Survey shows EHR optimizations is major priority among health care CIOs

Survey shows EHR optimization is major priority for health care CIOs

Electronic health records have become essential tools as health professionals begin to notice that paper-based procedures in practices and hospitals increase medical errors and make workflows more time-consuming than they have to be. The implementation of EHRs streamlines daily processes, makes it easier to establish more face-to-face time with patients and promotes patient engagement. As health providers across the industry see these benefits, EHR systems continue to increase in popularity. With the approaching ICD-10 deadline and stage 3 meaningful use standards well on their way, the implementation of high-quality EHRs has become particularly important.

A new survey by health care consulting firm Impact Advisors highlights the importance of having a top-notch EHR, finding that the majority of the sector's chief information officers are making EHR optimization a top priority over the next year.

Survey shows importance of EHR optimization
The recent survey showed that health care CIOs are looking to take advantage of all the benefits EHRs offer through optimization of their current systems. The survey took place between May and July and included responses from 40 members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. It consisted of questions that revolved around how important EHR optimization is to them. Group officials who conducted the survey also explained in the report exactly what EHR optimization is, as there are multiple understandings across the industry.

"Optimization – as we define it – can occur before, during, or after an EHR implementation and can be defined along an operational continuum from tactical to strategic needs," they said. "The projects can be department-specific or enterprise-wide and focus on specific improvements related to clinical and/or revenue cycle outcomes."

The findings showed that over 71 percent of respondents planned to make taking advantage of all the benefits their EHRs offer a priority over the next year. When asked for the main reasons for EHR optimization, the participants said either clinical or revenue cycle outcomes. Improving the productivity of providers and enhancing care quality were popular responses. A total of 58.3 percent also stated that they wanted to improve the efficiency of patient access functions, while 25 percent wanted to focus more on reducing cost to collect.

Most of the CIOs – 62.2 percent – agreed that department-specific optimization was their primary focus. Meanwhile, 44.7 percent also said that they are currently on their second phase of development in their optimization efforts with only 36.8 percent in their first stage.

CIOs seek external assistance from vendors
Although EHR optimization is crucial to the enhancement of patient care and establishing streamlined workflows, there are some challenges that the CIOs pointed out in the survey. Around 73 percent noted that other internal and external prioritizes have made it challenging to focus on EHR optimization. To overcome this obstacle and any others that health professionals are facing, the report explained that practices and organizations are likely to seek external assistance from vendors.

"There are many different competing priorities that hospitals and health systems have to deal with right now, and that can make it difficult to give optimization efforts the necessary attention and resources required for success," explained officials from Impact Advisors. "As a result, many health delivery organizations – just like the CHIME members we surveyed – will likely need to turn to an outside services firm or their core vendor for assistance if they want to maximize the potential improvements possible from their EHR investment over the next few years."

While the number of CIOs surveyed was relatively small, the findings do represent the fact that ensuring EHR systems are positively impacting the practice or facility as a whole instead of just the clinical operations is essential to seeing noticeable benefits like improved care quality.