Nav Search

Weekly Trend: Push for New Data Could Increase EHR Interface Innovation

The Institute of Medicine recently released a report calling for electronic health records, to include standardized social and behavioral data. This push to include more patient information in EHRs illustrates the way in which the healthcare industry is attempting to keep their practices up to date with the available technological innovation that is becoming ubiquitous across all industries.

Although this movement toward electronic health records is relatively new to the United States’ healthcare system, this practice has been well established for years in other countries. For example, Denmark’s electronic health records system reportedly saves doctors an average of 50 minutes a day in administrative work and has saved Denmark’s health system as much as $120 million a year. However, unlike the United States, Denmark is a welfare state that consists of a homogeneous, small population. Therefore, this Scandinavian nation appears better equipped to provide incentives to doctors for using EHRs as well as facilitate the use of such data systems.

While the potential for EHRs in the United States seems vast, there are problems with the systems that currently exist. Such issues include complicated and inefficient interfaces that hinder rather than help doctors in their everyday routines. Consequently, there has been substantial backlash from medical professionals when it comes to further incorporating this technology into medical practices.

While the recommendation from the Institute of Medicine is based on its desire to improve population health research, as well as ease the job of physicians, the push for increasing the use of electronic health records is met with a significant amount of criticism. Most doctors think of EHRs as a necessary evil rather than a technological innovation that could improve their productivity. In fact, physicians report that EHRs actually add hours to their day; while long-term benefits of improved data and accountability are clear, short-term benefits are practically non-existent in the eyes of many practicing physicians.

Medical professionals note that “the government’s requisites for meaningful use are not relevant to practicing physicians and only serve to create more burdens in the seemingly ever decreasing pool of time left in a day to really practice and speak to patients.” While the integration of EHRs and the push to put more data in these electronically based systems are meant to have positive impacts on healthcare practices, their immediate negative effects, such as reducing doctor productivity, seem to outweigh any long term benefits in the eyes of professionals.

So who is going to fix this problem? Though larger companies, such as AthenaHealth, are focusing on creating a user-friendly cloud-based interface, entrepreneurs are also playing an important role. Cue startups, such as Modernizing Medicine. This company, founded by Dan Cane and Michael Sherling, is looking to revolutionize medical practices by teaming up with physicians in order to create a new user interface for EHRs. This new EHR system eliminates the one-size-fits-all platform that currently slows down medical professionals as they attempt to utilize the technology for their specific field. Because specialties are different, it is no wonder that the standard interface for EHRs is more cumbersome than effective. Cane hopes that his young company will be able to “drive tremendous efficiencies” by establishing a specialty-specific system that provides different types of medical professionals with an ideal organization structure rather than a standard domain.

While boasting great potential, EHRs in the United States have a long way to go before they become seamlessly integrated into the healthcare system. The Institute of Medicine’s push to enter more information into these databases begs the question—will the addition of this social and behavioral data be useful before these databases are themselves improved? If doctors see EHRs as a waste of time rather than an innovative tool, how can this interface become a ubiquitous and beneficial part of healthcare in the United States? With ample room for improvement, innovators will undoubtedly play an important role in changing the EHRs for the better.

Carolyn Peyser

Carolyn is a senior at Tufts University majoring in Sociology and minoring in Communications and Media Studies.