From silent movies to streaming video: Our electronic health records (EHR) journey has just begun

July 12, 2019 Amy Compton-Phillips

by Amy Compton Phillips, M.D.

[6 MIN READ]

In my role as chief clinical officer, I spend a lot of time speaking with caregivers, and not surprisingly, I’m especially keen to hear from our nurses, physicians, pharmacists and other clinicians. My conversations center around how to improve your care while at the same time simplifying the administrative tasks we are required to do by law.

While you may not see the complexities and regulatory requirements associated with the care you receive, I want to open the kimono a bit. Here’s an insider’s view of the work doctors do after you leave the office; we’re dedicated to our patients even after office hours.

One of the biggest things we spend our time on is documenting patient information in our electronic health records (EHR) platform. Some studies have shown that clinical professionals spend 30% to 50% of their time at a computer vs. interacting with patients, which is what we’re actually passionate about.

In terms of the EHR revolution in health care, we’re probably at the VHS stage of development—better than what came before it, but in need of major improvements to address the clunky features of the platform.

I’ve been looking back on when I started practicing medicine compared with where we are today, and I’m grateful for how far our technology has progressed, even though it may still seem arduous at times.

Think about the beginning of the movie industry, when grainy, black-and-white silent films revolutionized how we experience entertainment. A more recent “evolution of the revolution” allowed us to watch movies at home. Remember the VHS-Betamax war? Then came DVDs, followed by DVRs, and now you can stream a feature film to your smartphone.

In terms of the EHR revolution in health care, we’re probably at the VHS stage of development—better than what came before it, but in need of major improvements to address the clunky features of the platform.

A little history

Before EHR came along, doctors used paper charts that were easy to work with, but also carried enormous risk and inefficiencies. As our chief nursing officer in Southwest Washington reminded me, “We used to have to figure out what a doctor’s written instructions were by consensus - ‘What do you think this word is?’ - and the risks that created for making errors kept me up at night.”

Obviously, the care we provide to you demands more care than deciphering doctor scribbles—and they do scribble. EHR platforms provide many benefits to both you and your doctors. For you, it enables the transference of your profile electronically across space and time. For doctors, it ensures that they have a central and holistic view of your medical background.

We used to have to figure out what a doctor’s written instructions were by consensus - ‘What do you think this word is?’ - and the risks that created for making errors kept me up at night.

Complexities aside, we believe it’s always better to have medical information enabled by an EHR versus missing important patient background information. But with the technology available today it shouldn’t be so difficult to input and access that information. It shouldn’t be a stressor for caregivers that could inhibit their ability to see more of their existing patients or take on new ones. But it is.  

So, what are we doing to make sure things really do get better?

Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) has been a leading voice for change with our future sole EHR partner, Epic. As all parts of the PSJH family of organizations join the same Epic platform, we will gain real efficiencies of this technology. Specifically, our investment in moving the entire organization to Epic will make the EHR platform caregivers’ technological servant rather than their taskmaster. This evolution will allow them to focus more on what they love – caring for and treating patients.

We have a vision to get to Health 2.0. Simplifying the EHR administrative tasks for caregivers is one investment Providence is making to put you at the center of all that we do.

Our clinical informatics team is gathering feedback from clinicians that will help improve the tool. We are working to improve the code that runs Epic. And our innovative clinical analytics team is working on tools to allow for local hospital or clinic innovations that can further enhance the single Epic system.

I don’t know when the streaming video equivalent of an EHR system will arrive, but I’m excited that every caregiver across the PSJH family can contribute to the next generation of this technology to help us deliver more patient-centric care.

We have a vision to get to Health 2.0. Simplifying the EHR administrative tasks for caregivers is one investment Providence is making to put you at the center of all that we do.

Learn more about our investments in digital health and how we’re investing in innovations that help both consumers and our caregivers here

About the Author

Amy Compton-Phillips, M.D., is an internationally respected healthcare executive, innovator, speaker and author serving as executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Providence St. Joseph Health. She is responsible for improving health, care and value outcomes delivered by the 51 hospitals, 800+ clinics, and 115,000 caregivers of the $25 billion health system.

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