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EHR – Often Neither the Problem nor the Answer

On an increasingly frequent basis, I’m finding myself in discussions with healthcare leaders bashing the performance of their Electronic Health Records (EHR) system vendors.

My vendor is not providing the data I need… 

The product is doing a horrible job handling

I don’t understand why my vendor can’t simply fix the system…

Often the root cause of these frustrations is not the performance of the EHR vendor. Rather, it’s too much reliance on the vendor for things they’re not best suited to assist with. It’s likely that they’re many times neither the problem, nor the answer.

Not the problem

Many organizations leverage Microsoft products such as Outlook for email, and Office as a productivity suite. When something isn’t working right with a Microsoft product, who gets the call? The most typical answer is that the internal help desk or technology group is called on for assistance. It would be a rarity to go straight to Microsoft with an MS Word issue.

With this analogy in mind, why do healthcare organizations often jump right to the vendor? The perception is that the EHR is broken and the vendor needs to fix it. This perception is usually not reality. Reality is that most issues can be resolved through workflow, system optimization, and/or training.

Don’t pick up the phone and call the EHR vendor!

The better course of action is to lean on your best and brightest subject matter experts for guidance. This may be a knowledgeable internal resource or a third-party consultant. Either can help assess if a broken EHR is an accurate diagnosis. More importantly, they can provide options and navigate to the appropriate resolution.

Not the answer

EHR vendors provide solid, reliable products with expertise in managing health records and medical-related patient interactions. This is their core and they’re good at it.

Due to their presence as the major technology vendor for most healthcare organizations, it has become customary to expect other answers from the EHR vendor. This includes product and service expectations that deviate from their core offering. The greater the distance from the core, the more likely they aren’t the answer.

One example that comes to mind is surgery scheduling. Moving from the message of “looks like you need surgery” to the actual date of surgery involves a rather complex sequence of tasks and coordination of events. Though an EHR system can be twisted to manage such workflow, this is not the optimal answer. EHRs are not designed at their core to be workflow engines.

This is just one example.  Countless others exist in our evolving world of healthcare marketing, patient outreach, and quality scores.  Likewise, many other tools and complimentary services are available for answers that gravitate away from the EHR core.

Clarity of expectations

My message is to set clear expectations for reliance on the EHR vendor. This clarity should focus on three areas – support, services, and products.

Assess your current state and study your technology roadmap. Are too many problems and too many potential answers pointing to this vendor?

Are they the true problem… or just the easiest one to blame?

Are they the right answer… or just the most convenient one?

It’s time to allow EHR vendors to do what they do best.

We are always here to help.

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