Head back in time and you’ll find that the future of technology may have been a little clearer than we imagined. A decade ago, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT was established to create a secure, nationwide interoperable network that allows authorized users to access medical records from anywhere in the US. Paired with a comprehensive overhaul to the health insurance industry, the idea was designed to control all aspects of health care services and make it easier to manage and maintain on both sides of the equation, patient and practice.
Head a decade into the future and, if anything, the waters have been muddied. For a program originally sought to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve quality of care, the lackluster results show it has a long way to go.
Ask any physician or medical office personnel today what their leading cause for anxiety is and chances are they will hint at using electronic health records (EHRs). Many EHR products have little meaning to a physician, and therefore fall to the wayside when dealing with a busy practice. Only one in two physicians have adopted any type of electronic health record system at all, with less than one in five using a software program for control.
Government funding has all but dried up for promoting a more efficient EHR system within the American health care system. As we move forward, it will be private companies and health care agencies that take control and make the transition more beneficial for all. Yet that can be little consultation to the physicians who are still working with patients in old school format, with paper charts filed in the filing cabinet at the end of the day.
What will it take to bring the other fifty percent of the medical world online and running with an efficient EHR system?
Better EHR systems to meet the demands of small practices
With the original goals set by executive order, a free-for-all moved through the technology world with start ups jumping after the largest health organizations. They bypassed the small practices in order to reap the rewards and financial benefits of working with the masses. Now that the large health organizations have EHR systems in place, the smaller organizations are left with little clue as how to navigate the waters. This is where the greatest opportunity lies … and also the greatest amount of confusion. It can be complicated for a small practice to not only dedicate the time for researching which systems are best, but also how to integrate it into an already busy environment. When EHR companies make easy to use systems on a smaller scale, it will jumpstart the desire in smaller practices.
Change the way we operate health care practices
As our health care system continues to morph and change, small practices will change right along with it. Many will merge and combine with other practices to run smoother offices. Many will adopt the practices of the larger organizations in which they are affiliated with. When something works for one, its easier to morph and adopt it for those around you as well. While individual practices may not find substantial value in making the conversion in-house, they will quickly discover that coordinating patient care and managing risks and insurance claims can’t occur without it.
Make the systems more meaningful
For many individual practices, they choose not to upgrade because they realize today’s EHR systems have little if any benefit to their practice. It simply transfers what was on paper to an electronic format. That will change in the coming years, especially as artificial intelligence continues to increase. The health care industry is quickly moving from data collection to data analysis. As doctors begin seeing tangible benefits to using EHRs and more complicated technology tools, it will open up the playing field for making support systems that truly help daily routines. That’s when the most effective changes will occur.
That’s when the biggest improvements will be made.
Are you using EHRs in your practice? What’s holding you back?