by Bryan Fowler
I read a recent post on Quora that stated that the value of digital data in healthcare is so high, it doesn’t matter if physicians and nurses are being inconvenienced by the new EHR systems. While I believe that data is absolutely critical to the innovation of healthcare, there are many things wrong with this statement.
The first is an acceptance of our current state. Our EHR situation is not fine as it is. It is not OK to increase burden with poorly designed or implemented systems – period. As a technologist, I know that the purpose of technology is to make our lives easier AND enable us to do things we have never done before. We have the capability to do this today with current technologies. Why we have or have not achieved this goal is another discussion.
The second problem with this statement is the complete disregard for the people who are the primary providers of the data. What good is data if the data is incomplete, inaccessible or bad?
There is a software usability term called friction. If a system creates a lot of friction (aka resistance or difficulty) between it and the user, the user will not use it as intended. The user will try to find ways to reduce the friction themselves which typically results in behavior such as shortcuts or workarounds. The user will say, “This information needs to be digital? Let’s take a picture of a paper file and upload it.” or “This information needs to be digital? Let’s copy and paste from a word document (and hopefully change out the right pieces of information.)”
Poor data in means little value out. If you want better data for analysis and insights, you have to give your users the tools they need to quickly and efficiently provide the information that is relevant to the tasks they perform. Don’t make them scroll through the same two hundred options in a drop down 100 times a day when they only use ten options. Don’t make them fill out irrelevant fields because they are a specialty provider and your system is geared toward primary care medicine. In short, make it easy for them to give you what you want. Think win-win. Not “take it as is.”
We need to stop thinking we are stuck on the back foot. As a healthcare organization, you have options. You can reengineer your processes while at the same time better optimizing the technology you have to put the two in alignment. Or you can look at alternative software solutions built with newer technologies that embrace user experience and have minimal friction.
The fact is, the revenue integrity and improved patient care of a healthcare organization depend on the quality of the data entered – full stop. It isn’t just forward thinking analysis and insights that are impacted. It is the healthcare eco-system as a whole. Providers need tools that enable them to deliver a better service – not worse. No argument for data is strong enough to warrant a decreased quality of care.