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Most Healthcare Execs Doubt EHR Use Can Support Population Health

75 percent of healthcare executives doubt EHR technology will help meet the demands of population health management.


Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- EHR systems do not yet have the necessary capabilities to support population health management and value-based care, according to a recent study published by Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Health Research Institute (HRI). 

The study by Berg et al. found only 23 percent of interviewed healthcare executives agree that EHR technology has helped position their organizations to meet the demands of population health management and value-based care.

“EHRs are effective as a repository for clinical data but don’t have the tools yet to fully support providers’ population health efforts,” wrote researchers in the report. “Only 36 percent of providers are using their EHRs for population health management, and just 13 percent strongly agree that EHRs have met their expectations for it.”

According to feedback from healthcare organization leadership and providers, most EHR technology and data analytics capabilities are not yet developed enough to accommodate processes necessary for risk management. 

“More mature data models are needed to integrate other data — such as financial and supply chain systems data — to be able to perform patient stratification, which is critical to managing risk in population health,” they stated.

HRI conducted interviews with 15 healthcare executives and analyzed data from other HRI clinician, patient, and healthcare executive surveys conducted throughout 2017. Research included survey responses from more than 310 providers. 

Ultimately, researchers found most providers need additional tools and technologies to optimize their systems and fully utilize EHR data.

“Some providers are investing in additional technologies to help fill perceived gaps, reduce reliance on EHR vendors, and increase flexibility,” they noted.

Despite aspects of EHR technology falling short of burgeoning areas of care such as population health management, some EHR functions have met provider expectations. Researchers found 76 percent of surveyed providers agree EHR use has sufficiently enabled effective communication between patients and clinicians. Additionally, 53 percent of surveyed clinicians believe EHR systems improve care quality, and 87 percent of clinicians say EHR systems have improved the patient experience. 

While some clinical inefficiencies can be blamed on inadequate EHR technology, researchers also found evidence that many providers are using their EHR systems inappropriately.

“Forty-four percent of providers are using their EHRs to warehouse their data even though EHRs are not effectively built for doing so,” wrote researchers. “EHRs struggle to handle the unstructured data that is collected in clinicians’ notes and to integrate data from other systems.”

Researchers also found many providers are not taking advantage of opportunities to leverage EHR data to support practice-based research. However, providers are not to blame for the lack of research-related EHR data use – instead, EHR system limitations are often the inhibiting factor.

“Though they often are effective for descriptive, retrospective reviews of patient populations — such as identifying all patients with a particular condition in a given period — they lack the capacity to do more robust analyses, such as predictive modeling, which can help providers uncover a patient population’s future needs.”

Consequently, 42 percent of surveyed providers stated they plan to focus on non-EHR technologies for research and clinical trials recruitment over the next three to five years.

As part of its report, HRI offered four recommendations to assist healthcare leadership and providers in more effectively utilizing EHR technology to support population health, value-based care, and other clinical, operational, and research-related functions.

Researchers recommended the following best practices to promote effective EHR use: 



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