Care quality enhancements: How EHRs can help

The University of Missouri Health Care is the perfect example of how high-quality electronic health records have the potential to enhance a practice's care quality. In a recent announcement, the organization noted that it has ranked higher on the University HealthSystem Consortium's list of top health care organizations, thanks to its EHR system. In fact, just last year, MU Health Care was one of only a few medical centers to be awarded the Quality Leadership Award.  

Success with EHR system encourages new ideas 
Mitch Wasden, MU Health Care CEO, told EHR Intelligence that its success is a result of its work through Tiger Institute for Health Innovation – a partnership between the University of Missouri and Cerner Corporation.

"So much of the EMR is documentation, patient safety, etc., so our ranking and technology use are closely related and correlated," Wasden told EHR Intelligence. "Three years ago we were 56 out of 141 academic medical centers, last year we were 27th, and this year we're 9th."

Not only does MU Health Care use EHRs to assist in improving workflow and enhancing care quality, but it is also working on developing new ideas for the system. The opportunity to share these ideas with Cerner Corporation makes the partnership a rare opportunity for the health care provider.

MU Health Care works on new projects
MU Health Care's Plan, Do, Study, Act Model, has come as a result of the organization's ability to come up with and share innovative ideas. The model calls on members of the organization to think of quality initiatives for future health IT that cover each of its four categories. The organization currently employs over 5,000 people. Each of these employees must partake in two projects focused on ideas for health IT quality every year. According to Wasden, the need for innovative ideas is crucial, as health care is changing quickly. 

The organization developed a unique database that is created specifically to log and track the progress of each project over three-week time frames. The new database was designed to support the program and push employees to find ideas and strategies that will work to enhance future technologies.

Logging and completion of each project is the main goal for the first two years. The third year, however, is focused on using metrics to determine how effective the results were. The underlying goal is not just to encourage thinking and activity, but progress and results. This plan allows the organization to quantify the total impact.

Potential innovations
For future work, Wasden hopes that innovation will focus on improving patient engagement. MU Health Care owes much of its success to its patient portal. The organization has found it to play a vital role in aggregating patient health information. This is why many of the projects are centered around creating new ideas for EHRs' patient portals. 

The next goal MU Health Care has its sights on is electronic visits, which could potentially include videoconferencing with physicians or even asynchronous texting appointments. This would greatly enhance the convenience with which patients are able to talk to their physicians, as this is what the patient portal is designed for. A well-designed EHR system has the potential to increase patients' understanding of their current health conditions and diagnoses.

Another additional feature that MU Health Care hopes will eventually enhance patient portals is patient access to registry data, which would be viewed to determine their medical data and history. However, Wasden is most interested in the potential of a patient-facing dashboard that would be added to the patient portal to enable them to view procedures that should be completed within a specific time frame. Each procedure will be based on age, current medical conditions and sex.

The patient dashboard is just an idea at the moment, but the organization hopes that it will make it into systems soon. Effective EHR systems make it easy for patients to keep track of tasks and procedures, increasing the likelihood that patients' registry data is up to date and relevant.

One of the key aspects to the expansion of the patient portal is integration. Increased integration will decrease the problem of fragmented care delivery, which many practices find themselves facing. High-quality EHR systems use the patient portal to enhance the convenience for both the patient and providers while increasing the amount of patient engagement. These new innovations may one day enhance these patient portals even further. For the time being, however, providers should focus on investing in a reputable system with easy access to patient data, history and documents.

Specialty EHR systems have a significant impact on the ease with which doctors can locate patient information and history. They are a good idea for practices that cover more complex fields, such as orthopedics. Providers should be aware that aspects like clickability are keys to improving workflow and documentation processes.