There is discussion in the industry about the effectiveness of healthcare information technology (HCIT) solutions. And so there should be; although we have seen improvements in HCIT solutions, a significant number of physicians are not happy with their current systems. Perhaps it is because some vendors feel that they know what’s better for their practice, and build the system around their vision at the expense of how the doctor likes to do things. Or maybe it’s because vendors sell practices solutions that aren’t specialized to their requirements—leading to complexity, fatigue and frustration. In either case, doctors are forced to use tools that are inappropriate to their needs and slow them down.
It’s not rocket science: doctors want tools that help them do their job effectively. Like the stethoscope—it’s one of the oldest medical tools still in use today, but it continues to perform an essential task, even in an era of high tech, and there is nothing complicated about it. Although it was originally invented to spare a young physician the embarrassment of putting his ear directly up against the chest of a young woman, it turned out to have enormous diagnostic value. Because of that, the stethoscope quickly caught on with other doctors.
Another good example is molecular breast imaging (MBI). Mammography was a good way to detect breast cancer, but MBI turns out to be three times more effective at finding tumors in dense breast tissue. MBI is simply a tool that has produced better results.
What about laser surgery? Developed at first for eye and skin surgery, it has expanded its range to include different medical and cosmetic procedures, from cosmetic dermatology to the removal of precancerous lesions. Laser surgery allows doctors to perform certain specific surgeries more safely and accurately—again, a new tool that provides better results.
When it comes to HCIT solutions, however, the reception has been decidedly less enthusiastic. Maybe that’s because, in contrast to the examples above, it hasn’t been clear what the purpose of HCIT solutions actually were. To help doctors collect data on patients, or to help administrators collect data on doctors? To make practices more efficient, or to simplify the government’s monitoring of public health? Without a clear task to perform, it’s not surprising that HCIT solutions have produced mixed results. It’s hard to assess the value of a tool when you aren’t sure what it is supposed to do.
It turns out that, like the stethoscope, electronic health record solutions were a tool designed for extra-diagnostic reasons, and then later repurposed. However unlike the stethoscope, the adoption of EHRs has been driven not by doctors who found them helpful, but by hospitals, insurance plans, and government agencies who sought to control skyrocketing costs and standardize healthcare. This disparity has been an underlying cause for ineffective workflows within the systems. And even when EHRs were designed with physicians in mind, they were designed for primary care physicians, leaving the specialist community underserved.
What is clear is that, when an HCIT solution is designed with the primary purpose of helping doctors, the industry does see value in them. According to the latest Black Book survey of specialty-driven EHRs, 80% of practices with specialty-distinctive EHRs affirm their confidence in their systems. The same survey reported that satisfaction among users who had switched to specialty-driven EHRs has shot up to 80%. And finally, 86% of specialists agreed that the biggest trend in technology replacements is specialty-driven EHRs due to specialist workflow and productivity complications.
The statistics show what we already knew; doctors want the technology and tools that give them relevant results. Like earlier great medical inventions, HCIT can play a vital role too. One positive development is that EHRs, like the lasers used in surgeries, have evolved to serve a variety of specific purposes. Just as there isn’t a single type of laser that is used by both ophthalmologists and dermatologists, EHRs are increasingly specialty specific.
This means that specialists are no longer forced to use systems designed for primary care physicians that collect every piece of data that every type of doctor might possibly need. That sort of all-inclusive data collection doesn’t lead to better results; if anything, too much data causes unnecessary clutter, making analysis more difficult. What is crucial is having more RELEVANT data. Specialists need EHRs that collect the data that is relevant to them, and only the data that is relevant to them. They need an HCIT solution that is driven by their specialty, that respects their workflow, and that has the flexibility to handle their practice’s unique requirements.
To find out more about developments in HCIT solutions that are improving patient care, check out our latest whitepaper, “Healthcare: How Moving from Paperless to Frictionless is Improving Patient Care”.