Can True EHR Customization Help Physician Practices Survive?

By Shameem Hameed of ZH Healthcare on

In the rapidly-evolving EHR market, one size definitely does not fit all and true EHR customization can make all the difference.

It is a commonly-held belief that the healthcare system in the United States is in need of more than a fairly steep overhaul. In fact, the once highly sought after profession of doctor has shifted to become one of the more embattled jobs nationwide.

Many healthcare professionals are now forced into the impossible situation of navigating exploitation by insurance companies and government regulations, all while grappling with the challenges of providing quality patient care, keeping their practices afloat, earning a living and paying back often-exorbitant medical school loans. If anything, in today’s world it would surprise most people to know how little doctors actually make, relative to the effort and investment in their careers they are required to put in, day in and day out.

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This is a critical issue facing the US today, as tens of thousands of physicians are closing their practices every year and either retiring or becoming employees of large healthcare corporations. This is having a significant impact on accessibility and affordability of medical care. With fewer doctors available and many individuals seeking care from “corporatized” healthcare providers, not only is the personal relationship between doctor and patient lost, the cost of medical care at corporate-run medical facilities is substantially higher than ever before.

Capable and cost-effective?

So, the question becomes — how do doctors maximize their healthcare practice and record management processes, cost-efficiently and effectively? Enter the wide variety of EHR and EMR solutions that have flooded the market in recent years, each promising to streamline the process and take the guesswork out of compliance to the government’s evolving mandates that regulate healthcare record-keeping.

In addition to managing healthcare records, doctors also need a secure and HIPAA compliant scheduling system, medical devices integration, practice management system, e-prescription, lab interfaces, patient engagement, and tele-medicine. Of course, these systems must also be equipped with disaster recovery and business continuity safeguards.

And while there are many current solutions on the market which range from open source to a one-stop package that practices implement directly on their end, they miss one crucial element. Each doctor practices his/her profession in their own unique way, and this extends to all aspects of their work, from patient care to record keeping and practice management. Just as Dr. Lawrence ‘Rusty’ Hofmann in The Huffington Post, describes it, EHRs are like Model T Ford: Any Color You Want As Long As It’s Black.” The majority of these solutions hitting the market today just don’t cut the mustard when it comes to really addressing the needs of our country’s doctors and healthcare practices.

Furthermore, while the creators of many of these packaged EHR solutions claim to be “customizable,” they are actually merely “configurable.” Instead of allowing the user the autonomy and flexibility to create a system with parameters that align with their own specific practice and its operational goals, editable functions are typically limited to creating additional fields in the forms — barely paying lip service to the task of meeting the true needs of healthcare professionals in this country.

These solutions also require heavy reliance on a computer screen, which often hinders a doctor’s ability to provide the standard of care and bedside manner that comes with more face-to-face interactions inquiring into pain, ailments, and body language from patients. This seminal aspect of the healthcare field is threatened by one-size-fits-all systems that squelch the nuances between practices and the differing techniques doctors use to treat their patients. This diversity between providers is central to continued advancements in the medical field and breakthroughs in patient care and disease treatment.

Diversity and true EHR customization rule

So then, what is the answer? In my opinion, built from countless conversations with doctors on this issue, it is EHR systems that provide an easy-to-use interface that are truly customized to fit the ways in which each doctor treats patients, approaches his/her field, and manages their practice, in a cost-effective package that does not require a huge up-front investment. Additionally, everyone within the practice should have access to the system, to ensure continuity in an often-volatile EHR market that typically sees 45-50% churn annually.

In short, it is crucial that developers of these software tools accommodate doctors’ needs first, rather than create a framework that expects doctors to squeeze themselves into a pre-defined structure, often asking them to sacrifice their individuality, professional approach, and expertise.

This approach, which represents incredible opportunity in the once thought to be saturated EHR market, is the essential step to rescuing our doctors from their often embattled position, bringing them back to the esteemed position they once held, all while improving our overall patient experiences and outcomes in the process.

Shameem Hameed is the President, Chairman and CEO of ZH Healthcare, the developer of the most popular OpenEMR solution which serves more than 300,000 medical providers and up to 600 million patients across the globe. For more information, please visit www.zhhealthcare.com.

 
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