Laser Focus on EHR

Laser Focus on EHR – Nope, Patient

EHR vendors are starting to catch on. The challenge is how to provide the technology doctors want in a demanding regulatory environment.

There’s a lot of buzz about the new ZDoggMD rap “EHR State of Mind” (http://www.letdoctorsbedoctors.com/) this week.  And, there’s good reason. Physicians and other medical providers have been saying that they hate the ’electronification’ of healthcare for several years. The software space is dominated by big company vendors providing overly robust systems positioned as “changing” or “driving” healthcare. The movement is driven by a bureaucratic initiative mandated at the federal level, touted as an opportunity to drive improved population health. What started as a legitimately good idea has become a travesty in the healthcare delivery system, causing frustration for everyone involved from patients to providers to vendors and even those who conceived the plan that still could produce beneficial outcomes through real world data collection and analysis.

No doubt, records technology provides great benefit for the medical field. Software has the capability to improve patient care, health outcomes, provider and business efficiencies. Clearly, we’ve gotten sidetracked.  Nearly four decades ago EHR was a facilitator in the hospital setting and, Dr. Clem McDonald from the Regenstrief Institute succinctly stated the goals for electronic health records:

“Our goal was to solve three problems: (1) to eliminate the logistical problems of the paper records by making clinical data immediately available to authorized users wherever they are – no more unavailable or undecipherable clinical records; (2) to reduce the work of clinical book keeping required to manage patients – no more missed diagnoses when laboratory evidence shouts its existence, no more forgetting about required preventive care; (3) to make the informational ‘gold’ in the medical record accessible to clinical, epidemiological, outcomes and management research.”

The goals stated by Dr. McDonald are really the same today, but with much more inclusive scope. As EHR expanded to the ambulatory providers, vendors quickly discovered that hospital systems were not well suited for ambulatory providers. To meet the needs of ambulatory providers, software needed to provide more physician specific workflows, less sophisticated IT administrators, and better interfaces to provide and accept information from labs, diagnostic devices, etc. New vendors entered the market and developed solutions that worked, but not necessarily together. There was no standardization, largely reflective of the user markets to which vendors catered. In short, the advancement of emerging EHR technology stalled as the direct costs to clinicians outpaced the direct benefits to their practices. Here, government stepped in to attempt to fill the gaps by setting standards and incenting providers to continue to invest and adopt technology solutions to advance electronic health records to meet those original goals. HITECH set standards and certifications aimed at meeting those goals defined and incented through Meaningful Use. Vendors have struggled to keep up with the regulatory compliance of these programs, even as they incorporate additional regulatory requirements such as HIPAA and adapt to user preferences and requests. Added up, EHR technology requires high investment by vendors which is passed on to providers, who increasingly struggle with the robust adaptations to meet certification requirements. The focus and attention required to stay current with the administrative technology changes are distractions from the primary purpose of the providers.

We get it ZDoggMD. There are some vendors out here that understand your frustration. We are a little smaller than the groups that dominate this space, but still provide top tier, customizable solutions. MDsuite has maintained a focus on “ease of use” and “great support” for more than three decades. At our recent user conference, clients cited these two areas as the top reasons they like our product and us. MDsuite, like the other vendors, has had some growing pains as we continue to adhere to the gargantuan amount of regulations in healthcare. We believe our approach to service is what has kept our customers loyal and satisfied. At MDsuite, we join you in applauding Athena for jumping on the wagon to admit that EHR needs to improve its ability to meet your needs. Finally, a big vendor is moving to a direction we have always believed to be right.