The IT Goal that Every Healthcare Organization Should Be Working Towards

    May 26, 2016
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    By Scott Adams

    Practically every hospital and medical practice in the country has made EHRs a priority, but it shouldn’t be the only one on their list. To support a diversity of options, providers need to iron out the performance of core IT systems first.

    Both healthcare providers and the government have been making a concerted effort to push the industry towards digitization. Electronic health records (EHRs) — which help providers share medical data — have been a cornerstone feature of that initiative, and are now used in about 70% of major medical companies, according to CIT. Naturally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have actively incentivized their adoption.

    But while their importance can’t be overstated, EHRs also often hinder the progress they were intended to propel, disrupting work processes rather than the technology that supports them. While EHRs should be a primary focus for healthcare companies, that focus certainly shouldn’t be a singular one.

    The industry still faces significant issues of interoperability, and many providers lack the technical tools to effectively implement new digital systems. In order to build towards the future, providers will have to first optimize the performance of their foundational IT infrastructures.

    Walk Before You Run

    As TechTarget observes, providers shouldn’t consider EHRs as a panacea for IT woes. “If you’re looking for a solution to transform healthcare, it’s not going to come from your EHR,” says Charles Macias, MD, a chief clinical systems integration officer at Texas Children’s Hospital. To foster tangible progress, he recommends “growing your organization's scope of interest and engagement.”

    According to Healthcare Dive, it’s not just that EHRs face issues of interoperability (meaning that many systems and standards are simply incompatible). Many providers lack the capital or technical knowhow to integrate EMRs into their legacy IT systems effectively, much less adopt a wider range of services. As a result, adopting an EHR can sometimes actively impede operations, especially if they’re quickly installed or replaced.

    In fact, 62% of non-managerial IT staff at major hospitals found that EHRs installed within the last three years had directly contributed to significant declines in the delivery of healthcare services, according to Black Book research. More damning, 90% of nurses report that EHR replacements hampered their ability to provide hands-on care, and 87% of financially threatened hospitals regretted their decision to change systems. In some ways, EHRs and data-sharing services are putting the cart before the horse, and it’s costing providers.

    Healthcare IT Is Expensive, Needs to Manage Capacity and Cost

    That’s not to say that to say that EHRs and other data-sharing applications can’t provide incredible value to healthcare providers and enhance the quality of patient care. As Healthcare Dive also notes, the problem is that the technical tools needed to support-cost effective services are hard to come by. IT advances need to work on a business level before they do on a patient level.

    To get real value out of an EHR or similar system, healthcare IT workers have to first assess how their IT infrastructure is performing, and gauge how that performance contributes to revenue (or costs). That takes gathering the foundational metrics of IT — CPU, disc I/O memory — and aggregating them in one place for comprehensive analysis. From there, it’s easy to determine the value that such systems would provide to the business, as well as communicate the best path forward to decision-makers.

    While a fully-functioning EHR should be the ultimate goal for healthcare providers, the immediate objective should be gaining complete control over IT systems. While the industry would like make the sudden jump to digital fluency, it bodes better for the long-term to approach progress incrementally in order to manage cost.

    (Image credit: Jordan Ladikos/Unsplash)