Oct 06 2020

Q&A: NetApp’s Brian Pruitt on Data Framework’s Boost to EHR Systems

Electronic health records can revolutionize workflows, but they are also time-consuming. Providers are seeking reliable storage platforms to help.

Electronic health records have transformed clinical workflows and broken down data silos to improve care delivery. But the time-consuming documentation process can create hurdles for providers seeking face time with patients.

Many healthcare professionals use the Epic EHR platform, and Epic relies on the cloud storage and data infrastructure of NetApp to make clinical routines smoother.

NetApp provides the data infrastructure and also offers healthcare data and EHR strategy workshops to enable clinicians to get started using the platform, which is a common challenge for providers, says Brian Pruitt, global healthcare alliance manager for NetApp.

Pruitt spoke about the challenges and innovations in healthcare workflows, the evolving role of EHRs and how NetApp’s data framework can help.

DISCOVER: Learn how NetApp's data infrastructure can deliver performance and scalability in healthcare.

HEALTHTECH: How are electronic health records changing clinical workflows?

PRUITT: In a paper-based world, clinicians did a lot of batching of work, including documentation. The other big drawback was that there was only one paper chart and all clinicians spent a lot of time chasing it down.

The arrival of electronic records allowed the chart to be accessed by all clinicians at the same time from almost anywhere. All documentation became readable, and clinical staff could know who did what in the chart and at what time.

HEALTHTECH: What are the related challenges to this shift?

PRUITT: Challenges are mostly focused on documentation burden and being tied to the computer. Physicians also track clicks and “pajama time” and complain about being “ward clerks.” Clinicians also complain about information overload, alerts, alarms, decision support notifications and BPAs.

If the EHR is not implemented well, maintained and constantly optimized, the biggest risk is clinician burnout and disengagement. Also, a poorly built, implemented and maintained EHR is a patient safety risk, which ultimately leads to bad care and bad outcomes.

HEALTHTECH: What do you hear from clients who have made the switch to the Epic EHR platform?

PRUITT: When health systems make the decision to move to Epic, the main goals are to improve healthcare delivery, streamline health data exchange and improve interoperability. The feedback we hear from new Epic customers is that they’re able to more closely monitor the readmission rates, patient satisfaction levels and medication prescriptions. The more data they have, the more informed decisions they’re able to make.

Clinicians don’t care about servers, storage, networks or even computers; all they care about is that the Epic application is always on and always available. Once the medical record went electronic, the clinicians no longer tolerated downtime. NetApp provides the fastest, most reliable data infrastructure on the planet. We often hear that the speed of access improves greatly, as does the reliability.

At my previous organization, after moving Epic to NetApp, we were actually getting calls into our help desk asking, “What did you do? My systems are running much faster now.” We improved the lives of our Epic analysts, who, prior to moving to NetApp, were waiting hours and sometimes days on environments to be ready for training nurses, training clinicians and performing environment refreshes.

HEALTHTECH: How do you ensure these operations are available and reliable?

PRUITT: Aside from being Epic’s highest-rated storage platform, we’re enabling customers to drastically decrease their Epic infrastructure footprint, streamline IT operations, reduce IT spending and improve clinician satisfaction.

With NetApp, we guarantee 100 percent uptime of the Epic environment, while also guaranteeing application performance through adaptive quality of service.

HEALTHTECH: How do NetApp customers using Epic applications save time and money?

PRUITT: When we’re talking to the CFO of an organization, it’s about how we’re solving their greatest challenges. For most healthcare organizations, the challenge isn’t just bending the trend on cost but reducing the real total cost of care.

We partner closely with healthcare organizations to understand the current run rate for their clinical applications and infrastructure. Then, by eliminating technology silos, we enable them to dramatically reduce their IT spending, streamline operations and focus on the execution of their mission.

At my previous organization, for the Epic project alone, we were able to reduce IT spending by over $25 million. At the same time, we reduced IT service delivery times from five weeks to 15 minutes and eliminated all operating expenses.

NetApp is saving IT staff and Epic analysts a tremendous amount of time by eliminating data silos, simplifying their infrastructure and leveraging purpose-built automation for Epic. This automation reduces Epic environment backup/refresh times from five-plus hours to less than two minutes.

HEALTHTECH: What greater implications can this pairing of Epic and NetApp have on healthcare delivery?

PRUITT: The NetApp Data Fabric, an architecture and set of data services that provides consistent capabilities across a choice of endpoints spanning on-premises and multiple cloud environments, enables our healthcare customers to unleash the power of their clinical data to meet business demands and achieve better patient outcomes.

With the NetApp Data Fabric, clinical data and applications are in the right place at the right time with the right characteristics and capabilities to help fuel innovation for healthcare. NetApp is uniquely positioned to adapt and pair with health systems’ technology maturity, and we provide a path from on-prem to cloud without throwaway investments.

HEALTHTECH: What does the future hold for EHR platforms? How does Epic fit into that?

PRUITT: Clinicians are spending way too much time entering data directly into the EHR, so you’re going to see much more focus on AI initiatives that increase face-to-face interactions with patients and decrease time in front of a computer entering data. Epic’s machine learning platform is enabling health systems of all sizes to get the most out of machine learning with real-time information embedded directly into clinician workflows and scaled across their organizations.

I believe improving the searchability and ease of use within Epic are going to be key initiatives moving forward. You’re going to be seeing virtual assistants integrated with the EHR as well. Virtual assistants are coming online to help with those physician burdens — and in particular, the aspects of physician workflow issues that computers can streamline.

For patients, the biggest developments are really expanding online or smartphone access to your health information and the ability to combine the information from different providers and update it automatically. You will be seeing a lot of that in the near term with EHR providers.

Brought to you by:

At NetApp, we offer healthcare customers a complimentary Epic Design Workshop. Below are just a few of the outcomes from this workshop:

  • An Epic architectural design based on your unique requirements
  • A clear understanding of the current and future state of your Epic environment
  • A demonstration of NetApp’s ability to improve operational efficiencies, decrease IT spending and increase performance for Epic, all while exceeding Honor Roll requirements

Contact Brian Pruitt to learn how NetApp is transforming the delivery of healthcare IT services through innovative technology.

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