Quality is important to any industry, but is especially important in the healthcare industry as mistakes can cost lives. Being a patient, I appreciate the importance of high quality care. Quality can improve patient satisfaction, create more revenue, reduce mistakes and improve patient outcomes. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) serves as part of the foundation for quality
improvement. The promise of the EHR was in all our minds initially, but with all the activities related to incentive programs and the push for adoption, sometimes we forget the many ways EHR’s can and should improve quality. EHR's assist with placing accurate and complete information about patient’s health and medical history. Having this information allows providers to give the best possible care, by assisting with making efficient and effective decisions through the following:
Improved communication of patient information – communication is improved by accurate information that is easy to retrieve and read. Tasking can be linked to not only specific patients, but specific clinical items. The patient portal component of the EHR also improves communication. Although patients can continue to utilize verbal communication, they also have the choice of reviewing and handling messages through the portal. The portal allows patients to make payments, helping decrease AR days and reduce unpaid visits. Patients’ access to pertinent information at their fingertips helps streamline workflow. As patients adopt the portal, it cuts back on phone calls allowing staff to focus on other clinically higher priority issues.
Population health management - enables providers to review pertinent information about a specific high risk group of patients. This information can be used for scheduling visits, labs, education sessions and generating reminders and guidance of the care of the patients. The data in EHR’s serves as a powerful tool to support population health management efforts to improve patient outcomes and reduce hospitalizations.
Clinical alerts and reminders – clinical alerts and reminders are helpful tools that improve health management and quality. Support/alerts for diagnostic and therapeutic decisions reduces mistakes and risk. The EHR can force input on required fields reducing critical omissions by staff.
Check for drug/allergy interactions for medications – this tool automatically checks for problems when a new medication is prescribed and alerts the physician of potential conflicts and warns of a potentially fatal mistake.
EHR’s should be assisting in your journey to improve quality. Benefits not being realized should be implemented, and those successfully implemented should be celebrated.