Improving Healthcare Technology: How to Get Beyond “Bad Tech”

Posted by Tom Hammergren

June 2, 2015 at 10:39 AM



Everyone agrees that technology is critical to the future of healthcare – both to delivering better outcomes to people who need treatment and to managing the business of healthcare more effectively. Why then does technology often feel more like a problem than a solution?

For instance, electronic health records (EHRs) have become a fact of life across the healthcare industry. But physician resistance remains high. One well known study found:

"… mixed reactions to electronic health record systems, including widespread dissatisfaction. Many respondents cited poor usability, time-consuming data entry, needless alerts and poor work flows."

A more recent study revealed that:

“Among physicians routinely receiving information needed for care coordination, at least 54% of them did not receive the information electronically. … and more than one third did not routinely receive the needed patient information at all.”

In other words, doctors simply aren’t receiving the data they need to deliver the highest quality care. There’s reason to believe that the information gap is even more pervasive for patients who need complex care involving multiple specialists from multiple organizations or locations.

Given that easier information access was a primary objective of EHR mandates, these struggles are a major disappointment. Part of the issue is the simple fact that some prominent EHRs don’t make it easy to share data with other platforms. According to this report:

“nearly 80% of doctors and 60% of hospitals have converted from paper files to electronic health records since 2009. But only 20% to 30% of providers are able to share records with outside providers, according to government and industry surveys.”

That’s one reason EHRs sometimes seem more like part of the problem than part of the solution.

Still, there’s no escaping technology. As author and professor of medicine Robert Wachter puts it:

"Health care, our most information-intensive industry, is plagued by demonstrably spotty quality, millions of errors and backbreaking costs. We will never make fundamental improvements in our system without the thoughtful use of technology. Even today, despite the problems, the evidence shows that care is better and safer with computers than without them."

So what can be done? What are the key attributes of technology that can help physicians and other providers ensure the right patients gets to the right treatment at the right time? At Cordata, we believe:

  • An intuitive and easy-to-use interface is critical to adoption of any technology – from EHRs to care coordination software. If you want more healthcare professionals to embrace technology, it must be well suited to common tasks and streamline the performance of those tasks, rather than adding another step or task. In other words, technology must be useful.
  • Patients must always come first – and that starts with data sharing and interoperability. Technology should be configured so that whoever is treating the patient has the information they need to provide care or make treatment recommendations. That means sharing data across systems and providing tools that diverse information (charts, film, lab results, etc.) can be shared in timely fashion. HIPPA and security standards do not prevent such interoperability.
  • Data hold the key to delivering better care (and building a better healthcare system). Again, Wachter offers a clear point of view: "Big-data techniques will guide the treatment of individual patients, as well as the best ways to organize our systems of care." This can already happen today. Consider how technology can send alerts for specific and timely action (i.e., notifying nurses when a high-risk patient misses an appointment). Similarly, technology can codify all the actions within complex treatment plans and then customize workflows based on the unique structure and IT environment of a specific hospital or health system.
  • Collaboration holds the key for improving current healthcare technology. Most healthcare leaders understand that today’s technology is very much in 1.0 mode. That consensus is good, but a commitment to continuous improvement is advance capabilities to 2.0 levels. That means engaging with different types of users to understand their needs, recognizing interaction points with other critical technology components and committing to compatibility for data sharing. Cordata works closely with our clients on improving our products with specific features and embrace "collaboration" as one of our core values. That’s how we make our technology better, which helps keep our users doing what they do best – delivering better care.

Topics: financial data, EHRs, outcomes data, electronic medical record, Navigation & Care Coordination

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