Thanks to generous provider incentives included in the HITECH Act, electronic health record (EHR) adoption has grown dramatically in recent years.
When HITECH was passed in 2009, less than 10% of hospitals and 17% of physicians had adopted EHRs; today 96% of hospitals and 78% of physicians use EHRs. In addition to the financial incentives, providers have embraced EHRs in hopes of improving the quality of care, increasing patient safety, reducing medical errors and duplicate testing, and gaining overall efficiencies.
The widespread use of EHRs has enhanced the care process in several areas, thanks to such features as e-prescribing, electronic lab ordering and results reporting, and secure messaging between providers and patients. Despite these improvements, EHRs have not yet created the dramatic shift in care quality that stakeholders had once predicted. In fact, providers often blame EHRs for slowing the charting process and question their overall value. However, changes in payment models will likely spur wider use of analytics and help providers realize additional value from their EHRs.
The current landscape
Traditionally providers have been paid based on a fee-for-service model that rewarded providers for high patient throughput with little regard to the effectiveness and efficiency of care. Newer payment models, however, reward providers for delivering quality care and minimizing waste. Providers risk financial penalties if they fail to meet quality objectives tied to outcomes, patient safety, hospital readmissions and other factors, and high performance may be reflected in reduced costs, higher reimbursement rates and preferred provider status. To ensure financial health, providers must identify areas of waste, as well as efficiencies, and embrace processes that streamline care delivery while enhancing patient outcomes.
Consider, for example, a health system that wants to minimize re-admissions. Stakeholders could begin by evaluating follow-up care processes to ensure hand-offs between providers are well-coordinated and that newly discharged patients have ready access to affordable follow-up care. By leveraging analytics and existing EHR documentation, providers can analyze historical records in a wide variety of ways to identify trends and compare workflows and outcomes based on provider, location, diagnosis and more. Best practices can then be duplicated and less effective care routines can be altered.
This type of analysis, and the performance management processes that heavily rely on them, would not be possible without the wealth of data captured by EHRs in recent years. While clinicians may (often justifiably) complain of EHR inefficiencies and the limited bedside value of electronic charting, the reality is that, with the addition of appropriate analytics, providers now have the power to extract critical information to measure and improve the effectiveness of their care. As the industry shifts to value-based care models, such analysis is vital for ensuring quality outcomes and cost-effective care – and for maximizing provider compensation.
The promise and the challenge
The application of analytics to EHR data holds great promise for helping organizations identify opportunities to improve the quality of care and preserve financial stability. In a value-based care world, providers must have the ability to measure their performance in order to optimize workflows and processes. Many large health systems and academic institutions already have the manpower and analytics tools in place to perform this type of analysis, but often smaller organizations lack both the required technology and the in-house expertise.
Providers who currently lack the tools required to analyze vast amounts of EHR data and extract meaningful insights should consider partnering with a third party to fill this gap. Many EHR vendors, for example, offer the technology and the technical expertise to help organizations assess their performance, recommend changes, and manage the implementation of new processes.
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HCS provides an integrated clinical and financial IT platform to LTACH, senior living, and behavioral health facilities. Since 1969 the HCS Interactant® platform has been delivering enterprise-wide and easy-to-adopt solutions for revenue cycle management, financial reporting, electronic medical records, mobile technology, and business intelligence.