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Technology should make it easier for Physicians to get their work done, right?  I mean, it seems to work in all other industries and most other aspects of our lives. So, why should healthcare be any different? Well, the fact remains that healthcare is very different. Physicians are trained to be independent thinkers using all available data. Each patient looks for a personalized decision to improve their health and wellbeing. This autonomy of clinical practice is generally not compatible with most of today’s electronic health record (EHR) systems, which has led to a decrease in clinical efficiency and growing frustration for all care team members. While this individualized approach may seem beneficial, advances in medicine and surgery have identified uniform diagnostic and treatment protocols that lead to better patient outcomes in all disease categories. Further, regulatory and payor data collection requirements have added layers of additional burdens to health systems that require the use of standardized technology systems. Optimization is making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource. Within healthcare, this means EHR Optimization.

As healthcare systems look to optimize physician workflows, they should invest in three key supporting roles to help ensure success.

  1. Process Improvement Specialists – In general, to reliably achieve results, you need a standard approach. A variation in approach leads to a variation of results; this applies to clinical practice as well. Before any new tool, whether it’s a scalpel or an order set, is given to a Physician, all care team members, especially the Physicians, need to understand how that tool will make them more efficient and why it’s effective in driving a particular outcome. If that tool does not enable both tasks, it will likely not be adopted. High performing healthcare organizations understand that concept and intentionally leverage Process Improvement Specialists to focus their efforts on the process before implementing a transformation initiative. They carefully map out the steps for each standardized process and look to understand how technology and insights can provide value along the way. Once a new process is defined, a change management education plan is formulated based on the gap between current and future state. This is an absolute requirement before considering implementing new IT functionality. Otherwise, end-user adoption and optimization will be much more challenging.

 

  1. Application Solutions Analysts – As successful organizations design standardized processes, they look to technologists to help them work smarter and not harder. Typically, Application Solutions Analysts serve in that capacity. These individuals are not only well versed in the functional capabilities of the core EHR system but are also in tune with the industry best practices for a given process. The “out of the box” functionality promoted by EHR vendors rarely fit ideal workflows and almost always require some amount of configuration to meet the organization’s best practice process. Furthermore, there is often decision support logic or machine learning algorithms that Physicians can leverage to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of patients. To drive innovation, healthcare teams must understand the “art of the possible” from their core systems and incorporate new capabilities into their workflows.

 

  1. Insight Engineers – The third leg of the optimization stool is the measurement. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Many health systems fall short with the adoption of change simply because they lack the data needed to measure the on-going success (or failure) of their initiatives. Insight Engineers, skilled in measuring lead and lag key performance indicators (KPIs), are valuable participants to the change management process as they bridge the divide between the care delivery teams and the IT analytics/informatics teams. They work with subject matter experts, Applications Solution Analysts, and Process Improvement Specialists to define actionable KPIs that care teams will use to achieve their goals and work with the IT teams to deliver them before go-live. Clinicians and operators need to understand compliance and variation to process in real-time or near-real-time to achieve sustainable clinical outcomes. For example, knowing which Physician is deviating from a specific component of sepsis protocol at the moment is much more impactful to course-correcting behavior than finding out 45 days later in an aggregated report. Without actionable dashboards, leadership will struggle to hold all teams accountable for the care delivered.

To thrive in this new era of Big Data and complex technology, Physicians must fundamentally change the way they practice to meet the “quadrupole aim.”  Optimizing workflows is an arduous journey, but if you bring the right people to the table, you can create win-win opportunities for both Physicians and Patients.

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