The EHR Vendor Perspective: Physicians Are Not The Only Ones That Struggle

The healthcare information technology (HIT) market moves at a pace unlike any other industry. It seems if you took a week’s vacation, you would be left in the dust.

Under the wide umbrella of Health IT, no area is growing and changing more than EHRs.

Here’s what a lot of physicians don’t realize: EHR vendors feel the burn of growing pains too.

Most EHR vendors have been stretched to the limit with the changing environment of HIT. They struggle with implementing new routines, updating their solutions, and maintaining certifications. The pace is hectic, and it can feel like there are not enough hours in a day to get it all done. The time crunch causes many vendors to do the bare minimum to upgrade their solutions, with some features getting pushed down the development roadmap. Unfortunately, the bare minimum in solutions upgrades is usually driven by Meaningful Use Certification and not features that would improve usability for physicians.

It seems many EHR vendors have completely lost sight of what their systems were supposed to do from the beginning: Support the physician.

In an article on Government Health IT, Tim Andrews, VP of Booz Allen Hamilton describes a universal mission statement that can be used by EHR vendors when developing their EHR systems in the future:

“Truly effective user experience remains vital to the future success of our integrated healthcare system. We must look at the complete user experience, however, and not sacrifice power for ease of use. If we strike the right balance between function and performance with usability, we can meet the future health IT needs and match the skills of the user from beginner to expert, consumer to clinician.”

Remember: An EHR should help the physician provide the best possible medical care for their patients. Although there are the initial growing pains on both sides- the long term result will be rewarding!

Where is The Friction in Your Organization?

In physics, friction is broadly defined as a force that resists motion. More friction means more work required to move in the direction that you want to. However, this concept isn’t limited to physical objects–we frequently make use of the term in software, as well.

For example, in the world of online retail, friction applies to any part of the workflow that makes it harder for the customer to purchase a product. Consider this:

  • Does the customer need to create an account before purchasing? That’s friction.
  • Does the customer need to wait for e-mail approval before completing the checkout? More friction.
  • Does the customer need to call the company first to verify her identity? That is an overwhelming amount of friction— and yes, some retailers do still do this!

If there is too much friction, the customer may decide that it’s just too much effort and will look elsewhere. Eliminating friction has the opposite effect, as companies like Amazon have learned. Reducing friction in the purchase process–sometimes to a single click– leads to a better shopping experience and more sales.

Friction in the EHR/EMR World

In the EHR/EMR world, friction is everywhere. Physicians, specialists, and staff want to move forward with diagnosing and treating patients, while the regulatory environment naturally generates friction in response. Adapting to a new technology platform can cause friction, as well. The main benefit of EHR and EMR software is to reduce friction on these fronts. EHRs that succeed at this create smoother processes for their customers and higher KLAS rankings for themselves.

Friction in a single department

Software developers also encounter friction that can dramatically slow their progress. Working through unfamiliar code can become a quagmire. Attempting to insert a new feature into an existing architecture can also pose a challenge. At SRS, we have cross-team workgroups comprised of developers and managers with mandates to address these issues. For example, our Architecture workgroup is responsible for making it as easy as possible to accommodate new features and requirements. The Quality & Standards workgroup is tasked with ensuring that teams are following the same standards, so that a developer can parachute into a new area of the codebase and still feel like it’s familiar territory.  Less developer friction translates to less frustration and higher productivity, and we are always looking for ways to reduce friction even further.

So I ask that you take a few minutes and think of where there is friction in your organization, and what steps you can take to reduce it. Doing so will bring countless benefits.


Fun Friday Read

Check out, “Shopping for an EHR (the second time around)” by Sheryl Cash!  Cash provides valuable insight on understanding that it’s important to avoid making the same mistakes the second time around when replacing your failing EHR. Enjoy!

5 Marketing Strategies for a Changing Environment

When it comes to marketing, change is constant. Sure, practices can follow marketing strategies that worked in the past, but this does not always guarantee more patient visits. Industries change, strategy needs change, and the way we receive our information is constantly shifting. As a marketer, it’s important to constantly think ‘outside the box’ so you stay ahead of the curve and not behind it.

There are many ways to do this—here are a few to consider:

1) Keep an open mind about your  establishment

Different is not wrong, it’s just different. Stay open to new ideas, even if you’re not comfortable with them just yet. A leftfield concept may become your strongest marketing asset. Even if it fails, do not discourage future creative thinking—you need to experiment with what works and what doesn’t to end up with a few homeruns.

2) Encourage collaboration

Group think is powerful (especially when pizza is involved)! Build a creative team within your practice that holds group brainstorms around major marketing initiatives. Or invite everyone to provide feedback around an idea via e-mail. Great ideas usually stem from good ones. Limiting creative direction to only one or two individuals may stunt the creative process and the potential of coming up with something great.

3) Stay informed

Whether you have an MBA in marketing or have only read a few articles online, there’s always room to learn more and get inspired. One of my favorite authors is David Meerman Scott—his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, provides a great overview of today’s marketing channels and how they can work for your business. Industry blogs are also very informative—HubSpot, Marketo, and Mashable are some of my favorites.

4) Get outside perspective

Creative agencies, marketing firms, and marketing consultants specialize in giving tailored advice and creating customized programs based on your business objectives. Budget will be required, but many times, the expert perspective is worth the investment.

5) Listen and learn

Customers, prospects, and your patient-facing colleagues can provide you with a wealth of information, whether they’re pain points, product or service innovations, or market perspective. To gather these golden nuggets, try conducting focus groups or sending simple online surveys. For your own sales or patient-facing teams, I recommend scheduling casual roundtable discussions that provide ample opportunity to learn what they’re seeing and what they need. This is also a good opportunity to bounce around different campaign ideas, to get their take on which ones may be successful.

‘Business as usual’ can be a safe approach to certain things, but not marketing. It’s important to constantly challenge yourself and your business to think beyond what’s always been done. Remember—to quote one of my favorite lines—it’s not about going, but growing.