Healthcare consumers tend to love electronic health record EHR) systems, especially when they offer patient portals and simplified communication among their care providers.
The providers themselves, on the other hand, may tell a different story.
According to a 2020 KLAS study, most behavioral health organizations are dissatisfied with their current EHR. They perceive a decline in productivity, an increase in costs in terms of hardware and staff, and the inability to find what is needed when it is needed. Ironically, these are complaints about precisely the type of problem EHRs are designed to solve.
It isn’t surprising to hear healthcare workers complain about their EHR. Once an EHR has been implemented, often sub-optimized to take advantage of the available EHR functionality, manual or other inefficient workarounds abound. The sub-optimized workflows can be clunky, interfaces unintuitive, and items must be entered multiple times. Couple these factors with the confounding inconvenience of learning a new technology system, and employee satisfaction starts to become a pressing issue.
So when we hear the cries from the workforce, we need to listen. But are the problems they identify really the result of bad software? Does the EHR system really need to be replaced? Or are the issues an indication that the software needs to be optimized or “tuned up” to meet the needs of the organization?
- EHR systems are expensive, and replacing an existing system is costly.
- With a few exceptions, most EHR systems are capable of executing most of the needed functions.
- Optimizing an existing EHR can resolve most issues for a fraction of the cost of a new system.
- Interviewing the workforce doesn’t cost anything but time.
To address these challenges, start by engaging your entire team – clinical, financial, and administrative – and ask them to detail the problems. Don’t ask about solutions. Just explore the pain points. Where does it hurt?
Solicit as much feedback as possible from your workforce that uses the EHR for their input on these questions:
- Are the workflows slow, complicated, cumbersome or incomplete? Which ones?
- Are eligibility and authorization processes working correctly?
- Examine the differences between responses for each location and program. Are systems being used differently in some instances? Why?
- Are clinicians using the automated features? Which ones?
- Does the intake process work well? What’s missing?
- Is treatment planning efficient? Does it work well? What’s missing?
- Does the medication management module work properly? Is it intuitive, or at least easily learnable?
- Can clinical staff communicate quickly and efficiently with clients and other care providers? Explain.
- Is tracking informative and useful? Explain.
- Are the discharge and transfer processes efficient and easy to use? Explain.
- Are billing activities easily viewed and used? Explain.
- Is any third-party software integrated with the system? Does it work as expected?
- Does staff have access to the reports they need? Can they generate standard reports easily? Can they configure new reports efficiently?
- Are there common areas of EHR usage that require additional training? Which ones?
Ask these questions to get a better picture of the problem(s), and there’s a good chance you’ll discover solvable problems. Organizations can endeavor to fix the issues themselves, or they can turn to the vendor for help.
There are plenty of good reasons for behavioral health organizations to replace their old systems with a new EHR. Still, it pays to explore the question carefully before committing to that decision. Optimizing the original implementation and making a few needed procedural repairs can solve many problems. The cost and timeline implications are minor compared to the realities of identifying, negotiating, purchasing and implementing a new EHR.
We understand that not every agency has the resources to coordinate a full staff interview, let alone a complete EHR optimization effort. Xpio Health invites you to learn more about our EHR services. Our team of EHR experts, analysts and solution architects can analyze and optimize your organization’s electronic health record implementation for a faster, affordable, more efficient team experience. Inquire at email@example.com or visit xpiohealth.com.