EHR innovation has long been heralded as technology that can enable clinical staff members to put a greater emphasis on patient care. While rapid EHR deployment across the health care sector has allowed for considerable technological change, the patient care improvements have been uneven. However, continued advances in data management, integration and communication across the industry can help caregivers drive care gains and maximize the value of EHR initiatives.
Leveraging technology to drive care gains is particularly necessary in home health settings, where caregivers are often working in a team environment, making effective data management and sharing critical.
A changing technological world transforming health care
Digital technologies began disrupting health care strategies during the initial rise of EHR systems. Since then, consistent innovation has created an operational climate in which care teams must learn to use technology strategically in order to maximize care outcomes.
For example, a home health team following a care plan must give every project stakeholder – including those outside the agency – consistent updates and feedback on patient progress. Keeping everybody informed plays a critical role in maintaining quality of care, but asking caregivers to plod through large amounts of clerical work can detract from time spent interacting with patients.
Emerging EHR models are simplifying data sharing between diverse user groups, whether they are within an organization – billing, auditing, scheduling and care teams, for example – or inclusive of external bodies, such as a primary care physician. Rigid EHRs can’t easily move information between these user groups and often force repetitive data entry and access to multiple services as caregivers try to keep up. Improving technological capabilities on the backend can help home health agencies focus on patients, not administration.
Dealing with EHR inflexibility
A Minnesota Department of Health study of EHR use in the state found that effective data sharing across care partners is still a major challenge, as 65 percent of health care agencies in the state struggle to share data with unaffiliated home health providers. This problem is particularly apparent when it comes to care transitions and referrals, as just 41 percent of providers polled said they can exchange electronic care summaries for at least 50 percent of their patients with other providers.
As home health agencies work to coordinate care across multiple stakeholders – nurses, aides, physical therapists and referring physicians – the need to improve data sharing becomes acute. Failing to simplify data access and sharing processes can distract caregivers from their primary focus – taking care of patients.
Not all EHRs are easy and intuitive for caregivers to integrate into everyday care tasks. This is especially problematic as research published in The Journal of Family Practice found that patients are incredibly dependent on “gaze time” when it comes to their satisfaction with clinical interactions. Essentially, if clinical staff is busy working with an EHR, eyes glued to the screen, a patient can feel uncared for. Conversely, caregivers who can use EHRs to quickly access vital information and log key details, but primarily spend time engaging directly with patients, can improve satisfaction.
Using technology to improve patient care
With patients caring so much about personal attention, providers face a growing need to optimize their technology use around the patient experience. EHR innovation and integration is making this possible. By automating key data gathering tasks and minimizing data entry, modern care platforms are alleviating administrative burdens, ensuring that caregivers give patients plenty of “gaze time.”
HEALTHCAREfirst offers an innovative, easy to use EHR system for home health and hospice care providers, enabling them to streamline operations and ensure regulatory compliance, while putting their patients before paperwork. For more information, please contact us today!