Much has been written about the effectiveness of electronic health records (EHRs), from whether they improve or impede workflows, to how they help or hinder clinical documentation, to their role in alleviating or adding to physician burnout. While these debates continue, one certainty is that the EHR is a central repository of patient information, and thus EHR integration is vital for everyone involved in patient care.
Technology has evolved greatly since the introduction of electronic medical records in the 1960s, when Dr. Larry Weed’s problem-oriented medical record gave other doctors access to a patient’s entire medical history. In 1972, the Regenstrief Institute took the concept a step further by “stitching together,” or consolidating, medical information from siloed systems such as immunization registries and laboratory results at the Indiana University Medical Center. Not long after, in 1979, Judith Faulkner founded Epic, and Neal Patterson, Paul Gorup and Cliff Illig founded Cerner, two of today’s major EHR vendors.
Realizing the true value of the EHR.
Jump to 2018, and we’re moving past Meaningful Use mandates to fully leverage healthcare organizations’ investment in EHRs as well as related functions such as computerized provider order entry (CPOE) and health information exchanges (HIEs). The true value of EHRs lies not only in the ability to store information but also to make that information easily accessible to caregivers and other critical hospital systems. Interoperability is essential to bring together patient information in the EHR with alert notifications from multiple sources and a comprehensive communication platform that connects the entire care team. In other words, now that we’ve “stitched together” different data sources into one repository, we need to also “stitch together” the systems that make data available to the care team.
As healthcare has become increasingly complex, care teams have also become more elaborate. Each patient might have a primary care physician, multiple specialists, nurses, therapists, case managers and other caregivers on their “team.” Each member of the team has a different area of expertise and views the patient in a different way. To support collaboration among multiple team members and create a full view of the patient’s needs rather than a cluster of fragmented facts, many of today’s EHRs have built in the concept of a treatment team or care team.
To date, this functionality hasn’t been fully exploited because there hasn’t been a driving use case. Now, with the evolution of the healthcare communication market, integrating with the EHR poses new possibilities. As healthcare organizations implement advanced communication solutions like Voalte Platform, which uses a patient-centric Directory, they can make the patient-based information in the EHR available to the care team to support collaboration and clinical decision-making.
Deciding who is part of the care team.
First, we will need to define who is part of the care team and how to keep that information up-to-date. Does the care team include everyone who could possibly contribute to the patient record? Or only those who receive alarms and alerts related to a patient? Academic medical centers also need to consider how to provide an appropriate chain of command from resident to fellow to attending, and from nurse to Charge Nurse to nursing supervision.
Care team policies and standards might also need to be developed unit by unit to ensure they work for specific clinical workflows. In some units, nurses log in to access patient records multiple times each day. A common challenge is that people remember to add themselves to the care team, but forget to remove themselves at the end of a shift.
Integrating Voalte Platform with the EHR makes it easier for care team members to quickly collaborate on patient care using group text messages. They can see at a glance who is busy, and save time by reaching out only to those who are available. For EHRs that don’t include the concept of a care team, healthcare organizations can rely on Voalte Platform for a patient-centric Directory that makes it easy to view by name, role, rooms or patients.
To see how to integrate your EHR with a patient-centric communication platform, schedule a demo at Booth 7131 at HIMSS18 or read our new white paper, 3 keys to patient-centric care team communication.
Alex Brown is Director of Strategy at Voalte.