When family practitioner Dr. Felix Carpio started working at AltaMed health services, they were serving about 180,000 patients each year across 26 clinical locations. Across each of these locations, providers had their own ways of doing things. Some were heavily reliant on paper while some were early EHR adopters. Communication across locations was not a priority resulting in various data silos across the health system. Dr. Carpio set out with a plan to optimize the health center’s EHR system by establishing workflows to eliminate gaps in healthcare. The ultimate goal was to leverage health IT to improve overall care quality for patients.
Three years following their optimization, AltaMed has improved outcome and performance across 14 categories, including:
- Increased breast cancer screening rate from 52% to 76%
- Increased colorectal screening rate from 34% to 57%
- Increased diabetic screening rate from 69% to 90%
- Increased depression screening rate from 16% to 60%
The capabilities of electronic health records have significantly increased over the last decade of implementation. However, significant gaps still remain for clinicians and patients. EHRs struggle to communicate not only between hospital systems, but even within each hospital. Many teams continue to fax paperwork and collect paper registrations, which wastes time, money and resources and negatively impacts the overall patient experience.
There are a lot of ways to upgrade the efficiency of your EHR. For today, let’s look at three key EHR gaps that many healthcare organizations deal with and a simple resolution to solve them all.
1. An integrated care team has implemented a shared care plan to coordinate tasks, but individual team members are unable to see what activities have been completed.
Today, we know that social determinants of health, such as access to food and a safe living space, are central to a patient’s overall health. As healthcare organizations work to support some patients after a health event with licensed mental health counselors and housing specialists, knowing what was previously done to care for the patient must be shared across the care team.
Outside of the hospital setting, many organization’s don’t use or have access to an EHR. This often results in lengthy email chains, paper documents, or missed communication. Three issues we know waste time and resources, but also impact overall care delivery.
2. EHRs are not interoperable with other EHR systems.
Sometimes patients must be seen outside of a health system by specialists, pharmacists, and others. But when external organization’s don’t use the same EHR, lengthy medical records and test results must be sent by paper. This is a common conundrum for hospitals. The implementation of EHR systems was supposed to streamline the management of patient data, but in today’s market, there are hundreds of EHR options and they don’t talk to each other very well.
This is a very significant and well discussed issue. Without an efficient data sharing workflow, clinicians must regather patient history, sometimes re-performing invasive tests or making medical decisions based on incomplete information.
Currently, Health and Human Services is working to mandate interoperability by penalizing companies that intentionally block information sharing. However, proving purposeful wrongdoing is difficult. Certainly, a single, unified EHR system would be the ideal solution, a task that’s being taken on by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. But, until we can reach such a state of interoperability, clinicians will need another solution for this widespread problem.
3. Some information is still collected and shared using paper documents.
The healthcare industry continues to be plagued by paper. In 2020, 86% of patients received a paper medical bill even though consumers in 2020 are significantly less likely to pay with a paper check. Patients must often ask eye doctors, dentists, and pharmacists for physical copies of their healthcare information in order to receive proper care.
Many healthcare providers continue to communicate with patients by paper as well. Appointment reminders and medical bills are still being sent through the mail, despite the fact that studies show that better patient communication can improve outcomes and lower readmission rates.
There’s no escaping the fact that the healthcare industry is reliant on paper. This is in part because of an inability for some technologies to collect signatures on consent forms, patient check-in/belongings forms, and more. Today, the majority of prescriptions and pharmacy records are also paper-based. In 2018, it was estimated that the average 1,500-bed hospital printed 96 million pages a year, costing about $3.8 million.
How can hospitals fill these EHR gaps?
Many medical decisions involve bridging an inferential gap. This occurs when medical practitioners must fill in the blanks where they lack knowledge or where no knowledge yet exists. Ideally, EHRs were meant to narrow this gap, but often fail to share real-time access to information.
What healthcare organizations need is a solution that can collect patient information digitally and turn that information into secure, shareable documents that can be quickly signed by patients and clinicians. It wouldn’t hurt if that tool also operated with an open API to integrate with their EHR.
Luckily, there’s already a product suite that fits that description. Formstack is dedicated to helping healthcare providers build agile workflows and eliminate unnecessary paperwork. We’ve supported healthcare organizations and hospital systems such as Indiana Health Group and AdventHealth to implement large scale workflows to capture data, generate documents, and collect eSignatures, without a single piece of paper.
Formstack’s platform can help clinicians:
- Use approval workflows to improve communication between integrated care teams.
- Automate appointment, registration, and other patient reminders.
- Share lengthy documents, such as patient health history, over secure email.
- Automatically send documents to patients by email or SMS message for eSignature.
- Use an open API to share critical information back to your EHR.
A lot of growth and technology adoption is needed before healthcare organizations can truly achieve interoperability. Ample research has shown that streamlined healthcare workflows with less papers results in more data sharing between providers, better communication with patients, and, ultimately, better patient outcomes.
Want to learn more about supporting your business with agile health IT workflows? Check out our webinar Buyer’s Guide for Agile Workplace Software to make sure you’re choosing the right solutions for your healthcare organization.