What Does the “Right” EHR Look Like?

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Do you ever look at the clutter on your electronic health record’s (EHR) screen — the complicated workflows that require more manual labor than they’re worth, the “bells and whistles” that actually fall flat, the decentralized patient records — and just wish you could build your own?

You’re not alone. In one study, 25.6 percent of physicians report suffering from one or more symptoms of burnout, and 69.3 percent of those stated the EHR as the main cause. Physicians who spend over six hours a day on their EHR are nearly three times more likely to report they are suffering from burnout than those who spent six hours or less.

Healthcare administrators, programmers, and technology professionals may combine their talents to create healthcare technology that’s great from a standpoint, but rarely do they ask what the physician actually needs in an EHR. This results in well-intentioned technology platforms that don’t address the needs of day-to-day practice operations.

But the right EHR, the one you really need, should help reduce your daily frustrations — or pain points — instead of contributing to or extending them. Ideally, your EHR should streamline operations and enable you to focus on your patients rather than bogging you down with additional administrative work.

Scenario #1: Your Pre-Visit Research Takes … Forever

Imagine that it’s the morning, right before your first appointment of the day. You may want to review the patients’ charts in your EHR to refresh your memory about their medical history. However, since the information is scattered, you resort to running around the interface and clicking to find all the information you need. Since you can’t write your notes in the EHR ahead of time, you use sticky notes to remind yourself of the questions you need to ask your patients during your visits so you don’t forget.

The “right” EHR should allow you to see all the patient’s information — recent lab work, previous diagnoses, quality measures (if you’re part of a value-based care program), and the questions you want to ask them — in an easily available format in the EHR. Before — and especially after — a long day of seeing patients, you don’t have time to sit and search through long lists of data. The information you need should be easily accessible before, during, and after the visit in an intuitive, easy-to-read and familiar format.

Scenario #2: The Patient is Running Late

What happens if a patient runs late? What if they didn’t fill out their intake form correctly? How often do you glance at your watch while the patient corrects their insurance information at the front desk?

No shows lead to lost revenue for your practice, and may end up in an emergency department admission if the patient has a chronic condition such as diabetes and you miss the opportunity to catch critical care gaps. Your EHR should be integrated with your patient-facing tools, including online scheduling and a patient portal, enabling you to collect insurance information, names, phone numbers, and other information proactively. It should remind patients of their upcoming appointments and suggest follow-up visits so your staff doesn’t need to call patients.

Scenario #3: The Visit Becomes More Complicated Than Planned

When a patient schedules an appointment to follow up on their diabetes, but suddenly — they’re also having reflux, unexplained weight loss, and mysterious abdominal pain, the visit quickly escalates into something more complicated than what was expected. You may not be able to reasonably treat all the patient’s issues in one appointment.

The right EHR should make your life easier and be flexible enough so you can appropriately document these unexpected visits. You should be able to create your own templates, layer new and existing information about your patient and automate procedure codes.

When your patient goes to see another provider, they are unlikely to remember or report back to you every detail of their visit or any prescribed medications. However, it’s critical that you know all their diagnoses and medications to avoid accidentally prescribing a medication that might interact with other medications or worsens their condition. Your EHR should pull data from all providers they’ve seen, their diagnoses, and medications to enable you to provide safe and high-quality care.

Scenario #4: The Patient’s Prescription is Too Expensive

When a patient’s insurance doesn’t cover the medication you intend to prescribe and they can’t afford it, you may need to research alternative medications and/or fill out extensive paperwork to submit to their insurance, neither of which you have time for.

Your EHR should provide tools to help you make informed decisions about the medications you prescribe. Some EHRs have functions that allow you to look up medications on the platform and see how much a particular pharmacy will charge the patient.

Finally, imagine you’ve completed your day at the office and, instead of staring at your computer screen all day, you’ve been able to focus on your patients, the reason you went into medicine‌ in the first place. To accomplish this, you need a partner with an EHR geared toward your needs, who is open to feedback. Managed service organizations (MSOs) that work directly with physicians to build their technology may have the right EHR for your daily operations. You want a partner who can help incorporate this technology into your workflow for the better so that you can focus on what you do best: caring for patients.

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