July 20, 2021
Over the last several decades, the healthcare industry has seen widespread adoption of EHRs to manage patient information, improve outcomes and streamline the process of patient care.
Implementing these systems requires new training for physicians and staff to ensure advanced features are being used efficiently and correctly. According to the Future Health Report 2019, commissioned by Phillips, 70% of providers reported that advanced EHR systems can improve the quality of clinical care.
But how do they do it, and how can you make the most of these technologies?
EHRs have the potential to significantly improve the quality of care but are often hindered by poor implementation and users who aren’t taking advantage of advanced features.
However, fully employing advanced EHR features leads to better care. A study by the JAMA Network found ambulatory clinics that use advanced EHR capabilities saw higher scores on clinical quality compared to other clinics.
The study looked at ambulatory clinics across three states from 2014 to 2017 and found that “ambulatory clinics with advanced EHR capabilities were associated with a better performance on a composite measure of ambulatory clinical quality than clinics with less-advanced EHR capabilities; clinics that adopted advanced EHR capabilities during a 3-year period were not associated with significant increases in ambulatory clinical quality performance.”
This suggests that the impact of advanced EHRs may take time to become apparent in clinics that are still learning the systems and might not be taking advantage of advanced capabilities.
As these systems are updated and become more complex physicians and staff need to stay on top of the changes and continue to learn the systems. This is particularly important considering that EHR systems that are too complex lead to physician burnout from the frustrations and inefficiencies that come with window switching and attempting to get various systems to work together.
An EHR superuser is a physician or staff member in the office who is an expert in the use of the EHR system, knows all the advanced features and is up to date on any changes in the system. This superuser’s familiarity with best practices provides a foundation of knowledge and experience in using the system and can also act as a resource to provide internal training for others in the practice.
The JAMA Network study concluded that, “over 2 to 3 years, the largest clinical quality increase was in clinics that already have a functioning EHR that is being underused in terms of its capabilities.”
This suggests that having a superuser in the practice will ensure those advanced features are being used, whether it is speech recognition for notetaking or decision support and order management that can improve the accuracy and efficacy of patient care.
Taking advantage of underused EHR features requires the training and consistent use of the features a superuser can bring to the practice. For instance, AI is becoming a more prevalent feature of EHR systems for staff and patient scheduling and patient monitoring but is often underused because it requires expertise to implement correctly.
According to the Phillips Future Health Index, only 47% of clinicians are comfortable using AI to aid in diagnosis and recommendation of treatment plans. These advanced AI features can be an invaluable component of improving clinical care and performance if they are used by well-trained superusers who can lead the rest of the practice.
Giving patients greater access to their health records and sharing that data between different providers can empower patients and lead to higher quality care.
However, the Phillips study found that “only one-third of healthcare professionals share patient information electronically with other healthcare professionals outside their health facility.” EHR systems streamline the sharing process, but the capability is currently underused.
Phillips also found that 69% of physicians using digital health records reported a higher quality of care, and 64% of those surveyed reported higher job satisfaction. This demonstrates that the technology is vital to the future of clinical performance and providing better patient care while also easing the workflow for clinicians.
Keeping up with the latest features of EHR technology is essential to improving clinical care, and having a superuser on staff is the best way to ensure underutilized features are being employed effectively. While an advanced EHR can take several years to fully integrate into a practice, the accurate and comprehensive patient data managed by the system leads to a better healthcare experience for both patients and providers.