The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) completed and published a study earlier this year in the journal Health Affairs that found growing evidence of the benefits of health information technology. Note how the ONC carefully crafted their study conclusion. The term “growing evidence” speaks to the gap, which continues to exist to this very day, between larger health IT “leader” organizations (early adopters of health information technology (HIT)) and the small to medium sized medical practices who have recently adopted.
One of the authors of this study and past national coordinator for HIT Dr. David Blumenthal commented on the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of adoption and use of HIT the study revealed. The study also provided a higher level of awareness and understanding of what the problem areas are with HIT adoption that need to be addressed.
There is no question that there are many positive benefits of HIT to both physicians and patients including overall quality and efficiency of health care. The key to physicians and their teams realizing these benefits can be summarized in three-points:
- Building awareness of successful implementation,
- Reinforcing best practices and
- Applying these learnings early in the adoption process.
Understanding the importance of this third point is critical to the short and long-term success of creating a solid HIT foundation – and greatly reduces errors in implementation that may result from insufficient consulting or functional trial and error.
An example of these challenges was shared in a recent physician testimonial found on a reputable software review site, which provides EHR software consulting.
Dr. Beth in private practice in June 2011 wrote:
“The system (EHR) was implemented about 2 months ago, and has brought our productivity down to about 40% of what it was with paper-based records. The system is obviously designed for billing and data mining, but falls very short when it comes to providing care to patients. It does not give physicians the tools needed to quickly review the medical history. It is dangerous to patients.”
It should be noted that the EHR platform this physician commented on was a robust, top-rated ONC-ATCB 2011-2012 certified EHR platform.
The most effective way to reduce the risk of duplicating what Dr. Beth experienced is to engage an unbiased health IT firm that will put physician practice workflows, specific expectations, and patient care first. Only by doing this can practices and HIT providers analyze and determine the solutions that will best meet the practice’s needs.
It is more efficient, effective, less expensive, and much less painful to adopt health IT correctly on the front-end than it is to fix physician or patient workflow issues on the back-end after implementation.
The ONC study reflected that HIT adoption is moving in a positive direction and a new balance of evidence between HIT “leader” organizations and smaller medical practices was found. The opportunity to further reduce or eliminate the gap all together still remains a work in progress for all involved.