Thanks to the Meaningful Use program (a plan the government put in place which aims to achieve goals such as improving clinical outcomes and increasing efficiency), the Electronic Health Records, or EHR, system has been implemented in hospitals across the country. Now that we’ve moved past Stage 1 adoption of an EHR, hospitals are on to Stage 2 – to emphasize care coordination and the exchange of patient information. To do this, caregivers need software that can do billing, patient flow, keep patient records, scheduling, and much more, and many EHRs have promised to do just that. But are they? Is this realistic?
There are benefits to having one hospital-wide system: IT only has to work with one vendor, and information should be able to flow throughout the system more smoothly. However, there are some serious downsides that often overshadow the positive aspects.
All-in-one EHRs aren't cut out for operations
When companies that specialize in one thing try to branch out too broadly, some of those areas suffer. While EHRs do a great job with certain aspects, such as the actual record portion and the billing, they are forced to compromise quality in other branches. More complex issues like patient flow tend to be lacking with these all-in-one systems, but many people put up with these inadequate parts for the sake of the bigger picture. At some point, however, the benefits of a superior program (such as added functionality, ease of use, and time savings) outweigh the benefits of using a piece of an integrated system.
Their solutions often come at the expense of caregivers
One of the most prevalent complaints with these EHR systems actually comes from the caregivers themselves – they feel like they are forced to spend more time documenting on a computer than they spend with their patients. These caregiver complaints are reflected in similar complaints from patients, and patient satisfaction scores have taken a hit lately because of it. The goal of a system like Care Command Center is to help patients through the caregiver instead of at the expense of them. This will raise satisfaction scores for both caregivers and patients, which helps hospitals better accomplish the goals of Meaningful Use – the whole reason many hospitals implemented an EHR system in the first place.
Lack of Interoperability
Some of the promised benefits of switching over to a hospital-wide system, the reason many hospitals chose to switch over at all, have not come to fruition. The primary example of this is the idea that interoperability between hospitals and healthcare providers would make life easier for both patients and caregivers. In fact, this is one of the major tenets of Meaningful Use, and yet many large EHR systems have failed to deliver. Without interoperability, what many hospitals are functionally left with is an Electronic Medical Record – still useful and perhaps even still a step above what they had before, but at a significantly higher cost than it’s worth. For the same (and often times lesser) amount of money they spend on these overarching programs, institutions could implement what are considered “best of breed” programs – ones that have fewer functions but do them very well – and come out ahead because of the added functionality they receive in the trade off.
So are all-in-one EHRs the solution to our Meaningful Use Stage 2 and 3 challenges? Not at this point. There are many issues that need to be corrected here if hospitals are going see the improved outcomes they’re looking for. But by adding some best of breed solutions into the mix to compensate for the weaker areas, we can actually achieve the goals that healthcare set out to accomplish through this program.