The following is a preview of a soon to be released article on Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and business process. To receive a copy, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The move to electronic medical records (EMRs) is underway in the US. This critical component of health information systems is already yielding benefits for an inefficient system. However, without robust business process management (BPM) in place, EMRs will struggle to deliver on their potential. EMRs are lonely for business process.
Capturing and managing records electronically has many benefits over paper-based systems, with or without Stimulus enticements. But what do we gain if we stop at making paper into digital records?
Moving to a digital system has a big impact on work activities. If an EMR is implemented without a very careful look at impact to work, inefficiency will be introduced alongside the disruption of learning new things. This can have a devastating effect on productivity and system acceptance.
Making things digital brings enormous opportunity IF all of that newly captured information is free to be used by more than one system, for analytics and dashboards, and for real-time decision making.
Beyond the obvious benefits, there is a need for new applications of technology to improve health outcomes. Reacting to dangerous situations like sepsis requires constant vigilance that isn’t so easy with multiple caregivers and departments interacting with patients. Technology, however, can be in a ‘constant query’ pattern that can see patterns emerge in the moment. EMRs are traditionally built to do this and are instead more focused on fee-for-service transactions.
The steady drumbeat
Beyond the immediate is the need for day in, day out management of organizational change. Healthcare is changing so rapidly that there are real risks of change fatigue and organizational burnout.
Training and retraining will be key to using EMRs efficiently as first rollouts and follow on releases need to be ‘swallowed’ by healthcare organizations. It is no longer reasonable to manage training as a separate set of information from business process when they can be one and the same.
The EMR won’t be a platform for continuously working to eliminate waste and improve operations. There needs to be a process layer above and distinct from the transactional EMR system where activity based costing, analysis, simulation and automation can occur. Why would you disconnect this work from process, change, training and EMR deployment? You don’t have to and you shouldn’t.
Lastly, there’s no reason for EMR implementations to be reinvention of the wheel in each healthcare organization. Frameworks are available through APQC and others. Just like process, change, training and system deployment, things like benchmarking and compliance need to be fully integrated to be easily managed.
If your EMR is lonely for business process, reach out to me for my article on the topic. I’d be happy to play matchmaker.