Remember the time of snail mails when you had to await the arrival of a letter from a loved one for days on end? Well, it’s the same before with patient flow and the flow of healthcare information except that it doesn’t necessarily take days for information to be handled by each departments (time is crucial when it comes to saving lives). But now, with almost everything digitized, healthcare professionals can access patient information and those relating to it as needed and in a snap. With the introduction of EHR (Electronic Healthcare Records) systems, it should no longer be a problem.
The flow of healthcare information process, to give you a general idea, starts from a face-to-face consultation with the doctor, with the doctor taking voice notes through a recording device. The voice recording will then be forwarded to transcriptionists, whose job of course is to transcribe the doctors’ notes. The file will then be sent back to the institution so that healthcare professional, coders, pharmacies and billers can make meaning out of them. It’s still quite a complicated and time-consuming process if you think about it.
According to AHA Solutions, an American Hospital Association Company, results of the 2012 patient flow challenges assessment (PFCA) survey show that communications is the “root cause” of patient flow problems. Participant were also tremendously concerned about specific communication issues. On the other hand, participants also view communication as an important factor in solving “patient flow challenges.”
Inaccuracies, human error and technology limitations present huge challenges in healthcare informatics. As exemplified by many high-profile cases and lawsuits in previous years, these limitations also cost patient lives and mire institutions in expensive legal pitfalls. Delays in healthcare information processing also poses significant challenges in the quality and cost of patient care. However, if patient information– which include anything from diagnosis to prescription– is readily accessible (interoperable, being the operative word) to both allied healthcare and healthcare professionals, then there won’t be a delay in diagnosing, admitting, administering treatments or prescriptions to patients, and discharging patients. It will also save healthcare institutions logistical cost.
According to Biz Journal guest columnists Mary Jo Newhouse and Paul DeMuro, having healthcare information readily available is a key element in optimizing the delivery of more affordable but quality healthcare. The two law practitioners, who are both connected with Schwabbe, Williamson and Wyatt, noted that the use of a cross-collaborative and interoperable electronic health records system can revolutionize the whole healthcare infrastructure and service delivery. This electronic health records system, of course, should be available across all board and between different providers, Newhouse and DeMuro said.
What’s the kind of model should healthcare institutions systems emulate? DeMuro and Newhouse said an ideal electronic healthcare records system should comprise a “clinical decision support system, an e-prescribing feature, a computerized physician order entry or electronic referral system” combined with the way patient-centered medical homes are “organizing and delivering primary care or cross-collaborative care” as in the case of patients with severe medical conditions. The two added that the model should also “also aligns incentives to keep patients well” rather than merely administer treatments.
In summary, an electronic health records system that is accessible by different provider through different platforms, including mobile devices, could improve patient care in a cost-saving manner. It will also prevent everyone’s efforts from falling through the cracks.