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Three-Quarters Of Medical Practices Aren’t Getting Full Value From Their EHR

Posted on February 6, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Given how many EHRs seem to feature position-hostile designs, it’s hardly surprising to learn that many medical practices aren’t getting the most from them. However, I was taken aback by how deep this underutilization seems to run.

A new study appearing in the American Journal of Managed Care has concluded that a whopping 73% of practices weren’t using their EHRs to the fullest extent and that another 40% make little or no use of health IT functions. Even given the obstacles to using EHRs, this seems like a big waste of money, time and potential, doesn’t it?

To conduct the study, researchers used data from a relevant HIMSS Analytics survey. The data included responses from 30,123 ambulatory practices with an operational EHR in place, most with fewer than seven affiliated doctors in place.  Researchers sifted the data to determine the extent to which these practices were using EHR-based health IT functionalities.

Of course, some medical groups were on top of their game. Researchers found that 26.6% of practices could be classified as health IT super-users that squeezed every benefit from their systems. As you might guess, the likelihood that a practice was a super-user grew as the number of affiliate doctors increased, as well as when the practice was located in a metropolitan area. But far more groups seem to have fallen well behind the leaders.

According to the data, among practices using CPOE tools, only 36% used them for more than 75% of orders. Also, while groups commonly used basic functions such as data storage, with 100% of practices storing transcribed reports electronically and 61% using the EHR for nursing documentation, most lagged in other areas. For example, only 29% used tools allowing them to find and modified orders for all patients on a specific medication.

To address this gap, researchers say, policymakers should consider how to address the barriers PCP and specialist practices face in using the health IT tools more fully. Understanding how this disparity has emerged and how to address it is critical, they suggest, as less sophisticated use of EHRs may have an impact on care quality and also on groups’ ability to participate in community efforts such as HIEs.

The truth is, if the under-utilizer practices don’t get some kind of help or support, it’s unlikely they’ll step up their use of EHR functions. Particularly if they’ve had the system in place for a while, the workflow is baked into the system and physician habits established. Maybe the pressure to provide value-based care will do the trick, but it remains to be seen. This is a problem that won’t go away quickly.

Evolutionary Timeline of Medical Documentation

Posted on June 5, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been kicking up some dust over on EMR and HIPAA about the awful EHR documentation that most EHR vendors produce (Full Disclosure: It’s not really the EHR vendors fault, but billing and other regulations). In response to my post, Peter Elias provided a great look at the history of medical documentation and how we got so far off track when it comes to using documentation as a clinical tool. Here’s his comment:

Evolutionary time-line…
In the earliest days it was sparse/terse and mostly for the benefit of the clinician:

1. Document the decision and treatment. (Otitis media – amoxicillin.)
2. Document the decision, supporting evidence, and treatment. (Bulging red R TM, OM, amox.)
3. Then it became necessary to document why other decisions and treatments were not elected.
4. The SOAP note and problem oriented recording developed to encourage tracking problems over time. Still a clinical approach.
5. The medical record slowly became a legal document. If you didn’t say you examined the calf and found no evidence of DVT, it meant you hadn’t done it and were liable.
6. The medicolegal record slowly became a billing record. In order to prove how hard you worked, you needed to document two from column A, three from column B, level 37 decision making, an explicit statement of risk. This required documenting lots of negative detail. ‘Pertinent negative’ in a ROS became a laundry list of clinically irrelevant but coding-dependent negatives.
7. Add meaningful use and other audit requirements, and there is another layer of information that must be acquired and recorded.

In all this process, sadly, the note stopped being primarily a clinical tool. I fantasize about a system that allows recording of all that clinically unnecessary flotsam and jetsam, but does not require including it in a clinical note. It goes into the database and is accessible for those who want it when they want it, but it doesn’t get between me and my patients.

Reading Peter’s comments made me wonder if we’re going to start having two types of notes. A clinical note and a billing note. That’s sad to consider that EHR vendors would spend their time coding their applications around the challenge of quality documentation.