Does your EHR meet your organization’s unique needs?

December 24, 2014 in Medical Technology

Different healthcare specialties have different electronic health record (EHR) requirements as there is significant variation in care processes, clinical content and decision support across care settings. For example, a primary care facility’s EHR “must-haves” are dramatically different from those of outpatient surgery center. While the primary care provider sees many patients for a variety of reasons, the surgery center delivers more focused, predictable and short-term care with unique workflow requirements. In the same vein, an ophthalmology practice requires technology to capture data from a number of instruments—often more than many other specialties. Likewise, a dermatology provider often completes numerous procedures in one visit, and an inpatient behavioral health setting with group counseling demands yet another approach to capturing and collecting patient care information.

Despite their diverse EHR needs, there is a commonality among these and other medical specialties: each requires a robust EHR that enables providers to easily gather data, completely and accurately document care, smoothly share information and facilitate good communication to achieve the best patient outcomes. To select the right EHR, specialty practices must fully appreciate how the technology addresses their particular needs and requirements.

Five considerations for selecting a specialty-focused EHR

Verifying that an EHR has the features clinicians need to provide care and manage patients is critical to its success. The following five considerations can guide a practice when evaluating an EHR to ensure the technology meets the organization’s clinical and business specifications, strengthening care delivery while safeguarding the practice’s future.

1.    The right content. The first step—and probably the most important—is to look at the depth and breadth of content the solution provides and make sure it fully aligns with the specialty’s requirements. This becomes more complex for a subspecialty. For example, an EHR with strong cardiology features may not meet the distinct needs of a pediatric cardiologist. In these cases, it is also important to select an EHR that can be supplemented with additional subspecialty information to better meet their needs.

2.    Configuration flexibility. When specialty practices can easily configure their EHR to reflect workflow nuances, they can optimize data capture, streamline care and improve outcomes. The EHR should allow physicians to easily configure their own templates, yet provide consistency to maintain a high standard of care. For instance, an OBGYN facility needs EHR flexibility for visits ranging from prenatal care and reproductive endocrinology to annual wellness exams. Physicians should be able to customize these forms to match workflow, yet maintain alignment with ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) standards.

3.    Smooth integration with current technology. Specialty practices often have more diagnostic equipment feeding data into the EHR than primary care practices. For example, an ophthalmology group may have as many as 12 different devices capturing and sending data to the EHR. Because of this, a practice should closely review how well a potential solution interfaces with the practice’s current technology, particularly focusing on how the EHR incorporates the disparate data into workflow. Specialties linked to a hospital or health system should also assess how seamlessly the proposed EHR share key information with the larger organization. Ideally this is bi-directional!

4.    Facilitates the patient experience. Patients can be nervous when they see a specialist, and this can be exacerbated if the physician is more focused on navigating technology rather than talking with the patient. By choosing software that enables patients, medical assistants, nurses and others to capture as much data as possible in the EHR before the doctor enters the room, a practice can allow the physician to focus on the patient’s particular care needs instead of looking at a computer screen to input routine data. Remember, a good EHR gives physicians the right information at the right time to come to the right conclusion while they are in front of the patient. In other words, it keeps the patient at the center of the experience.

5.    Strong, Forward-thinking vendor. Not all vendors are equal, and spending time comparing the various options is a valuable exercise. As part of the vetting process, practices should gauge a vendor’s commitment to their specific clinical specialty and learn about plans for future technology development. In addition, consider the vendor’s organizational and financial strength to sustain the cost of supporting the specialty into the future and keeping up with regulatory compliance.

Although specialty practices have historically avoided jumping feet first into EHR technology, this is no longer an option for organizations that want to sustain and build referral volumes. In fact, by selecting and implementing a tool that consistently captures and shares specialty-focused data, providers can position themselves as the expert of choice for both peers and patients.

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