Next-generation EHR: Overcoming the unsustainable
Over time, there have been many significant turning points in the healthcare industry. Some have been positive, like the Hill Burton Act, which resulted in many hospitals getting built. Others haven’t been as positive – like electroshock therapy that resulted in a lot of people getting buzzed in the wrong way. But few compare to the regulation that required eligible providers and eligible hospitals to install electronic health records (EHRs) to fulfill the Meaningful Use mandate.
With the Meaningful Use mandate – like so many other government mandates – good intentions were corrupted by hasty implementation. As an unfortunate consequence, another CMS carrot-and-stick program has provided a great deal more stick than carrot. To make matters even worse, the vision of EHRs helping improve quality and reduce cost has only partially been fulfilled. Quality is improving, because we can better measure processes and outcomes with much more data that originates from the EHR. But the cost of purchasing, installing, customizing, and updating software platforms that are cobbled together and inelegantly developed has been staggering. Forced to purchase software to meet government mandates, hospitals and physician practices blindly launched into long-term investments that were more like Pandora’s Box than the Holy Grail. Independently published EHR satisfaction surveys are like presidential polls, telling us the best choice out of a less-than-satisfactory array of candidates.
All of that history notwithstanding, here we are. CMS continues to make increasing demands for more reporting with an increasing variety of metrics. Hospitals and physician groups continue to grudgingly invest enormous sums of money to modify, upgrade, or change their EHR platforms. The EHR software industry has a license to print money with government permission. The government and the provider sector beg for interoperability and user-friendliness to little avail. What is a healthcare provider to do?