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Clinicians need functional EHRs, not flash

April 14, 2020
David Lareau
By David Lareau

Prior to the cancellation of HIMSS20, I predicted that we would hear a lot of buzz about advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. I expected to read headlines about shiny new solutions such as AI-driven transcription services and ambient listening technologies that would propel us to a new health IT era with highly usable solutions that would help clinicians do their jobs better.

We’ll never know what the biggest HIMSS20 buzz might have been – but I am pretty sure that once we sifted through all the hype, many of the flashy “solutions” might have actually hindered clinician productivity and satisfaction, rather than enhanced it.

Which is a shame, especially in light of CMS’s recent report on EHR usability and provider burdens. The report entitled, “Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs,” focuses on reducing the regulatory and administrative burdens related to the use of health IT. Based on stakeholder input, the report outlines three overarching goals to reduce clinician burnout:

1. Reduce the effort and time required to record health information in EHRs for clinicians
2. Reduce the effort and time required to meet regulatory reporting requirements for clinicians, hospitals, and healthcare organizations
3. Improve the functionality and ease of use of EHRs

While on the surface it sounds great to give clinicians new technologies that automatically capture more data for patients’ charts, the reality is that physicians are already drowning in too much clinical data. This overabundance of data is one of the primary reasons that clinicians are forced to spend so much time looking at their computer screens instead of focusing on patient care.

If we want to improve the functionality and ease of use of EHRs – and reduce clinician burnout – we must empower healthcare professionals with tools that make it easier to find clinically relevant and medically necessary information at the point of care. To make that happen, health IT vendors need to keep the following two points in mind.

Prioritize patient care over billing
EHRs were originally designed with billing and coding in mind, and not to facilitate patient care. To ensure they get paid, physicians are required to spend considerable time producing documentation to support billing and reporting requirements – even though those details don’t necessarily improve clinical decision making or patient care. In fact, because of all the extra “stuff” that is required for billing, patient charts are typically bloated and difficult to navigate.

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