EHR technology has reached near universal adoption as organizations continue to invest in their IT environment. The clinical and business side of most healthcare organizations have adapted to the use of EHR’s and as resistance has melted away, there is a clamor to get even more utility from their systems. The general upheaval in the industry has also continued to shrink revenue and squeeze margins, leading organizations to launch cost savings initiatives across the board. Many look to their clinical systems to help them improve productivity, efficiency, and patient satisfaction to help drive revenue increases and trim costs.
Attaining those goals often leads to a clinical optimization program. Though worthwhile, these initiatives can often fall by the wayside or fail to get enough mind share because existing staff is tied up with day-to-day tasks that consume their time. Some organizations look to their EHR vendor to help but this can lead to a narrow, single solution view of potential improvements.
Often the best solution is bringing in an independent expert consultant who can help drive the optimization program and achieve tangible results. Here are five reasons you should consider an independent healthcare expert to help with your clinical optimization program.
Resolves internal “turf wars”
Many well-intentioned optimization programs get caught in the disagreement crossfire between the IT staff and clinicians. The two groups often have differing priorities as IT focuses on system and application concerns while clinicians are looking to streamline their workflows. The pushback between the two can quickly stall the momentum of an optimization project.
Independent experts come into this battle as neutral observers without any of the discord or emotional baggage that may be weighing down internal groups. They understand the benefits of well-run EHR systems and quickly focus on the task at hand rather than being bogged down by interdepartmental fighting. Although they may face resistance from both groups at first, once it becomes clear they are not “taking sides” but instead simply attempting to make the system work more effectively for everyone, tension dissolves giving consensus a chance to form.
As the experts continue to communicate with both groups and establish their credibility by driving quick fixes, they begin to earn trust. Word can spread rapidly and they can be difference makers to improve the daily working environment. This creates further momentum needed to make positive change.
Brings benchmarking and outside expertise
It’s often difficult for organizations to see what is possible since their only frame of reference is their own EHR. Since adoption of EHR is relatively recent, it’s unlikely any one organization will possess extensive system knowledge. In many cases, existing staff tends to be young and inexperienced, sometimes right out of college. In other cases where the team is more seasoned, they likely have worked on only a handful of systems.
Most independent experts, on the other hand, bring a vast wealth of experience from working closely on multiple systems in a variety of organizations. They have seen EHR’s used in many different ways and possess a broad knowledge of best practices and optimal workflows. An expert’s knowledge of systems and how they can improve workflows is therefore likely to be much deeper than the internal resources of most organizations.
The expert can pass on this valuable benchmarking experience and system expertise to internal staff to increase their view of what can possibly be done with their existing EHR. Leadership is usually eager to take advantage of this broad knowledge base.
Free to focus on improvement
Staff may truly desire improvements in their EHR workflow, but clinical, operations and IT staff are often fully occupied carrying out their daily tasks. They simply don’t have the time to devote to an additional project – regardless of how valuable it may turn out to be.
Independent experts aren’t tied up with a day-to-day workload and are free to focus exclusively on examining, analyzing and improving the use of the EHR. They aren’t distracted by other priorities and can dedicate all their time to the optimization effort. This eases the burden on the organization’s staff and involves them in the process only when needed to gain specific institutional knowledge.
Bringing in the EHR vendor is one way to help optimize the system but this can create a conflict of interest. During the optimization project, they may offer solutions requiring the purchase of additional software or applications.
Some vendors will conduct their analysis from a strictly systems point of view, disregarding the people and process perspective. They may provide a detailed spreadsheet of issues and recommendations, but that doesn’t help you implement the needed changes to resolve those problems.
Independent experts have no such allegiance to one specific system or application. They come in with a neutral mindset and their only goal is to help improve workflows and the effectiveness of the organization’s staff, reduce cost and increase the quality of patient care. They have no financial incentive to recommend any particular system acquisition or upgrade options. A team of experts will likely take vendor recommendations into account and use it to conduct the true work of an optimization process.
In some cases, organizations may contract with clinical experts that come with a background in IT and not necessarily healthcare. This results in overly technical dialogue that does little to help clinicians and can harden resistance to change. Clinicians are looking for direct explanations in clear language and can become irritated by answers framed in “tech talk.”
An independent expert with combined expertise in healthcare and IT can bridge that communication gap by translating technical explanations into language clinicians and your staff can understand. Deciphering what a physician might be asking and communicating that to the IT group can be a critical component in breaking down barriers and achieving a successful optimization.
There’s no doubt that EHR’s are a critical piece of the healthcare puzzle, but you may need help to realize the full value of your investment. When you find yourself in that position, utilizing an experience, independent healthcare expert may be the right choice for you.
For more in-depth information, feel free to download our roadmap, Clinical Optimization: How to Know When You Need an Independent Expert to Be Successful.