Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Johns Hopkins Part 3: Getting the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Right

Today I received a call from Stephanie L. Reel, Vice Provost for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, The Johns Hopkins University. We discussed the importance of having an EHR system that worked for health care providers and patients. I suggested that she talk to some end users to see what actually works and does not work.

My experiences demonstrated how the EHR system can become a burden for all levels of health care providers and patients. This becomes exacerbated when the productivity of health care providers is measured and calibrated by the inputs and metrics that are captured as part of the EHR. It seems that with all the numbers that are crunched the qualitative aspect of health care interactions are lost. Moreover, the value of the interpersonal dimension of care is diminished if not obliterated by just counting the procedures that are quantitative, i.e., easy to measure. As a result a health care provider ends up spending more time in front of a computer than in front of a patient. This is not what was intended.

All health care providers and patients want an EHR that works. Health care providers need to have an EHR system that helps them input, review, and correct patient information accurately and easily. Patients want information that is accurate so that the precious time with their health care provider is not spent making corrections.

In our case my husband has an excellent physician and I want to make sure that the tools that are at his disposal are useful tools and not impediments. I also want to make certain that during those visits that by their very nature are stressful, that time does not have to be wasted because the EHR failed to do what it was intended to— be a vital tool for patient safety by reducing the likelihood of medical errors.