Research backed by Stanford Medicine has concluded that physicians still don’t get a lot of value out of their EHR investment, and that EHR design will need to evolve to address this issue.
As part of the research, Stanford and The Harris Poll surveyed physicians about their perceptions of EHRs. They found that 44% of physicians who responded to the survey felt that digital storage was the top value of their EHR, with just 8% seeing it as having clinical value. Of that 8%, 3% cited disease prevention as a clinical benefit, 2% clinical decision support, and 3% patient engagement.
The researchers also looked at how a truly beneficial EHR would be structured. In Stanford’s vision, the ideal EHR would allow clinicians and other healthcare professionals to take care of patients without having to think about technology. Once examinations were complete, patient information would flow seamlessly to all parties involved, including payers, hospitals, physicians, and patient.
In addition, this next-generation EHR would essentially populate itself. An automated physician’s assistant would “listen” to interactions between the doctor and patient and analyze what was said. It would then leverage verbal cues to record relevant information in the appropriate section of the patient record.
The description Stanford researchers offer of the next level in EHRs sounds intriguing, and while the technologies involved are not completely mature, they are well on their way. Unfortunately, however, the researchers predict that it could take as long as 10 years before an EHR integrating all of these options become widely available.
In the meantime, there are some things healthcare leaders can do to make physicians more comfortable with the EHR as it currently exists. They include acknowledging and accepting physician concerns about EHR use, improving the usability of the system, and making it easier for physicians to share data with colleagues and outside facilities.
In addition, keep an eye on clinical workflow as well, and see to it that the EHR doesn’t cause significant documentation backlogs or corrupt the relationship between patient and doctor. You can take a number of steps to make EHR workflow meet physician needs, including delegating EHR data input to supervised nonphysician scribes, choosing a practice management system that supports teamwork and cooperation, and customizing in-EHR workflow with templates and tools that make it easier to complete documentation.
Leaders may also want to explore incremental improvements in EHR functionality, integrating technologies such as artificial intelligence tools and natural language processing, which could someday relegate these systems to powerful but blessedly silent partners in the exam room. While you may not be ready to roll them out to your team, it’s probably best that you understand how these advances are shaping up.
Though you may have 10 years to wait, it’s good to know that there are changes on the health information technology horizon that could transform medical practice as we know it. In the meantime, smart physician leaders will stay informed about the nearer-term EHR future.
This article appeared in Fast Practice, Greenbranch Publishing, December, 2018.