Electronic Health Records

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EHR Optimization Projects a Top Priority for Healthcare CIOs

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

Healthcare CIOs consider EHR optimization a top priority over the next 12 months as they look to get more value out their EHR investments, according to a recent Impact Advisors survey.

The health IT consultancy's findings comprise responses from 40 members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) between May and July 2015 on the topic of EHR optimization.

"Optimization — as we define it — can occur before, during, or after an EHR implementation and can be defined along an operational continuum from tactical to strategic needs. Projects can be department-specific or enterprise-wide and focus on specific improvements related to clinical and/or revenue cycle outcomes," the group writes.

According to the findings, EHR optimization is a top health IT priority for healthcare CIOs. More than 71 percent agree that over the next dozen months, their organizations would work toward getting more out of their investments in EHR technology — the same percentage strongly agreeing and agreeing. Only 17 percent disagreed with the assertion.

EHR optimization is a top priority for healthcare CIOs

On the subject of the top EHR optimization priorities over the next year, responses were split between clinical and revenue cycle outcomes. Topping the former category were improving the quality of care (83.8%) and improving the productivity of caregivers (59.5%). Topping the latter were streamlining key patient access functions (58.3%) and increasing cash collections (47.2%), coming in ahead of decreasing aging accounts (30.6%), decreasing cost to collect (25.0%) , and earning government incentives (25.0%).

Top EHR optimization projects for healthcare organizations

Up to this point, EHR optimization projects have largely focused on department-specific optimization (62.2%) and enterprise clinical optimization (51.4%) efforts. Revenue cycle–related efforts paled in comparison at less than one-third of respondents (32.4%), likely showing room for improvement.

For the most part, the highest priority EHR optimization efforts are currently in their second phase of development (44.7%) according to healthcare CIOs. The next highest contingent reported being in their first phase (36.8%).

On the subject of the top EHR optimization challenges, nearly three-quarters of respondents (73.0%) indicated the large number of competing priorities, both internal and external, as the top challenge. This was followed by a lack of process improvement resources to augment IT redesign (40.5%) and a lack of operational focus (32.4%).

According to the authors of the report, these EHR optimization challenges will likely lead healthcare organizations to seek external help:

There are many different competing priorities that hospitals and health systems have to deal with right now, and that can make it difficult to give optimization efforts the necessary attention and resources required for success. As a result, many health delivery organizations — just like the CHIME members we surveyed — will likely need to turn to an outside services firm or their core vendor for assistance if they want to maximize the potential improvements possible from their EHR investment over the next few years.

The number of surveyed healthcare CIOs is relatively low, but it does indicate that next phase following EHR implementation and adoption is the focus on optimizing how EHR technology benefits the entire healthcare organization, not just clinical operations.




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