- I recently shared my thoughts on the physician perspective of EHR optimization strategies and physician EHR use. Now I have decided to expand the conversation by getting the take of two individuals, both within large health systems: Philip Baney, MD, from Reading Health System and Trista Eidmann, Clinic Administrator with UnityPoint Clinic.
We discussed how the EHR adoption has affected their physicians’ productivity, the types of optimization activities they have conducted, how the EHR has changed physicians seeing patients, and what they have done beyond an application optimization to improve the quality of the patient visit.
They brought varying perspectives, as Reading Health System has been on their EHR for one and a half years while UnityPoint Clinic has been on their current system for over 10 years. UnityPoint is in the process of switching over to a new application and is in the process of implementing their new system across their multi-state organization.
Trading eye contact for clicks
When asked about the top complaints in their organization regarding physician productivity in the EHR, the concerns were not surprisingly similar. Dr. Baney indicated that there are “more clicks, more busy work” and Ms. Eidmann responded that with more being handed down to them, they are “documenting more and more” and reimbursement isn’t any higher. Patients do not understand why the physicians’ heads are in the chart.
Years after organizations have implemented their EHR, I was not surprised that this continues to be a concern. Dr. Baney had a creative way to deal with this concern when he first started on the EHR. He would have a ruler in the room that he would give to patients and told them that when they were tired of looking at his ear they were allowed to use the yardstick to move his head so that he was looking at them. Most physicians have found that balancing the interaction with the patient and the time spent on their workstation in the exam room takes some effort. Dr. Baney added that he tries “to do as little on the computer when I am in the room with the patient and incorporate them in the process.”
Additional complaints within the organizations are that the providers are not getting their charts done, managing their inbox, or getting the bang for their buck. With all the data going into the system, they are not able to easily extract that information without additional steps being added.
But you’ve optimized, right?
When I asked what types of optimization activities their organizations have conducted to date, Ms. Eidmann responded that their efforts these days are to identify gaps in their current system and prepare to move over to the new system. Dr. Baney indicated that “there have been some attempts to identify things, but unfortunately many of those optimizations seems to be more clicks for the providers” and that he felt there was much more that could be done. This confirms what many organizations have already realized, that optimization and utilization of their EHR will be an ongoing process. This is especially true as a pay for value service is on the horizon.
Healthcare providers do not want to worry about where or how they put the data in the system — their focus is getting it in there as efficiently as possible. As developers and builders of the application, the focus should be on making the data entry easier for the end-user with the ability to easily extract that data out of the system.
Going beyond optimization
I next posed the question I discussed in my first article: What can be done beyond application optimization? Dr. Baney shared an anecdote about how his group realized that around the time school was out, their system would begin to run slowly. They discovered that their service provider didn’t have them on any higher provider priority, and all the school age kids would come home from school and suck up the bandwidth. What appeared to be an application issue was really a task for the internet provider. Another crucial problem identified was to have a triple redundant system. A final recommendation Dr. Baney made was training and evaluation — using their pulse reports to identify another provider who is strong who could mentor providers who are struggling. All of these are great recommendations for organizations that have not looked outside their application in their optimization efforts.
We must take the perspective of optimizing our systems so that end-users can work more efficiently while ensuring we can extract the data needed and also maintain a standard of quality patient visits. It will take time and creativity, but we have the tools needed to add value and increase enthusiasm to use an EHR. I thank Dr. Baney and Ms. Eidmann for their valuable time and input.
Jerri Cowper serves as Ambulatory National Practice Director at Innovative Consulting Group.