corp and Cerner Corp are constantly tweaking their products after obtaining feedback from providers who use their software. The focus is mainly on developing EHRs that can ensure user-friendly and efficient workflows, layouts and functionality. A healthy interaction between vendors and providers enables the former to understand what kinds of features the latter are interested in, and how those features should function.
Vendors Being Proactive
EHR users need to be involved as early and as often as possible to ensure a good user-centred electronic health record design.
- Vendors such as Allscripts say that they gain new product ideas by closely observing clinicians in care settings. They study significant things such as how many users can accomplish a certain task without any training. This gives them a sense of how well the software works.
- Other vendors such as Athenahealth use behavioral analytics to understand how users are interacting with the EHR. Since they are cloud-based, the data across their network is easily accessible, and they can see the various actions people are taking. This helps them to understand patient-safety issues even before any untoward incident occurs.
EHR vendors understand that clinicians should be given the information they need at the right time so that they can provide better care for their patients. It would reduce their workload and enable them to identify important elements quickly. Prominent vendors are constantly working on reducing the complexity of their EHR software to provide a more useful and consistent user experience. In response to clinicians’ requests, vendors are trying to provide all the information they want at their fingertips without the hassle of having to switch between numerous screens. According to Scott Mackie, Athenahealth’s executive director of strategy design and user experience, a solution would be building artificial intelligence or voice technology into the electronic health record so it learns and gives the most important information to clinicians.
Examples of Effective Collaboration
Cerner, a global leader in healthcare technology has integrated Carevive’s patient care planning software in its PowerChart Oncology solution. Carevive’s cancer care planning tools are designed to empower care teams to personalize treatment decision-making and standardize symptom assessment while on active treatment and during the survivorship period. These are based on clinical, patient-reported health data and clinical evidence. It is a cloud-based technology that can interface with the patient’s EHR. The collaboration between Cerner and Carevive is a direct consequence of the former recognizing the latter’s clinical expertise in oncology and software as a significant market need to offer clinicians workflow tools that support the care team’s needs to improve clinical outcomes, says Madelyn Herzfeld, CEO of Carevive.
In another significant move, Epic Systems has added Mayo Clinic’s symptom checker functionality into their MyChart portal. This is useful for patients who can use the symptom checker, which was already available on Mayo’s website, to assess common ailments such as dizziness, swelling, cold, flu, anxiety, migraine and so on. More than 300 common symptoms are covered. Based on the user’s selection of symptoms and responses to pertinent questions, care guidance is provided which includes more information about the possible causes related to the symptoms. Recommendations on home care are also provided in non-emergency situations. Mayo Clinic offers their Ask Mayo Clinic online as an option to patients and healthcare providers who use Epic EHRs. This is with a view to help other providers share the symptom assessment tool with patients.
Constant and Efficient Collaboration Vital
There is no doubt that to achieve the objectives of the EHR, there should be constant and efficient collaboration between healthcare providers and vendors. Efficient EHR software can also lighten the complex medical record review process by facilitating retrieval of the required medical records. Despite the numerous efforts made to address existing problems, providers still have significant issues with their EHRs. Lack of user-friendliness, considerable cost of implementation, negative impact on patient interaction, and information overload are among the common problems identified. Vendors face difficulty doing a balancing act – trying to be compliant with government requirements and making the modifications physicians need – which may not line up. They have to be careful to design EHRs that are safe and ensure no harm occurs to the patient. To ensure a firm foothold in the industry while meeting customer satisfaction, EHR vendors have to be independent enough to be innovative.