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Improving the patient experience through EMR and health IT

By [email protected]

- The patient experience is not a matter of the search for “the answer” but instead “an answer.” Something really exciting happens when you engage in this conversation as a philosophy that you will execute on as a group — meaning everyone on staff in the clinic. You recognize the assumptions of what you thought were happening for other people in the process of care were not. So while you may have begun with this grandiose perception of how to define your philosophy of care, you quickly begin to recognize that this is not some unattainable or pie-in-the-sky goal for the organization.

What I encourage people to recognize in the clinic is that they have seen much more in their own experiences than they give themselves credit for knowing as it relates to this philosophy and what they can achieve. There are some immediate wins that the clinic can achieve that will make a real difference for patient outcomes and human performance within the clinic.

Given the premise that the physicians give the clinic its purpose, there is a clear connection to the purpose of the EMR in the clinic as well. Not just because this is an expensive decision, but it’s one that remains to be further defined by physicians who know best how to deliver care within their specialty. When the conflicting ideas of competition and collaboration are joined in a conversation about a continuum of patient care, the conversation with the EMR vendor will elevate to serving the purpose of the physicians within their community of care. This step is not only important because of the outcomes for patients and the clinic, but it also serves in advancing the definition of the patient experience.

There is a critical opportunity here for the physicians to drive the conversation about clinical pathways. This is obviously a journey that has as much to do with defining what this means among the physicians as it does within the EMR software. What this also represents is an important dialogue about usability of the EMR that is too often overlooked based on an acceptance of the features and benefits vendor presentation or the assumption that a discussion of individual expectations for the clinic is taboo.

The realization of efficiencies with EMR is often diluted with the failed assumption of automation as a quick win for the clinic’s processes. In fact, there are real opportunities to build new workflows that do enhance the efforts of people in terms of both timely and accurate information. What we’ve seen so far with the meaningful use is a starting point for consistency with a hint of collaboration. What we know about the current climate in healthcare, from the development of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) to patients’ accessibility to electronic protected health information (ePHI), is that a transactional patient experience as the standard in the clinic has been replaced by a relational one.

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Regardless of a physician’s choice to participate in any type of ACO, accountability for care and collaboration is real from the patient perspective and the payer perspective. I know many physicians who have not responded to the carrot and stick of meaningful use incentives as their sole purpose for adopting EMR in their clinic. This idea of accountability, the impact on patient care, is and should be the primary incentive for EMR in lieu of the carrot and stick.

Competition is real, but collaboration is the nature of healthcare. There has never been a better opportunity from the voice of patients to the growing expectations for the strategic use of health information technology to define both the patient experience and relational business partners in the clinic’s community of care.

Robert Green is the author of Community Healthcare: Finding a Common Ground with New Expectations in Healthcare. Through his physician client relationships, Bob has gained substantial insight regarding the daily challenges that medical professionals and their staffs face, such as regulatory issues, financial management, and clinical collaboration through the use of health IT. His process of making both interpersonal and purposeful connections within the organization results in improved employee performance and confidence and enhanced client experience.

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