How is technology impacting the business side of health care?

Electronic health records are poised to change not only how physicians deliver care, but also their office workflows. Patient portals can make everything from booking appointments to medical billing go more smoothly, but has EHR adoption changed physicians' business procedures? Recently, HIT Consultant spoke to David McCormick, the chief operations and technology officer at Premier Family Physicians in Austin, Texas, who explained how he believes EHRs have impacted the way physicians do business, as well as where he sees health care going in the future

He stated that many physicians have already taken that first step and have adopted EHRs, but now is the time to start connecting EHR information to other providers to give patients more coordinated care. In order to do this, physicians can set up patient portals so individuals can be connected to their own health records, and doctors can also begin sharing files through their local health information exchange. 

McCormick added that he believes EHR adoption has changed the way health care professionals do business by making it more like other industries. 

"Every other industry religiously gathers critical data and measures key indicators to know if they are meeting goals, etc. Health care is just now beginning to do this with broad EHR adoption. The ability to aggregate clinical data into analytical systems, evaluate key quality measures (think PQRS/HEDIS, etc.) that adjust processes and workflows based on this data and develop evidence-based protocols is speeding up the rate of change within practices. Physicians will have to continue to leverage the new tools and processes to gain efficiency. This is similar to the way the rest of the workforce has made technology fueled efficiency gains over the last few decades," McCormick told HIT Consultant. 

New tools for health care professionals
McCormick added that there are many new health care information technology tools out there that providers have been adopting to help enhance their EHRs. For example, he said that there are patient engagement tools that help physicians connect to those they treat through the Internet as well as mobile devices. This is important, considering that many people use their smartphones and tablets as much – if not more – than they use laptop and desktop computers. He explained that these types of tools can also help show patients that a practice is tech-savvy, which is something that many people are looking for in this new era, particularly if they live in a large city. 

Helping doctors get tech-savvy
Recently, The Atlantic published an article questioning why many health care providers do not seem to be more concerned with the latest technologies. For example, the author of the piece explained that few of the doctors she goes to use email to communicate with their patients. This means that many questions she has about medication refills or side effects lead to her having to get her doctors on the phone – something that is not always an easy task. 

She explained that this whole process can be a very frustrating one. This may be one of the reasons why research has shown that patients would be willing to switch providers in order to see a doctor who has implemented an EHR system and can give them access to patient portals. 

Doctors who want to show to their patients that they are ready for the new era and are eager to be a part of this tech-forward culture should look into purchasing EHR systems and tools that can help them stay electronically connected to their patients at all times.