Ingrid Svensson

In daily life, a few minutes of wasted time can quickly offset overall productivity. The healthcare field is no different. As the industry continues to digitize at an accelerated pace, electronic health record (EHR) solutions have become increasingly mainstream, but the ever-changing landscape will require them to continually evolve.

The rapid growth of demand for home-based care and patient-centric experiences, prompted in part by the pandemic, has led healthcare providers to place greater reliance on digital tools like EHRs to boost efficiency. Initially, EHRs were designed to streamline medical claims and billing processes, but the technology ushered in a brand-new paradigm of patient care by improving the way by which providers and patients communicate. 

Recently, health information technologies such as EHRs have come under scrutiny for their lack of specialization — specifically, high volumes of system-generated emails that reportedly contribute to clinician burnout. In response to these criticisms, EHR providers developed “smart” EHRs that leverage health IT and the growing capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize system functionality and engagement. 

The emerging solution embodies the phrase “made by clinicians, for clinicians,” with data-based insights, comprehensive dashboards and risk management all available via mobile platforms. Collectively, the pressure to incorporate these “smart” solutions encourages EHR providers to construct an ecosystem between themselves and their customers, combat industry challenges at large, and offer continuum-wide solutions.

Shortfalls: Post-acute care and interoperability

When the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2009, one of its key provisions was the incentivization of health information technology to encourage its use in ambulatory and acute care settings. While beneficial to those care settings, post-acute care was left out of the plan. 

This created a problem for EHR vendors servicing the out-of-hospital patient population, including those in home health, hospice and palliative care. Incidentally, EHR systems were rapidly adopted and implemented but ultimately lacked one critical element — interoperability. This data exchange deficit, coupled with the gap in post-acute care, would severely impact productivity and a provider’s ability to deliver quality care across the care continuum. 

Pandemic catalyst and existing challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the need for specialized EHR solutions. And because the risk to patient health was much higher in the post-acute care sector, it was vital for providers in this space to adopt a reliable, interoperable system that gave them access to patient data, kept track of pandemic-related protocols, and made it easier for patients and their care team to talk to each other.  

However, providers searching for an EHR solution to better manage pandemic-related issues were subsequently met with new challenges like clinician burnout, retention, the burgeoning senior population, and an incoming staff and patient shortage due to the pandemic itself. 

These issues spawned a new wave of EHR solutions to address the needs of post-acute care providers with a renewed focus on improving connectivity, collaboration and continuity of care. The solutions also feature user-friendly interfaces that help reduce clinician burnout and come with tools that help streamline workflows creating a more effective and satisfactory experience for patients and providers overall.  

Transitioning to a smart EHR ecosystem

The increased visibility the pandemic brought to the healthcare industry has led to a closer examination of the industry’s state, particularly the EHR systems that have become ubiquitous in hospitals and clinics worldwide. The implementation of EHRs has revolutionized the way in which providers collect and store patient data, however, sustaining clinician satisfaction and enhancing provider-to-provider communication is a work in progress. 

To address these issues, the development of “smart” EHR platforms that utilize AI and machine learning has become the gold standard of care. The smart EHR platform is a more intuitive interface with tools like clinical dashboards that track and deliver real-time data for each patient. This innovative use of AI helps to ensure staff is administering proper treatment to the patient while their condition is continuously monitored and communicated most effectively. 

It’s no surprise that the pressure on the EHR system at large has become acutely evident. As a result, the transition from broad systems to specialized platforms has begun. This shift is driving clinicians to become more involved in the design process resulting in a healthy swell of patient and staff engagement. With specialized solutions, providers can help deliver proactive, compassionate care while effectively reducing costs and risks. 

That said, the push for EHRs to become more specialized — and even more advanced — continues with no end in sight. As other vendors enter out-of-hospital markets promising more comprehensive, easier-to-use interfaces, more competition will arise, spurring the next generation of EHRs.

As EHRs continue to evolve, patients will have better access to streamlined, high-quality care, resulting in improved experiences and outcomes while saving providers time and money. 

Ingrid Svensson brings more than 25 years of experience to her role as chief product officer at MatrixCare. She has focused primarily on healthcare and led product management teams in both the US and the UK that developed and launched offerings for payer and provider markets combining content with technology for point-of-care efficiencies.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.