Four Ways to Move EHRs Forward

EHR adoption rates are nearing 100 percent, yet we see a steady stream of headlines reporting dissatisfaction. Physicians are demanding more from EHRs—and patients want more, too. While there is ample opinion on the current effectiveness of EHRs, we can all agree that EHRs have room to improve. Looking ahead, we envision four key ways in which EHRs could do more and further advance quality of treatment and care.

1. Span boundaries. Many physicians feel locked into their vendor because their system is not only difficult and time consuming to use, it’s deposit-only when it comes to data. Moving to a new (and better) EHR vendor shouldn’t be so cost- and time-prohibitive, and data shouldn’t be held hostage—it should remain with the patient. Patients, too, expect their data to follow them from provider to provider, only to find themselves as the courier more often than not. We can access our money from any ATM in the world, but our health data doesn’t travel with us.

2. Accommodate more data. Often, the answers to missing questions in care aren’t solely in the data that comes from clinical encounters; where our patients work, where they live, their environment, their behavior, what they eat, their activity level—these are all strains of data beyond the traditional EHR that we simply lack the patient engagement to collect. How can EHRs inhabit more of the health data that patients are already tracking for themselves on personal devices? Can we offer patients more control in monitoring their health and making their EHR even richer with information?

3. Easier to use. EHR adoption is fraught with challenges: It requires a change in an organization’s workflow and an overwhelming amount of regulatory complexity and compliance around who can access data and for what purpose. Physicians are demanding more intuitive interfaces and improvements that streamline productivity. EHRs are complex to build, difficult to update and time-consuming to test—but even these setbacks shouldn’t require physicians to struggle with lumbering technology from nearly twenty years ago. It’s time to catch up.

4. Enable more face time with patients. When using a computer in an exam room, an inevitable interpersonal shift in patient interaction takes place. It’s safe to reason that the more difficult the EHR to navigate, the more time physicians spend staring at a screen versus looking a patient in the eye. Is this what we envisioned as the future of medicine? Truly hearing and knowing patients is at the heart of quality care. Even beyond the examination room, doctors are spending two hours keeping records for every hour spent with patients. We look forward to EHRs becoming more of an interaction tool in the healthcare delivery environment. They should be a bridge of communication between patients and their doctors, not a blockade between them.

We firmly believe in a patient-first approach to EHRs. Not all data is generated in a single clinic, in a single hospital and a single setting—but at the center of these interactions is one patient. We can do more. The technology and innovation to meet the above ideas already exists, so why have we yet to utilize it in healthcare? These needs could be inherently met if every regulatory decision, vendor update and innovation in technology was made with the patient’s needs in mind above all else. We’re digging deeper into these topics—as well as how they can be remedied—in our latest POV, “No Man is an Island: A Patient-First Approach to EHRs and Interoperability.”