Years ago, when I was working as an analyst in the manufacturing vertical, the stories were legendary of ERP deployments gone awry and countless examples of cost overruns. In fact, it was nearly impossible to find an enterprise deployment that stayed within budget.
Is it any surprise then that the healthcare sector has suffered its own share of enterprise software (EHR) woes? Hardly not.
But that is not to say let’s pull up the stakes and forget about digitizing health and revert back to clipboards and row upon row of filing cabinets – we are far beyond that now. The healthcare sector will become, like countless others, digitally-driven. The challenge for the senior leadership at healthcare organizations (HCOs) is to derive value from these deployments, value that requires investment well-beyond the install of that bright and shiny new EHR.
Unfortunately, for many HCOs, insufficient forethought was given to what they hoped to accomplish, what value they hoped to derive (beyond MU compliance) in adopting that new EHR. I have yet to see an enterprise-wide deployment go well, or meet objectives if the organization did not adequately prepare at all levels. The most overlooked aspect is sufficient attention to workflow design and training end users to facilitate adoption and efficient use of a new system.
But there is value in these systems if done right and with the accelerated migration to value-based care (VBC) and associated reimbursement, this will only increase.
At this year’s HIMSS conference, the best presentation I sat in on was by Steve Allegretto of the Yale New Haven Health System. His talk was on their organization’s effort to get a true understanding of costs of delivered care and optimizing for outcomes. He presented some very compelling evidence on how they reviewed their various clinical pathways, supply chain, procedures to uncover unwarranted variabilities to rectify. The result was not only an ability to decrease the cost of care delivered, but in doing so they improved their quality scores. Truly a win-win. When I asked Steve during the Q&A as to what role their EHR had in this analysis – he was adamant: “We simply could not have done this without an enterprise-wide EHR across all of our hospitals to understand variances and then modify them with consistent, clinical pathways across the institution.”
More recently when I was in Colorado for the World Cup Finals, I met a geriatric physician on the lift up the mountain. Our conversation quickly turned to healthcare, the massive transformation that is ongoing and how he, as a physician, was coping with it all. Being in his mid-forties he’s seen quite a bit of change in his career. What I was most struck by though was his enthusiasm for being a physician – he truly loves what he does and secondly, his enthusiasm for his EHR.
As a geriatric physician, virtually all of his reimbursement comes from CMS, which has placed an increasing emphasis on quality reporting. His organization takes part in CMS’s MSSP (Medicare Shared Savings Program). The physician has a scribe that does all the EHR data entry for him while he interacts with the patient. The EHR tracks and reports the various quality metrics CMS is looking for and his organization has been getting quality bonuses ever since, more than paying for the scribe, and he finds he has more time for his patients.
Adopting a new enterprise software system is not for the feint-of-heart, but if done with sufficient forethought and a clear understanding that the investment doesn’t stop upon deployment, but much like raising a child requires a long-term investment, the benefits are very real and sustainable.
- You cannot over-invest in end user training.
- Involve end users early and often to ensure workflow is reflective of best practices.
- Leverage enterprise-wide capabilities to drive out variance to improve quality and cost structure.
- Scribes can, if effectively used, go a long way to improve clinician satisfaction, which will likely also improve patient satisfaction.