EHR Optimization to Boost Value-Based Care for Larger Practices

A recent Black Book survey found that 76 percent of larger practice groups were ready to implement EHR optimization updates that would improve value-based care programs.

By Jacqueline LaPointe on

As the healthcare industry shifts away from fee-for-service payment structures, more healthcare organizations are relying on EHR optimization projects to help implement value-based care models.

A recent Black Book survey found that healthcare practices have increased satisfaction and demand for more integrated EHR usability, practice management programs, and revenue cycle management systems, especially as value-based care models become more popular.

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About 76 percent of physician practices with 25 or more clinicians reported that they are eager to apply EHR enhancements in value-based payment innovation as well as functionality and service by the second quarter of 2016.

“The nature of integrated EHR functionality and practice management is also changing, given that Medicare and commercial payers are endeavoring on the shift away from pay-per-procedure billing to paying for value incentives for providing better care efficiently,” said Doug Brown, Managing Partner of Black Book.  “Notably, leading-edge EHR are supporting large group medical practices with multiple specialties and multiple locations real-time insights and flexible technology to help drive successful accountable care organizations.”

Overall satisfaction with EHR usability and optimization has drastically improved in the last couple of years, reported the survey. While 92 percent of multispecialty groups were dissatisfied with their EHR products and vendors in 2013, the majority of this year’s participants expressed quite the opposite.

Eighty-four percent of larger physician practices stated that their EHR vendor is “meeting or exceeding” their expectations for EHR optimization. Also, 88 percent of healthcare administrative staff reported improvements in the operational or financial capabilities of their EHR and practice management softwares.

However, smaller practices have faced more challenges with EHR optimization and implementing value-based care, explained the survey.

“Smaller practices are disadvantaged in terms of health IT resources, and expected to merge or form joint ventures to meet the challenge of value-based care and acquiring the IT infrastructure needed to support it,” added Brown.  “Black Book expects that most small- and medium-sized practices will eventually join larger organizations, such as independent practice associations (IPAs), accountable care organizations (ACOs), and bigger medical groups to be successful under MACRA.”

Additionally, Black Book named AllScripts as the top EHR vendor for large group practices and independent practice associations for the third year in a row while athenahealth took the top spot among smaller group practices. Marshield Clinic Information Services was also ranked as the most preferred EHR vendor among multispecialty clinics.

Brown noted that these EHR vendors significantly improved user experience and client satisfaction over the past year, which caused users to demand more of their products. Sixty-nine percent of providers who use the top ranking EHR vendors reported clinical workflow enhancements since 2014.

The top EHR vendors have also designed their systems to support value-based care programs, explained the survey. Sixty percent of respondents said that their data-driven vendors had invested in population health management features that have facilitated the transition to value-based care.

Despite general satisfaction, many EHR systems still expressed displeasure with EHR interoperability capabilities. Approximately one third of participants stated that their EHR systems had inadequate connectivity with other systems.

“Vendor transparency and accountability concerns are challenging clinics and practices to reevaluate their technology relationships again,” stated Brown. “For clients financially and contractually trapped in their EHR vendor relationship, middleware is gaining more attention and favor over regional and public HIEs as middleware offers trustworthy service delivery and innovative interoperability to support providers through reimbursement reforms.”

The survey also revealed that many large group practices experienced issues with their vendor’s customer service, which lowered client loyalty scores.

Ninety percent expressed a negative opinion on the accessibility of customer service from offshore call centers and EHR technical support. About 29 percent of respondents also stated that their vendors neglected to improve complex implementation and training processes.

Whether or not users are satisfied with their vendors, healthcare organizations should be aware that EHR systems go hand-in-hand with value-based care. Not only are healthcare providers incentivized and rewarded for meaningful EHR use, but these healthcare technologies are necessary for implementing value-based care models.

Many larger and smaller practice groups are even investing in EHR optimization projects to keep up with new data-driven care models.

“EHR firms with a wide offering of products including health information exchange, population health tools, revenue cycle management services, patient portals, dashboards and analytics are emerging as the next wave of healthcare technology leaders,” added Brown.

“These leading vendors are assisting their clients in assessing current practice operations to meet the demands of ICD-10, payment reform, connectivity beyond closed networks, revenue cycle management gaps, and decision support tools, and recommending effective options within the same vendor suite.”

Dig Deeper:

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Tagged EHR OptimizationEHR VendorsValue Based Care

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