News Feature | November 25, 2014

EHR Usability Issues Highlighted By Ebola Outbreak

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

EHR Usability Issues Highlighted By Ebola Outbreak

While interoperability has heavily been discussed as an ideal for the U.S. healthcare system, it has taken a communicable disease to highlight exactly why the goal is important, and how far behind we really are in achieving true, systemically beneficial levels of interoperability.

The Problem

The New York Times highlighted a very plain issue with EHRs in September — systems frequently can’t communicate, and companies are at a standoff in taking responsibility. Caught in the middle are doctors, hospitals, and other providers, who are concerned that the systems they put in place to save money and leverage health information, aren’t functioning the way they’d hoped.

The recent domestic emergence of Ebola has escalated concerns over what these issues mean on a much more tangible level

A Doctor’s Perspective

The discussion has prompted a doctor to respond, highlighting his perspective as a clinician who’s found many issues with EHR use overall (also featured on Search Health IT). Alan Ducatman, M.S., M.D., Professor Of Public Health and Professor Of Medicine At West Virginia University, highlighted the following complaints:

  • Information Is Still Siloed. This means that physicians, who go only where they need to go within a patient record, are directed through a path that’s focused on closing the encounter, not exploring the wealth of information in the record, frequently entered by support staff.
  • The Problem Is Bigger Than Tech. While the way in which physicians use EHRs is partly influenced by the self-interest of EMR creators, the problem is increased by an expanding e-workload (influenced by federal policy, and increased by insurance policies).
  • The Focus Is Still On Payment. …and this isn’t just the fault of the federal government, who’ve been largely hands-off in the process. Much of the connection of EMR to payment is a result of the low-level battle between interactions of payers and providers.
  • The Human Component Is Too Easily Forgotten. Sometimes human issues pop up that the care team needs to be discussing, but that aren’t reflected in the EHR.

Going Deeper

To learn more about some of the foundations of achieving true interoperability, read, Data Normalization: A New Source Of Value For Your Healthcare IT Clients.