Technology is only as good as the processes it supports. As with any change in process improvement, we have to ask ourselves, “What we are trying to accomplish, and how will we know that this change is an improvement?” This is where most implementations of EHR have fallen short. Billions of dollars were spent to implement a federally mandated system without using the most basic process improvement methodology to identify success metrics and measure them.
Any process, IT or otherwise, must be monitored, audited, and managed. When things work right for an EHR, information is shared, the continuum of care is realized, and improvements can be measured. When things go wrong, however, the impact to care is much more dramatic.
There are many dependencies on the system to work correctly. For example, if the interface between the radiology system and the EHR is malfunctioning, physicians may have no alternative to view or even be aware of the information that should be available to them. The first time an issue is discovered is usually when it is realized by a clinician, resulting in down time and delays in patient care. Before EHR, when there was a problem, the clinician created work arounds and continued to see patients. Now, when the system goes down they often close the doors and send the patients home.
Before deploying new technology, administrators must fully assess the current state operations and information flows. They must be able to answer questions such as, “What is my current productivity?” “What is the current quality of care?” and “What is my current patient and clinician experience?” If these are not quantified before and after implementation, the return on investment will never be known. The answers and the subsequent improvements to the current condition should be developed by care providers who work in the process every day.
Providers want to provide care, and technology tools allow them to practice medicine. The tools, however, are not the product. The product of healthcare must be patient care resulting in reduced cost, efficient processes, quality care, and positive experiences. We owe it to our clinicians and patients to support them in this mission by reducing the “burden” of EHRs.
Today’s blog was written by Rick Malik, senior vice president at HPP.
Rick is a highly experienced healthcare consulting leader. Prior to joining HPP, he led a worldwide Lean healthcare consulting organization at Johnson & Johnson. Rick was responsible for P&L management, business strategy, sales, marketing, consulting, training and management of consulting resources.
Rick has a Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Technology from Slippery Rock University and subsequently spent eight years at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Clinical Laboratories.