EHRs are often the source of medical practice inefficiencies, including redundant processes, claim rejections, and low engagement with patient portals. To enhance patient care and increase efficiency, it is critical to seek EHR solutions to improve the system overall. Medical practices can dredge valuable improvement opportunities through a needs assessment, key performance indicators (KPIs), benchmarking, and technology trends.
4 Core Methods to Finding EHR Improvement Opportunities
There are four main approaches to conducting a full sweep of EHR faults and dysfunction. By completing these, you will have a complete picture of which areas call for EHR solutions.
1.) Conduct a Needs Assessment
An EHR needs assessment examines – with a critical eye – the current system, identifying its strengths and weaknesses. This is accomplished by gathering feedback from healthcare providers, administrative staff, and patients through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Aggregate feedback can help you identify areas where the system is causing frustration or inefficiencies.
This is also the right time to talk through potential solutions with users. Oftentimes, practice staff and clinicians will come up with their own system workarounds. By allowing users to explain why a workaround was necessary and what it does, this can better inform you about which solutions will work the best.
The EHR system also can be scanned for technical performance issues such as speed and reliability. By engaging with both humans and software, you can gather a broad overview of what needs work.
2.) Gather Performance Insights by Gathering KPI Metrics
While talking to people is highly productive in learning where performance problems lie, data tells a story all its own. Gathering KPI data to conduct a strategic analysis allows you to uncover more in-depth EHR problems. Metrics to consider are:
- Time spent on documentation per patient
- Quantity of known errors in patient records
- Time it takes to retrieve patient records
- Number of patient complaints related to the system
By tracking these KPIs, you can measure the effectiveness of the EHR software system against practice targets to identify areas for improvement.
3.) Benchmark Against Best Practices
Researching industry standards and best practices is an effective way to find opportunities for improvement with the EHR system. Consider pulling from the Health Level Seven International (HL7) standards, which are widely used in the healthcare industry. It also helps to look at other organizations’ EHR software to see how they compare to your system.
4.) Read Up on Technology Trends
Technology is constantly evolving, and there may be new tools or features that can enhance the system’s functionality. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are becoming increasingly useful in healthcare operations, including EHR software. See where these technologies can be used to automate EHR tasks such as coding and documentation.
These four core strategies are common ways to assess the EHR, but sometimes this process calls for deeper analysis. EHR consultants can investigate even further to find EHR challenges and solutions, with evaluation tailored to the specific needs of the medical practice. For example, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) will have different performance targets than a private equity firm.
Examples of Discovering EHR Improvement Opportunity
To better illustrate how EHR solutions are found through improvement opportunities in the assessment process, here are four realistic examples:
Pediatric Practice Projects Population Surge
A pediatric office in the suburbs has been in practice for many decades, but the news recently reported that the local school district was recognized as the best in the state. Urban families are expected to make a major exodus to the community.
Though their current EHR has served them well over the years, but practice management and clinicians agree that it will be inadequate for a surging patient population. Through a needs assessment, they determine that a migration to a new EHR must happen before construction for a new neighborhood begins. The practice manager contacts an EHR consultant he has previously worked with, and together they choose the right EHR and map out an implementation plan.
Collaborative Care Practice Encounters Burnout
A collaborative care practice has seen an increase in workflow problems due to expanded services. Not only do most team members stay late every day catching up on documentation, but they are also often embarrassed in front of patients when key reports are unavailable at follow-up visits. Some team members have been seen faxing their resumes to other clinics.
The practice manager reaches out to her point of contact with the EHR vendor. After talking through the issue, the vendor recommends a training specialist. The training specialist performs a full assessment of the EHR workflows and teaches users how to use the system in light of recent changes. The training specialist also shows the care team how to adapt the workflows to future changes. New habits adopted from the training increased staff satisfaction with the EHR.
Endocrinology Patients Avoid the Patient Portal
The practice manager of an endocrinologist reviews the patient feedback report and finds that the top complaint is long hold times on the phone. This is puzzling because last year the practice upgraded the portal to cut down on reasons to call the office – scheduling, lab reports, messages to the doctor, etc. During a meeting, the staff admits they tell patients not to use the portal because of numerous complaints about a clunky user interface.
The practice manager works with an EHR consultant to troubleshoot problems with the patient portal. It turns out that the portal was not implemented properly the first time. The consultant applies reconfigurations to clear out errors, optimizes the user experience, then walks the entire staff through a live demo to restore confidence in the portal. The staff drives patient traffic to the portal, and like magic, the phone call volume drops significantly. The practice manager does a follow-up survey and finds patient satisfaction is on the rebound.
FQHC Financial Future Depends on Performance Targets
A practice manager OB/GYN – that also happens to be an FQHC– is shocked by the results of a recent audit. She discovers that not enough cervical cancer or mammogram screenings have been done, nor proof of income documentation completed to meet Uniform Data System (UDS) targets. Having federal funding at risk is bad enough, but she is now worried about how this would impact applications for much-needed grants.
EHR analytics reporting revealed coding errors, and that specific patient population demographics were accidentally excluded from their groups. Fortunately, there is still time to correct course and ensure that all at-risk groups receive sufficient preventative exams.
After a call to the support helpdesk of the EHR consultant, the manager now has a list of action items – preventative exam alerts for the correct age range, income documentation automation, training refresh on UDS best practices, etc.
Turning Improvement Opportunities into Long-Term Solutions Through EHR Optimization
Going to the trouble of identifying all the improvement opportunities pays off when matched with long-term EHR solutions. Through optimization, a medical practice can reach many – if not most – improvement goals. EHR optimization addresses counterproductive workflows, inaccurate reporting, low reimbursement, poor user experience with the patient portal, and disorganized billing.
For one single-location, 11-provider primary care practice, Medical Advantage EHR consultants conducted a practice assessment followed by optimization. Through the efficiency gained from this process, the practice:
- Increased overall satisfaction with the EHR
- Boosted patient satisfaction
- Improved quality of care
- Raised quality scores
- Bumped up reimbursements by 10%
Resolve Inefficiency with Medical Advantage EHR Optimization Services
EHR problems your care team has learned to live with can well inform an EHR improvement plan that will affect positive change. Many common challenges with the EHR can be paired to proven solutions within EHR optimization.
For over two decades, Medical Advantage has found solutions to a variety of EHR problems for a wide range of healthcare settings. Our team of experts is prepared to apply this wealth of knowledge toward finding the best response to each EHR improvement opportunity. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you optimize your EHR and achieve your practice goals.