An electronic health record (EHR) should be a vehicle for providing quality care, but many healthcare professionals find the EHR to be a hindrance more than a help. In fact, it has been confirmed that EHRs contribute to burnout in the medical field. Rather than change EHRs (which is costly) you can optimize instead.
What is EHR optimization? EHR optimization is the process of finding and applying solutions to your EHR problems, layer by layer. It spurs from the realization that you may never reach your care quality and business goals if these issues are never addressed.
What Is EHR Optimization?
EHR optimization “requires a tailored, multipronged strategy that incorporates an organization’s clinician-identified pain points, clinical informatics and technology resources, and clinician and leadership buy-in.” National Academy of Medicine.
At its best, an EHR system should help maximize revenue, make healthcare more efficient so that it delivers better patient outcomes, streamline workflows, and provide quick and easy access to medical records by patient and provider alike.
EHR optimization is gathering all the problems with your EHR and finding solutions, one issue at a time. With the help of an EHR expert consultant, you can uncover many more improvement opportunities you may not have thought of before.
Creating EHR Optimization Strategy: Step by Step
What is EHR optimization strategy? One might say that optimization strategy unfolds once you understand the benefits that come from demanding more of your EHR and that it is worth the costs of pursuing.
EHR optimization assessments look at many aspects of your organization. The steps provided are intended to serve as a basic template. As you draft your plans, keep in mind that the needs of your healthcare organization are not likely to match the one around the corner, so your strategy should be tailored to the unique needs of your organization.
Step 1: Preliminary Research
While there are many sources to gather information about EHR optimization, remember to talk to peers in your field from other organizations. It would be especially helpful to talk to those who use the same EHR software as yours.
This is also a time to investigate the fiscal impact of your EHR. Are you having problems with reimbursements, missing out on incentives, or experiencing significant turnover? Solutions such as EHR data optimization can correct your revenue cycle management and be a return on investment for your optimization efforts.
Step 2: Gather Pain Points from All Users
What is EHR optimization from each perspective of your organization? Gather feedback from all users of your EHR regarding their individual experiences with functionality. This could be done by survey, email, meetings, etc. Depending on what improvements you hope to make, you may need to gather feedback from patients as well.
Once you have identified those areas that cause the most stress and frustration for your staff, you can begin to implement changes by working on the low-hanging fruit – items that are relatively easy to implement but will have a significant impact.
Anything that can be done to streamline workflows and make documentation more efficient will bring you closer to optimization success.
Step 3: Evaluate Technology and People
To improve the relationship between the EHR and its users, we assess each individually.
Run a complete diagnostic on your software, equipment, and internet connectivity to see if there are technical issues that interfere with your EHR experience. In a previous blog, we outlined common issues that slow down your EHR. Check for issues with:
- Old, outdated hardware
- Slow local internet (LAN)
- Slow speeds with the internet service provider (ISP)
- Wi-Fi not properly configured or dropped connection from a spotty signal
- Latency issues with the software, or add-on modules
- Overwhelmed data center
What about the people using your EHR? For an optimal EHR experience, the training of those using the EHR should be fine-tuned alongside calibrating the EHR.
How well do your staff members understand how to use the EHR, or even computers for that matter? You may find that some need remedial training in technology usage. As employees come and go, it is quite possible that important training information was lost along the way.
By that same token, you should evaluate if your current standards and policies are being followed. If conformance appears to be on the level, it may be time to update the standards to elevate team performance.
This would also be an opportune time to evaluate your data governance policies, especially in terms of interoperability standards.
Step 4: Assemble a Task Force
Optimizing your EHR is a team effort. Who would be the best staff members to bring into developing an EHR optimization strategy? Some of the most common additions to an EHR committee are:
- Ambassadors: One person from each department to speak for the group. Be sure to include someone from the information technology (IT) team if you have one.
- Super user: A super user is one person who is tasked with being more extensively trained on the EHR than the rest of the organization. Oftentimes this role is given to someone who has the most diverse or the longest experience with EHRs.
- Physician champion: Like your super user, the physician champion will have substantial EHR experience. Ideally, this role should be filled by someone who is well respected by the staff, is effective in keeping things positive during major changes, and can coach staff members on usage techniques. This role is crucial for garnering much needed staff buy-in.
Step 5: Make Adjustments
What changes can be made for each user that will make them perform more efficiently? Your optimization team can help you identify and address these opportunities individually. Healthcare workers tend to get “alarm fatigue” from EHRs when the same unnecessary alerts keep interrupting tasks.
Ideally, the template and interface should be tailored to the role of the user. For example, it does not make sense to have the same interface settings for the front desk that you would for the clinician. What can be changed to improve the EHR user experience for each individual role?
Step 6: Keep Going
Major optimizations, implementation, and the initial go-live are all big events where there is intense focus on the EHR. Even with those events behind you, there is still a need to continue improving. As to what is EHR optimization long term, here are some ideas:
- Continue gathering feedback from staff and patients
- Keep up with the latest trends in EHR such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA)
- Reach out to support solutions such as the Medical Advantage helpdesk
Summary: What is EHR Optimization?
All too often, healthcare professionals find that an EHR causes more work, headaches, or it does not perform as they expected it to. The cost-effective alternative to replacing an EHR is optimization.
What is EHR optimization? EHR optimization is the process of identifying all the improvement opportunities and finding solutions to resolve each pain point or flaw, one by one.
Your EHR strategy includes gathering feedback from all users of the EHR, assessing the skill level of your staff members individually, looking for unresolved technical issues, assembling a task force, making fixes as you go, and gathering more feedback along the way.
Some opportunities are not easily spotted, and some solutions require expertise to carry out. To get the most from your EHR, enlist an experienced EHR consultant to help you make your EHR work better than you thought possible.
Get a Thorough EHR Optimization from a Medical Advantage Consultant
Is your EHR holding you back from achieving your organization’s goals? This happens more than you might think. At Medical Advantage, our goal is to make your EHR a vehicle for success rather than a deadweight holding you back.
We focus on efficiency, best practices in interoperability, patient engagement, and maximizing revenue. Take the first step toward optimizing your EHR by filling out the form below!