Healthcare News & Insights

EHR: Interoperability fixes that deliver organized, actionable data

Electronic health records (EHRs) were designed to streamline patient care, and promote efficient and effective clinical decision making. But over the years, electronic health data has become disorganized, making it difficult for physicians to find the patient information they need. In this guest post, David Lareau, CEO of a provider of physician-driven, point-of care EHR solutions, details the type of EHR fixes facilities and physicians need.

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When I walk into a Home Depot store – no matter where it’s located – I expect to find the hammers in approximately the same section. Because all Home Depots have similar store layouts, product offerings and brands, I can quickly find the exact hammer I need without having to waste time walking up and down every aisle.

But what if Home Depot didn’t organize its merchandise by department, and instead randomly scattered goods across its stores? Instead of finding my preferred hammer in the hardware department, I might stumble upon a couple of hammers next to hot tubs and a few more by plungers. I’m sure I’d be so frustrated that I’d quickly abandon my hammer shopping.

Possibly even more frustrating than hunting for hammers in a disorganized home improvement store is searching for patient- and problem-specific information within most EHRs. The data is often disorganized and difficult to access, especially when the EHR includes records that have been uploaded from other providers. To find the details required for effective clinical decision making, physicians must click through multiple screens and search through numerous documents. If the process is too time-consuming, a frustrated physician may simply abandon the search.

If we could fix EHRs so physicians could immediately find the clinical information they need, when they need it, doctors could be more efficient and productive – and less frustrated with their computers.

Unfortunately, until we fix interoperability, physicians will have to suffer through the inefficiencies and frustrations of searching disorganized data, instead of having ready access to actionable information that enhances clinical decision-making at the point of care.

More health information, less data-blocking

Earlier this year the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) proposed new rules that support the seamless, secure exchange of electronic health information and addressed data-blocking concerns. More recently, the American Medical Association (AMA), the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and several other provider groups appealed to Congressional leaders and asked them to ensure that any final rules include sufficient protections for patient privacy and secure systems.

The arguments for improving interoperability and eliminating data-blocking are well known:

  • Providing health care in silos is a failed strategy that continues to put patient lives at stake.
  • Data-sharing is essential for collaboration in clinical and research settings, continuity of care, and to give patients access to their own healthcare information.
  • Without ready access to clean and complete patient data, patient safety will continue to be compromised and clinical decision-making will suffer.

Stakeholders say they want to fix interoperability and eliminate data-blocking – but is that what physicians really want?

Yes – although their ultimate need is for clean, actionable information that facilitates better patient care. What they don’t want are interoperability “fixes” that create an influx of more data that makes them less productive and interferes with patient care.

Clinical information vs. clinical spam

To satisfy regulatory requirements, providers send other providers more data than ever. But because every clinical system is different and no two implementations of an EHR – even from the same vendor – are identical, the data physicians receive is rarely in a format that integrates well with their own EHR application.

To review all lab results for a patient, a physician might search through the EHR, then through the records originating from the hospital, and then the records forwarded from a specialist. Finding information for a specific patient with a specific condition can be as inefficient as walking from aisle to aisle to find the right hammer in a disorganized home improvement store.

When incoming data from another provider doesn’t integrate well with a physician’s EHR, it’s akin to spam in an email inbox: both require a user to review each item to evaluate the information’s value and relevancy. Physicians may want access to more complete patient records, but not if it requires them to filter out all of the clinical spam.

What physicians want – and need

While lawmakers have ongoing debates about the best way to achieve the seamless, secure exchange of electronic health information, physicians are struggling to manage the flood of disorganized data that other providers are required to dump on them. While data-blocking, privacy and security are all important concerns, the highest interoperability priority must be to make sure that shared clinical data is usable for end users.

Physicians want and need clean, organized and filtered data that enhances their understanding of a patient’s health. In fact, if the data isn’t in a format that easily integrates into their EHR, many physicians arguably would prefer not having electronic records from other providers, even if it creates gaps in a patient’s clinical history

To fix interoperability, we need solutions that facilitate more than the secure exchange of clinical data. Physicians need fixes that eliminate the frustrations of searching through clinical spam, and instead enable users to efficiently find the exact patient- and problem-specific information they need to deliver optimal care.

David Lareau is CEO of Medicomp Systems, a provider of physician-driven point-of care solutions that fix EHRs. 

 

 

 

 

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