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11 Ways Medical Practices Can Get More Out of Their EHR Systems

Industry experts convened by the Stanford University School of Medicine outlined how medical practices can improve their EHR systems.

Stanford gathered recommendations from industry experts about how medical practices can maximize the effectiveness of EHR technology.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- A new Stanford University School of Medicine white paper informed by feedback from healthcare industry experts offers medical practices 11 recommendations for improving the effectiveness of their EHR systems.

Stanford curated the recommendations during a healthcare industry symposium held June 4, 2018.

By implementing these suggestions, industry experts anticipate EHR systems will have an overall positive affect on the healthcare industry by 2028.

“Although EHRs have many problems, there are reasons to believe that they will eventually start living up to their promise,” authors stated.

“With some changes in technology, regulations, and attention to training, EHRs may soon serve as the backbone of an information revolution in health care, one that will transform health care the way digital technologies are changing banking, finance, transportation, navigation, internet search, retail, and other industries,” authors continued.

First, experts recommended medical practices invest in adequate EHR training when onboarding physicians. By extension, medical practices should also train physicians when making incremental changes to existing health IT or operational processes.

“The amount of training physicians get in their EHRs has a big impact on their own levels of satisfaction,” wrote authors.

Next, experts suggested medical practices enlist physicians to help prioritize EHR development tasks and assist in clinical workflow design. Clinical workflows should optimally take advantage of EHR capabilities.

Tailoring the size and makeup of physician development teams and taking available clinical resources into account should also help to boost the effectiveness of EHR technology.

Experts also recommended medical practices prioritize delivering EHR development projects soon after physicians ask for them. Authors offered the Greater Hudson Valley Health System as one example of an organization that saw improvements by launching EHR development projects in a timely manner.

“Greater Hudson Valley Health System, a community hospital, got good results by enlisting physicians to help them prioritize development tasks,” authors explained. “This allowed them to reduce the time to implement changes requested by physicians to within two days.”

Experts emphasized the value of establishing an EHR governance process that gives organizations the ability to effectively respond to health emergencies and crisis scenarios.

“Greater Hudson Valley also established a governance process that gave the organization some nimbleness in responding to health crises, such as a measles outbreak in 2018,” wrote authors. “This idea was to allow for changes in workflows in response to a crisis without introducing confusion.”

Presenting analytics data to physicians in a user-friendly format at the point of care can further optimize EHR use.

Additionally, offloading non-essential EHR data entry tasks to ancillary staff members can help to reduce clinician burden and boost provider satisfaction. Experts suggested using medical assistants to act as scribes.

“In the long term, seek automated solutions to eliminate manual EHR documentation,” authors advised.

Medical practices should also re-evaluate their interpretation of privacy rules, experts suggested.

Furthermore, experts recommended medical practices create opportunities for patients to digitally maintain their EHRs by providing family history, medical history, medications, and health monitoring data, among other information.

Experts also echoed the sentiments of CMS administrator Seema Verma and urged medical practices to ditch their fax machines.

“Every doctor’s office ought to embrace electronic communications,” maintained authors.

Finally, experts suggested medical practices start accepting electronic payments if they don’t already.

“Many doctors’ offices are reluctant to allow payers to transfer funds electronically for fear that they would also be able to make withdrawals,” noted authors.

These recommendations may help healthcare organizations more effectively utilize their EHR systems to sidestep the downsides of the technology and augment the benefits.

In addition to medical practices, industry experts also offered suggestions to payers, regulators, and health IT developers about ways to improve EHR use and efficiency, as well as user satisfaction.

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