Electronic heath records (EHRs) and other forms of health information technology have the potential to significantly improve care delivery and patient outcomes.

But that can’t happen until the technology becomes more user-friendly and patient-focused than it is today.

That was the message delivered to physicians attending a session on the future of health IT during the recent American College of Physicians (ACP) conference in San Diego.

“The perception for many of us today is that technology is toxic,” a senior speaker noted. “We cannot go forward with new care models and consistently provide high-quality, high-value care unless the act of providing regular routine care doesn’t seem like competing in the Olympics every day.”

So, what is the vision of an EHR that helps physicians improve their performance and deliver better patient care?

A Physician’s expectation

First, it must retire the physicians from the job of performing patient data entry functions. An EHR must enable people other than physicians like other staff members or patient themselves to feed patient data without any loss of information and with 100% accuracy.

Second, the EHR user interface must interact exceptionally well with both the physicians and the patients. The big advantage of EHRs over paper is what you can display on it. It’s the ability to pull things together in different ways, to answer questions like, ‘how is the patient doing over time with this new therapy?’ It’s not something you can do as well on paper.

Lastly, an “anticipatory decision support” is what brings an EHR in a physician’s good books i.e. EHRs with the ability to provide automatic help with ordering and treatment decisions based on a given stage of the patient visit, EHRs that can anticipate clinical workflows – a mechanism that reminds physicians of things they forget when they are multi-tasking.

Patient’s perspective

Many hospital surveys have indicated that physicians hesitate to embrace or use EHRs in the exam rooms and even in the practices where EHR software has been implemented and made ready for their use. Many physicians still prefer to take paper notes/scribes. So, do patients exhibit discomfort with physicians using an EHR?

Several hospital/clinical surveys indicate the patients are indifferent to the use of electronic notes during their medical examination. On the contrary patients showed more concerns over third-party assistants who transcribe patient visit notes in to an electronic chart while the doctor conducts the exam.

Patients show more concerns about non-EHR factors like long wait time, unfriendly staff, short visit duration and troubles in scheduling a doctor appointment. This implies that a complete patient journey, of which EHR is only a part, is more relevant to the patient.

This is where a composite Hospital Information System (HIS) offers value in minimising the organisational drag within a hospital environment and generates an enhanced overall patient experience.

Overall, a physician’s expectation from an ideal EHR is to help them spend more time in utilising their medical expertise and make informed decisions. A patient on the other hand is more interested to receive an overall hospital experience and this is where a composite Hospital Information System (HIS) offers value in minimising the organisational drag within a hospital environment and generates an enhanced overall patient experience.

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