We as a country have been pursuing affordable healthcare for few years now. The government incentives have so far driven healthcare provider’s investments into the EHR (Electronic Health Records) technology with a goal to deliver a cost effective care. But the industry is still struggling to get its clinicians to use this technology as a part of their daily workflows to make smarter and more informed decisions for improving patient care outcomes. This has left the industry to face serious challenges especially with the shift in payment models. Beyond lowering the reimbursement rates the payers like Medicare are also pushing for alternate payment models.These models call for reimbursements to providers based on the outcomes of the patient care instead of just the encounters with the patient. This means the providers will now have to bear any cost overruns of the patient care.
Then we have the other challenge of growing ageing population which by some estimates will rise by 60% in the next 15 years to over 72 million.
In short the healthcare organizations will have to provide more care for lower payments while assuming greater financial risk. This leaves them no choice but to continue the pursuit of technology promised efficiencies and intelligence to sustain their services.
Unfortunately today’s technology offers them neither. It is more lucrative for health IT vendors to get their customers qualified for government incentives than making data easily consumable by clinicians for better clinical decisions.
The government undertook a great initiative in trying to reduce the healthcare delivery costs and our leaders deserve the credit for the political willingness to invest in it. But to realize our ultimate goal of a cost effective healthcare we need to rethink our choice of pursuing a “complete and ideal” EHR system and start thinking about an “easily consumable” one.
How realistic is it to put the onus on clinicians to use today’s EHR technology to improve the quality of care while it is adversely impacting their patient coverage and financials? It is least bit surprising to see them turning at an alarming rate to an alternative like Scribe – an unlicensed individual hired to enter information into EHRs. ACMSS (American College of Medical Scribe Specialists) estimates over 20,000 scribes currently working across the country in various hospitals and practices. They expect that number to go up 500% by 2020.
Improving the patient care outcome requires clinician’s interaction with the EHR for real time intelligence leading to better decisions. Eliminating that interaction is not the solution. The need is for simplifying the interaction to the point that a clinician simply asks the system for the information like “show me the patient’s blood glucose levels”.
This industry essentially needs technology driven assistants,
not assistant driven technologies.