Physician-Use-of-Electrnic-Health-Records-1024x682In a New York Times article, In Second Look, Few Savings From Digital Health Records, Dr. David Blumenthal expresses his thoughts on the current struggles the US health care system is facing with the successful adoption of the EHR:

Technology “is only a tool,” said Blumenthal. “Like any tool, it can be used well or poorly.” While there is strong evidence that electronic records can contribute to better care and more efficiency, the systems in place do not always work in ways that help achieve those benefits.

Technology is only a tool, and it is true that it’s all in how you use it; however, it’s not just good use of the technology that will yield results. Physicians need to understand that current processes and the way their practice has run for the last 15-20 years must change. To put a tool like an EHR in place, and expect that it conforms to existing systems and workflow, is like changing all the rules in a game, but not changing how the user plays it. This is what many practices end up doing, and the very tools put in place that are supposed to help the practice, begin to work against it.

After working in the ambulatory EHR market for 7 years, selling and being a part of hundreds of implementations, there is one common attribute that I have seen that separates success from failure — the ability to change and adapt systems/processes to the right tools and right people. The EHR market has been plagued with the thought that this tool, the EHR, will change the medical practice. The real fact-of-the-matter is that it is the practice that needs to change for the EHR to work properly. Careful business process mapping and systems redesign needs to take place prior to implementation of any new “tool” into a business, and it is no different for a medical practice.

If you have ever sat in on a physician EHR demo, they all want to see the same thing. “Show me how I would see a patient in your system from check-in to check-out.” All too often, vendors will immediately start to fumble through a “canned” patient scenario that really has nothing to do with the current office workflow. The physician will watch, ask a few questions in between taking phone calls and signing off on charts, and never really get a good idea of how the EHR will work in their office. Is it any wonder that a recent survey conducted by KLAS shows that the number of practices shopping for a replacement EHR jumped from 30% in 2011 to 50% in 2012; And among the top reasons for switching — decreased productivity.

The EHR “is only a tool;” It is a tool that requires careful integration and mapping between a current-state and desired future-state design. If the EHR is going to live up to expectations, it’s a focus on change in workflow, processes and systems that’s going to get it there.

Original Article Published Here On HIStalk