By Kevin Keenahan, MSE
Senior Vice President, Business Development Net Health
Since the electronic health record (EHR) was first launched, the technology has gone through numerous iterations. Initially, changes were limited to expanding functionality and ease of use. Providers (and rightly so) pushed developers to make EHRs more intuitive, better reflect their workloads, ensure compliance and proper coding, and integrate seamlessly into their busy workdays.
However, as technology expands across the healthcare universe, the industry is increasingly exploring ways to do and get more from the breadth and depth of data to be found in EHRs and the potential it has to bring more capabilities to other technologies and platforms.
As EHRs continue to evolve, advanced digital innovations will bring additional capabilities and opportunities to improve outcomes and efficiencies while managing costs and streamlining workflows. Here are five of the latest digital innovations that are reshaping the modern EHR.
1. Digital tools are helping ensure more robust and meaningful data is brought into the EHR. Digital tools, including mobile apps, smartphones and hand-held devices, enable providers to record and communicate crucial clinical information directly from the patient bedside or as they write their notes. EHR systems that are linked to digital tools help ensure the information is promptly uploaded and available to all members of the care team. The benefits of these innovations range from saving time to improving outcomes. For example, Tissue Analytics, a Net Health company, automatically measures wound size and seamlessly uploads images and measurements into the EHR. Wound care nurses using digital technologies supported by EHRs can save 5-10 minutes per patient in documentation time, resulting in hours of charting time saved daily. Most importantly, a more complete longitudinal record, made possible through the EHR, leads to more informed treatment decisions.
2. Imaging capabilities have advanced significantly over the past five years. State-of-the-art machine learning and computer vision can now analyse 2D and 3D images to help diagnose and treat a full range of conditions. The task of analyzing healing after knee surgery or measuring hospital-acquired pressure injuries (HAPIs) is significantly improved with 2D and 3D visible light imaging. However, there is an important caveat: the techniques used to capture images should be standardized among users and not cause additional documentation burden.
3. EHRs increasingly emphasize interoperability. According to the official website for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), “EHR Interoperability enables better workflows and reduced ambiguity, and allows data transfer among EHR systems and health care stakeholders. Ultimately, an interoperable environment improves the delivery of health care by making the right data available at the right time to the right people.” 2 Until recently, interoperability was the holy grail for users of EHRs. Everyone knew what it was, everyone wanted it, but the market hadn’t caught up to demand. That’s beginning to change as more EHR platforms, fueled in part by government and industry players, are beginning to communicate more seamlessly. What will further facilitate interoperability is the adoption of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR). FHIR is a framework for exchanging data electronically between health IT systems. Specialty plug-ins in areas like wound care, precision dosing, and patient engagement are also increasing as the industry recognizes the need for specialized functionality. While EHR plug-ins provide needed functionality, to be truly valuable, they must first be fully interoperable with major systems like Epic, Cerner and Allscripts.
4. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) expand capabilities and opportunities through EHRs. APIs are, of course, a key feature in interoperability. For example, Kent Imaging utilizes near-infrared light to determine tissue oxygen saturation (StO2), a key indicator of tissue health. Their API partnership with Tissue Analytics enables clinicians to better plan appropriate interventions, reduce complications and improve outcomes.
5. Research and Clinical Trials are enhanced and expanded with EHRs. The utilization of de-identified data from EHRs provides a wealth of information for clinicians, researchers and even product marketers. When this data is combined with EHRs, it offers industry manufacturers, marketers, scientists and researchers streamlined and simplified access to data from millions of records. There are untold insights that can be used to develop products to improve quality of life and save lives within the EHR. This data can improve organizations’ outcomes, identify how a product is performing in a market or against a competitor, and develop vital new products and services. Careful attention to ensuring all patient and organizational data is kept confidential and siloed helps ensure all relevant constituents can benefit from the EHR data.
And one more benefit . . .
There’s another significant benefit of today’s EHRs, they help facilitate better clinical workflows. When effectively integrated into patient care clinical workflows, working in tandem with EHRs, eliminate the divide between providers, who often look at screens more than their patients.
Additionally, automated clinical workflows can reduce the administrative burden on providers, leading to a better patient experience, higher patient satisfaction, and lowering the cost of care. One of the more important benefits of these capabilities is that they allow clinicians to spend more time doing what they were trained to do – spend time with the patient.
Health systems, hospitals, and physician groups realize the importance of aligning the use of the EHR to support the care teams’ delivery of patient care. Optimizing clinical workflows, advancing the use of all the EHR can offer, and educating care team members will help build competency and proficiency in using the EHR and new digital tools.
Kevin Keenahan is the co-founder and CEO of Tissue Analytics, Inc., upon Tissue Analytics’ acquisition by Net Health, Kevin joined as Net Health’s SVP of Business Development.
After completing his BS in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Kevin joined the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design at Johns Hopkins University for his MSE in Bioengineering Innovation and Design. He went on to cofound Tissue Analytics, Inc. in 2014 and has been recognized as a speaker at the GSV Pioneer Summit, CES, and the Conference of the European Wound Management Association.
Tissue Analytics is a best-in-class wound imaging and documentation solution that uses computer vision to automatically measure and document wound healing. The product is able to reduce electronic medical record documentation time and provide highly accurate data on wound outcomes. The technology has changed the wound care workflow for hundreds of health institutions by giving clinicians objective and automated insights into wound depth, volume, tissue types, and healing velocity. The product offers SMART on FHIR integrations with WoundExpert, Epic, Cerner, and Allscripts. For more information on Net Health, visit www.nethealth.com.
In 2020, Tissue Analytics was acquired by Net Health.