Implementing an EHR or Changing Patient Care? What is the focus?

I have worked on many projects with the objective of implementing an EHR.  It seems that somewhere along the way, the goal sometimes gets lost.  Yes, from an IT project perspective, sometimes the goal is to get the EHR live, however healthcare organizations should not have EHR projects with the goal of “getting an Electronic Health Record live.”

They have to go back to the reasons why the project started.  What were all of those questions or requirements that were in the RFP or search process, that get out of focus?  There are now government organizations and others with initiatives to help encourage EHR adoption which can be interpreted hundreds of ways.  It sounds dreadfully obvious, EHRs exist to improve healthcare in many ways and those are the reasons for the projects, not the implementation milestones.

As part of an organization with a large focus of helping healthcare organizations embrace technology to improve patient care, I often find myself reminding myself and others why we are doing what we are doing.   Admittedly it is easy to get caught up in the race to the finish line.   If the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t remain the target it becomes easy to make poor decisions along the implementation path that drastically affect utilization.

Cost reduction, efficiency gain are often a large part of the focus, but properly implemented EHRs can enable more thorough, compliant and consistent care.  The accessibility of the information available in a properly implemented EHR  to individuals within the healthcare organization can be phenomenal.  Once organizations realize the magnitude of the data available, the old reporting mechanisms and their data become minuscule compared to the power of the discrete data in an EHR.

Problem list population can be overwhelming, but on the back side, order entry can be achieved much easier if driven by the problem lists, notes can have problems automatically cited,  health maintenance can be driven by these problems etc.

I could go on with a many more examples and don’t contend that an EHR implementation can take place without the IT folks, but want to do everything to make it clear that we are implementing EHRs for healthcare and the technology is just what gets us there.

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