Electronic health records are not just a speculated source of physician burnout. They’re a direct cause for about 13 percent of providers, according to University of New Mexico researchers who recently examined the effects of EHR implementation and use.
The issue runs even deeper, says Dr. Philip Kroth, a professor at UNM’s School of Medicine. Researchers also discovered about 40 percent of all clinical stress is closely tied to clinical culture and its processes — things heavily influenced by EHRs.
“We are losing the equivalent of seven graduating classes of physicians yearly to burnout and, as they leave the profession, they point their finger at the time now required for them to document their work and how it has led to the loss of quality time spent with patients and families,” said Kroth in a September news release about the research.
But it doesn’t mean that organizations should give up hope on EHRs.
Many healthcare systems have begun looking more closely at technological advancements — including data standards, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics — to not only generate more efficient EHR processes but also to bring the systems back to their intended function: enhancing patient care.
With that goal in mind, here’s a look at three ways EHRs are expected to improve in 2020 for patients and providers alike.
1. Natural Language Processing Will Enhance Workflow and Experience
Speech-recognition software is already fundamental to changing the way medical professionals work, and natural language processing takes that to the next level, enhancing interactions with EHRs.
This type of software can automatically capture audio via a microphone and decipher what’s being said, what information is important and where it needs to live within a patient’s EHR. These software programs save clinicians valuable time by reducing paperwork and allow them to be more present with patients.
Last year, the not-for-profit Minneapolis healthcare system Allina Health introduced Nuance Communications’ Dragon Medical One, a medical speech-recognition solution, across its entire organization.
“We want our providers to be able to detail their thoughts and words in the EHR in the most expedient way,” Mary Lambert, information services director for Allina Health, says in a Nuance case study. “If we can demonstrate the efficiency of speech recognition, we all win.”
Victories have been many: In less than a year, Alina has witnessed an improvement in clinician workflows and EHR experience, with the organization’s adoption rate for the software reaching 80 percent. As its staff continues to shift away from legacy solutions, the healthcare system has also seen a 167 percent growth rate in the amount of documentation providers are generating.
2. Predictive Analytics Will Empower More Informed Care Decisions
Predictive analytics applications are already influencing various areas of healthcare, from optimizing emergency staffing to impacting cancer treatments, and its adoption is not expected to slow anytime soon.
The analytic method uses modeling, statistics and data mining along with AI to predict clinical outcomes based on EHR and real-time device data to improve care delivery and patient experience. These applications are positioned to become even more useful when coupled with natural language processing.
In 2018, NorthShore University HealthSystem developed the Clinical Analytics Predictive Engine to act as a tool within their EHR system to provide clinicians with more actionable information on patients. The project, known as CAPE, takes into account critical information such as lab results, patients’ vital signs and their admission histories. Such measurements are helping the Evanston, Ill.-based system to generate risk scores for patients that identify their likelihood of suffering from cardiac arrest, readmission or even death.
Preliminary data shows that after a three-month pilot of the CAPE predictive analytics model, NorthShore was not only able to reduce its number of patients who experienced cardiac arrest, but its overall mortality rates as well.
“It's working; it's providing value to physicians,” Dr. Nirav Shah, an infectious-disease physician at NorthShore, tells Modern Healthcare.
3. Patients’ Access to Their Medical Data Will Continue to Expand
Providing a positive patient experience is critical for healthcare organizations, especially as mergers and acquisitions disrupt the industry. So, it might not be surprising that 69 percent of healthcare executives surveyed by Sage Growth Partners said that improving the patient experience was a top priority in 2019 — a goal that is likely to endure.
What’s more surprising is the number of respondents that cited EHRs and patient portals as the top conduits for doing so, at 90 and 83 percent, respectively.
Some organizations might see these tools as separate entities, but Northwell Health believes that both must work in harmony.
John Bosco, the health system’s CIO, recently told HealthTech that patient portals ought to act as a primary method for collecting, storing and sharing health information between patients and clinicians. Patients, he says, enjoy “the convenience of being able to see their records, renew a prescription and send a secure message to a physician.”
But many portals have limitations. “They only perform your most basic functionalities,” says Bosco, referencing portals that were built simply to check the box of having one. The next generation of portals, he notes, are improving in step with advancements in healthcare tech.
When it comes to the New York system’s plans for its own portal, Bosco says the ongoing goals are greater accessibility to and usability of EHRs via patients’ mobile devices. Northwell also has aspirations to provide patients with tailored medical treatment options based on their EHR data, making the portal a crucial element of the care relationship.