It has become widely accepted that electronic health record systems have the capacity to improve quality in the healthcare industry by reducing or eliminating errors. For this to be successful requires clinicians and staff become proficient and effective users of the EHR. Converting from paper charts to an EHR necessitates a paradigm shift in learning, work effort, and workflow changes associated with any transition to a electronic database system – more so with a mission critical system that has the potential to impact the health of a patient.
In the rush to meet government mandates or receive CMS incentives, many hospitals and providers have adopted EHRs utilizing the same clinical workflows established in their pre-EHR setting. In other words, they have simply automated an inefficient process overlooking strategies to improve decision support, workflow efficiency, effectual user training, communication, and financial performance. That said, there is still ample opportunity to for process improvements in a post EHR implementation environment.
Following completion of the EHR implementation, the office can still develop a strategy to move beyond simply using the features and functions of the EHR and begin focusing on the data in the system to maximize the benefits that a functional EHR system can provide. An ideal start is to take advantage of the reporting features of the EHR to assess and measure the effects of the EHR to date. Analysis of reports will assist in determining what areas of the EHR are most effective and what can be improved upon in order to advance actual practice transformation.
Primarily, evaluate interfaces to other providers and healthcare systems with which the practice communicates (i.e., clinics, labs, hospitals, etc.). An EHR implementation can be compromised and data rendered ineffective if the interfaces are not operating effectively. Presuming all interfaces are working as designed, the office manager can begin the course of action of measuring operational specifics such as percentage of clinic visits, the amount of lab values entered, the number of e-prescriptions sent over a set timeframe, etc. Additionally, some practices measure the effect the EHR has on reimbursements and if the practice is realizing higher revenue related to the introduction of an EHR.