Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have revolutionized the way patient information is collected, stored, and shared. The history of EHRs can be traced back to the early days of computing and the advent of electronic data processing with the healthcare industry.
The origins can be found in the early 1960s when hospitals and other healthcare facilities started utilizing computers to process administrative tasks and manage patient billing records. In the 1970s, as computer technology became more sophisticated, healthcare professionals began to recognize the potential benefits of using computers to store and retrieve patient medical information. The first EHR systems (then referred to as Electronic Medical Records) were developed to enable electronic documentation of patient encounters, clinical notes, and test results. Early systems with usually standalone and limited to individual healthcare facilities.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s when governments and healthcare organizations around the world began to widely recognize the potential of EHRs to improve healthcare quality, patient safety, and efficiency. Initiatives, including the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, were launched to provide incentives for EHR implementation and promote interoperability standards. Today, EHRs have become integral to the practice of medicine.
Evolution of EHR Systems
EHRs have gone through many changes — both good and bad — in an effort to assist clinicians and patients. The overarching goal for an EHR company should be to create EHR products doctors love to use and see value in using. According to a Stanford Med National Physician Poll by The Harris Poll, doctors see the value in EHRs but have significant complaints including poor usability, minimal patient-provider interaction, clunky interfaces, and overall user experience to name a few.
It is important – and counterintuitive – to note that efficiency should not be the primary goal, but ease of use and better patient outcomes should be the primary focus. In fact, 72% of primary care physicians feel that improving the EHRs’ user interface could best address their EHR challenges in the immediate future.
EHR developers must connect with their end-users. Including end-user input into all aspects of the design process, as early as possible, is a simple approach to help to build an EHR that addresses the pain points experienced by providers. Feedback should continue to be obtained throughout the development cycle as this allows EHRs to obtain immediate feedback to ensure practical improvements are made.
Users can help improve their experience with the EHR by conducting a workflow analysis to identify areas of inefficiency. Providers can highlight potential solutions by collaborating with their team on practical improvements and attending events offered by their EHR provider. By participating in user conferences, peer groups, and webinars, providers can contribute helpful feedback directly to their EHR solution while learning tips and trends from industry experts.
Workflow Tracking and Optimization
Additionally, EHR companies need to take the time to analyze and optimize workflows. Understanding the current challenges doctors and other clinicians are facing is critical to creating solutions through optimization and education. Tracking provider workflows and presenting efficient pathways by embedding user coaching into the EHR that will help people adopt new features is one potential approach. Not only will this help improve efficiency, but it will assist EHR companies by gaining the much-needed client insights and help improve clinical provider satisfaction.
To save time, providers should consider configuring their current EHR to best fit their needs by taking advantage of templates and reports. These efforts significantly reduce the time needed to work on patient charts while increasing efficiency. An appropriately configured system enables accuracy and efficiency allowing providers to spend less time with the EHR and interact more fully with patients.
EHRs have come along way, but there is always opportunity for improvement. By working with their EHR vendor, clinicians can impact the tools they use to provide quality patient care, improve patient outcomes, and support healthier communities.
Dr. Michael Blackman
Brown University graduate, Dr. Michael Blackman, completed his residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital and holds an MBA from the University of Michigan. With an extensive background in health IT product management, Dr. Blackman believes healthcare requires the talents of all contributors working together to succeed. Dr. Blackman currently serves as Greenway Health’s Chief Medical Officer and leads Greenway’s product changes from a provider perspective to maximize efficiency, improve clinical outcomes, and reduce provider burden.