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EHR Implementation Support Top Health IT Outsourcing Request

Approximately one-third of surveyed health IT leaders said EHR implementation support and clinical application is the top outsourcing request.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- EHR adoption is a mainstay in nearly every healthcare provider in the US, but organizations are most likely to seek outsourcing options for EHR implementation support, according to a recent Stoltenberg Consulting Inc. report.

The sixth annual Health IT Industry Outlook Survey found that 32 percent of nearly 300 health IT leaders will put in an outsourcing request for clinical application and EHR implementation support. Twenty-eight percent will outsource for IT service desk, while 15 percent will do so for financial application/system support. 

“Inundated with data, healthcare organizations need to look at the full picture of patient care for more proactive decision making and business management,” Stoltenberg Consulting Revenue Cycle Management Vice President Joncé Smith said in a statement. “Provider IT departments cannot just gather data for the sake of collection. They need to look for trends to identify areas of workflow improvement and end-user education to streamline coordination across the entire continuum of care.”

Conducted at HIMSS18, the survey participants worked in numerous health IT categories including practice management, project management, as well as director and C-suite roles.

Forty percent of respondents said measuring improvement in patient care quality was the top 2018 business objective, with 32 percent saying identifying areas of cost reduction was the main priority.

READ MORE: 6 EHR Implementations, Go-Lives Slated for Completion in 2018

Optimizing IT/EHR performance (32 percent) and overcoming IT staff shortages (31 percent) are also expected to be main challenges for 2018, survey respondents stated.

Healthcare organizations are also not fully prepared for the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) rule, the report found. Forty percent of respondents said they were underprepared for year 2 of MACRA, with 12 percent saying they felt very prepared.

Artificial intelligence (AI) was cited as the biggest health IT industry topic for the year by 39 percent of respondents. Cybersecurity (25 percent) and healthcare blockchain (20 percent) were also noted as key health IT issues for 2018.

Integration is critical for improving care quality, researchers explained. A lack of interoperability across the nation can hinder industry progress.

“Organizations can combat interoperability challenges by focusing on tight integration of IT platforms and data across internal hospitals, practices, providers and even the patients at home,” the research team wrote. “Data and system integration ensures that organizations have a comprehensive, accurate and reliable perspective on their care-quality performance.”

READ MORE: EHR Optimization Before, During, and After Implementation

A more creative approach to IT staffing needs can also aid organizations, the report added. For example, an entity can create a visual support map including all facilities, applications and tools that would be impacted by a new EHR or large-scale IT deployment. This can then help the organization identify potential gaps and find an applicable solution to overcome those gaps.

Additionally, a cross-disciplinary team will benefit EHR implementations and even vendor upgrades and optimizations, according to the report.

“Incorporating input from all organizational areas impacted by a new or optimized system and gaining insight from clinical, financial and operational areas is essential for short- and long-term success,” the team suggested. “With cross-disciplinary representation at the helm, the committee can also designate influential end users who can serve as super users or tests during practice go-lives.”

The EHR integration and implementation process can have long-lasting effects in the healthcare industry, and can even aid providers in approaching specific health issues.

In February 2018, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) urged lawmakers to improve interoperability and EHR integration with prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to help curb the opioid epidemic.

READ MORE: How Clinician Engagement Can Make or Break an EHR Implementation

CHIME suggested in its response to the Senate Committee on Finance’s request for feedback that CMS leverage the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) improvement activities performance category to incentivize providers.

“Clinicians still report that Continuity of Care Documents (CCD) are still too bulky and are not easily ingested by a receiving provider’s EHR,” CHIME explained. “Clinical decision support (CDS) may contain information needed to treat patients with SUDs and OUDs; however, without a way to seamlessly integrate the information into the EHR, clinicians cannot get a holistic picture of a patient’s health.”

The Committee should also advocate for better EHR integration with PDMPs, the letter suggested. PDMPs presenting information in a fragmented form creates an interoperability barrier.

“Today, oftentimes the information offered to a clinician in a PDMP is presented in a disjointed manner, requiring the prescriber to take additional steps to review past scripts from other healthcare providers,” wrote CHIME. “This creates a fragmented picture for clinicians and results in data that is not integrated seamlessly within an EHR.”

Additionally, there can be challenges with registering for PDMP access and logging into the PDMP. Those challenges may “interrupt normal clinical workflow if data are not integrated into electronic health record systems,” CHIME said.

Unless the barriers at the local level can be overcome, prescribers will continue to have an incomplete picture of a patient,” the letter stated. “These obstacles amount to a serious patient safety issue and until corrected will plague prescribers’ ability to treat patients holistically.”

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