Built-In EHR Reports Won’t Provide the Returns You Want

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Healthcare executives sometimes question why they should invest in health analytics software when they already have reporting features available in their EHR system. As pressure mounts to demonstrate a strong return on their EHR investments, they aren’t sure additional investment in new technologies makes sense. However, many don’t realize that their built-in EHR reports may not satisfy a practice’s basic information needs, nor do they offer the insights needed to get a full return on investment from their EHR data.

EHRs primarily function as data collection platforms to capture the information needed to get reimbursed by payers. However, this only one piece of the pie, as it is health intelligence analytics software which provides the key to transforming EHR data into actionable insights and, ultimately, outcomes. That’s where the ROI resides. If you think your EHR has everything you need to reduce costs and improve quality of care in your practice, you should definitely take five minutes to read this, and consider what else might be possible with all that new EHR data.

EHR data sources are limited

The canned reporting features in EHRs are good at presenting summaries of the data, but what if you have multiple EHR vendors in your practice and they don’t interoperate with one another (hint: they don’t). Often times this means that you or your team are stuck manually pulling numbers into an excel sheet–a colossal waste of resources.

EHRs are also often only single source. For example, what if you want to incorporate one of the many new publicly available or commercial third party data sources; CMS or MGMA datasets, for example? Most EHR systems aren’t flexible enough to pull in external data, which puts your organization at a competitive disadvantage if you rely solely on their built-in reports.

In intelligence analysis, when you rely on information based on a single collection source, you put your decision making at risk.

Standalone analytic software, in contrast to an EHR system, is designed to be multisource and adapt with new dataset types as they become available.

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EHR analytic functionality is basic

Reporting features in EHRs are often simple data summaries, aggregated numbers with some basic calculations, but they don’t actually help you extract the value of your patient and billing records–you need business intelligence software for that. For example, at least one major ambulatory EHR vendor will tell you what your practice’s appointment no-show rate is each month, but how does that help you solve a problem? At best it tells you how severe a problem is, but offers little in the way of figuring out how to fix the issue.

A good health intelligence solution, on the other hand, allows you to drill-down and slice your data in various ways to get to the root of the same problem: identify whether certain providers have higher no-show rates, or visualize how appointment time and patient geography are related to no-shows that cut into your bottom line.

EHR systems don’t offer sophisticated analysis options because they were not designed with analytics in mind.

Their main purpose is to collect patient and billing data, not to provide nuanced insights into the unique needs of healthcare providers. Moreover, steering a large ship like many EHR companies makes it difficult for EHR vendors to develop and stay on top of analysis to meet the demands and trends in healthcare. A vendor focusing exclusively on analytics, on the other hand, is more agile and able to respond to rapid shifts to make sure you have the information your organization needs to treat patients and get paid in a changing healthcare environment.

EHRs have difficult User Interfaces

As a general rule, people don’t enjoy using software with poor user interfaces. This doesn’t just mean a lack of flashy design elements, it also accounts for how simple it is to get a job done. And when it comes to EHRs, with their drop-down menus and click paths, they aren’t revered for their usability, which carries over to their reporting features.

Even the most popular EHR systems are built on outdated technical foundations and programming languages, which prohibits rapid iteration of design and creates usability issues. One medical practice’s IT director told me that running a single report on their EHR would shut their entire system down for four hours. How is a busy executive supposed to visualize, interpret, and make a decision with tools that slow?

Fast decision making requires fast and reliable analytic tools, which often are not available in EHR reporting software.

And even though a practice might be stuck with a clunky EHR for years to come, there’s no reason not to take advantage of all the potential insights from their EHR data. Investing in a separate analytic product with more responsive design and UI now could help executives see that ROI on their data without waiting for the EHR to improve.

Why Adopt an Analytic Solution Now?

A recent survey found that for over 70% of healthcare CIOs, top IT priorities for their organization over the next 12 months are projects that help them realize more value from their EHR investment.Interestingly, almost 75% cited competing priorities as the biggest challenge to getting more value out of their EHR, while only 30% cited budget concerns. It seems the money is available, but executives don’t have the time or staff to maximize the ROI on their EHR systems. By investing in a standalone analytic solution now, those CIOs could alleviate the strain on their team and increase the value of their EHR data.

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While EHR analytics might be OK for viewing baseline data summaries, a practice looking to really understand its business and patients will consider a standalone analytic solution. With a solid analytic tool in its arsenal, a practice can bring in external datasets, get in-depth insights, and have a user-friendly interface so executives can make the most-informed decisions possible.

One Reply to “Built-In EHR Reports Won’t Provide the Returns You Want”

  1. Very interesting article. I just read an article, albeit not related directly to the healthcare industry, that said depending upon analytics to score a business was highly over-rated. I do see, however, that in healthcare, it is necessary. But your point that using standardized or templated data analysis reporting provided through the EHR may not be advantageous. It seems that a system for gathering data specifically for a business should be customized. Before investing in an EHR, it should be determined if customization can be integrated. This is where a company such as Mimir is most beneficial to maximize the power of data analytics.

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