When healthcare organizations implement their electronic health record (EHR), none of them goes into it thinking, “Hey we will just roll the EHR out and hope for the best.”Along the way policies and procedures bubble up and are created to ensure proper use of the EHR. However, utilization standards are rarely considered. What are utilization standards and how does one establish them? But first, why are they even important?
Why is it important?
Utilization of the EHR, when uniformly practiced, will allow for reduced medical mistakes, reduced costs, increased revenue, more precise medical records, better standards compliance, improved efficiency, and higher levels of physician recruitment.
Standards are a collection of your policies and procedures by workflow. When establishing your organization’s standards, consider what is required in the EHR at the front desk, with the clinicians and providers during the visit, as well as for activities outside of the patient visit.
For example, Clinical Staff Utilization Standards may include:
1. Verify and indicate consents in the patient’s record;
2. Enter vitals, allergies, past medical history, past surgical history, family history, current medications and pharmacy information into the EHR for every new patient and yearly thereafter;
3. Enter reason for visit and identify the location for this information and specifics that are necessary to make it meaningful information;
4. Collect and review printed materials with the patient.
This is simply a sampling of the list and not inclusive; however, the focus is on the minimal information required to have a complete record of the patient’s visit as well as to meet regulatory and safety requirements. Including tasks ranging from when providers are required to sign their documentation to the timeframe a result requires verification should be included in your standards.
Purpose of standards
The obvious reason for utilization standards is to standardize the way information is entered in the EHR, which is a great reason provided that ongoing support for the EHR becomes incredibly easier when there is a standard way the system is utilized. Other reasons include each of those listed above in the answer to why they are important.
Another reason that may be more apparent to others is return on investment (ROI). There is no quicker way to realize the organization’s return on investment than to ensure the utilization of the application.
Putting it into use
Implementation and ongoing monitoring of utilization standards can prove challenging. But with any change and the appropriate use of change management, helping the individuals in the organization understand the reasons that should mean something to them will make the most difference. Formally rolling out the new standards at a high-profile level will provide the backing necessary for its success. After this is achieved, ongoing monitoring and auditing of compliance becomes critical. Reporting audit results can help drive home the importance of complying with the standards.
Jerrilyn Cowper is Solutions Manager, Allscripts Services at CTG Health Solutions and a healthcare information technology (HIT) services leader with over 25 years of executive, operational, and consulting experience.