Are you personalizing your EHR?

EHR adoption among office-based physicians has been growing exponentially in recent years — to the point where it's now more of an expectation than an exception.

All the same, just because physicians have implemented an EHR doesn't mean they're using the technology efficiently or to its full potential. That's why it's important to understand available EHR personalization options and provide training on practical uses.

EHR personalization allows physicians to create an individual pathway through their clinical workflow by tailoring the technology to their personal practice approach. Physicians then leverage options within a standard template to create a customized flow.

Some examples include:

  • configuring a note template to match the clinician’s preferred assessment format, pulling in specific results, histories and even patient-reported outcomes;
  • setting up personalized defaults for orders such as medication doses or frequencies to accommodate specific patient populations, gender or race response profiles; or
  • customizing the standard workspace in the EHR, removing aspects that aren’t needed often or adding pieces that allow efficient information entry and retrieval.

Benefits to clinicians and patients
In everyday terms, the EHR becomes more powerful when physicians spend less time navigating the tool and more time leveraging personalized options. A physician who sees a large volume of heart failure patients, for instance, could speed up his or her workflow by establishing a preference list of common orders, medication dosages and default frequencies typically used for those patients. Likewise, single-screen, single-click, automatic chart access and other shortcuts save time when wrapping up a patient visit or closing charts at the end of the day.

[See also: Doctors 'deeply disappointed' by EHR workflow]

In addition to boosting efficiency, a personalized EHR allows the physician more time to consider decision support, enhancing clinical care. The system can also flag patients for clinical research opportunities or generate a quick review of recent studies that suggest alternative care methods.

With less time spent on data entry and information retrieval, the physician can focus on time with the patient offering targeted recommendations. Meanwhile, patients benefit when the physician is more focused on the patient-provider interaction instead of navigating the technology.

A complement to standardization
EHRs provide the opportunity to standardize care delivery across an organization. Improved standardization of care delivery facilitates consistent reporting and more accurate population health monitoring. With established guidelines, personalization can complement standardization to improve clinician efficiency. For example, if a pharmacy standardizes the use of four beta blockers for heart failure, the physician can customize his or her EHR template to list two of the four drugs that he or she prescribes most frequently along with their associated regimens.

[See also: Big Data promises greater personalized care]

To maintain standardization while improving physician efficiency, an organization must clearly define standard processes, indicating what cannot be changed and where personalization is available. Ask your vendor which EHR options can be personalized; take care to avoid those that would negatively impact the clinical documentation specificity required for ICD-10, meaningful use initiatives or reimbursement models.

Training is key
Because most EHRs are complex, personalization training is critical so physicians can see exactly where and how to adapt their preferences. A first step is to demonstrate how small time savings add up. Compare, for instance, the time savings of only entering a password during initial system log-in versus having to enter a password every time an order cosign is completed.

When designing a training program, consider which personalization options are currently available and which will be enabled later, focusing education accordingly. Interactive training works best in a one-on-one setting and helps physicians see and understand the power of the personalized EHR. At the same time, this encourages physicians to perform more tasks on their own, such as continuing to personalize the note templates or updating order defaults. To build comfort and ongoing efficiency, consider offering refresher courses through small lunch-and-learns sessions.

Driving EHR optimization
EHR personalization gives physicians a sense of ownership over how they practice medicine through technology and ensures the EHR becomes a more powerful tool for providing better, more collaborative care. As such, EHR personalization can improve clinician satisfaction and drive efficiency, ultimately helping physicians spend less time interacting with complex technology and more time delivering the best clinical care.

Rachel Miller is the Epic practice manager at Culbert Healthcare Solutions, a professional services firm serving healthcare organizations in the areas of operations management, revenue cycle, clinical transformation and information technology.

[See also: 5 EHR workflow flaws to watch out for]