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Expert Commentary: Regulatory Issues

EHRs: Why one size doesn’t fi t all

HITECH Act regulations should not be adopted in isolation, but rather customized to organizations and their practitioners.

By Dr. Geeta Nayyar

enormous strides in advancing technology adop- tion in healthcare. By providing incentives to organizations that successfully implement elec- tronic health records (EHRs), the regulations will ultimately help hospitals and physicians improve quality of patient care, better manage the health of populations and reduce costs.

W In the rush to implement EHR solutions and

receive fi nancial incentives, however, many orga- nizations overlook the importance of customizing the technologies and incorporating physicians’ inputs in the process. Hospitals have unique workfl ows, clinical concerns and challenges, and it’s essential that decision makers consider each of these aspects to ensure that they’re engaging with the appropriate technology, rather than selecting a one-size- fi ts-all solution. Additionally, leaders should consider the clinician’s workfl ow and viewpoint to effectively move an organization forward. As the primary users of EHRs, physicians have an insider’s perspective on the clinical workfl ow of an organization and can provide insights to help best customize a solution.

Going beyond HITECH

The drivers that should motivate your organization to implement health technologies should be the desire to achieve both the HITECH Act’s incentives and to improve clinical care and practice. To make the smart- est decision and gain the most long-term value, leaders should have a 360-degree view of their organizations and needs. An important part of increasing provider engage- ment and EHR adoption is understanding your IT system and how that system integrates within its environment. Hospitals have multiple systems that must integrate. These include: lab management systems, billing and administrative functions, pharmacy systems, radiology

16 January 2011

hen Congress passed the Health In- formation Technology for Econom- ic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act last year, government made

and imaging systems along with an admission/registra- tion function. Long term you may also want to integrate your system into a personal health record (PHR). EHRs are not designed to operate in isolation. They actually function at their full potential when they are sharing and combining information from disparate sources. Because of this, hospitals should approach EHR adoption with a broad focus that extends beyond government HITECH incentives – they should also consider how it will add value to their clinical workfl ows and improve quality of care to ensure they are making the most valuable long- and short-term investments. Full integration will ensure that the right connections are made around the EHR your organization has chosen. Having an understanding of the enterprise architecture needed for your organization will help determine what level of customization might be needed in a particular product. Your organization should assume it will need some degree of customization and then budget for it. This will likely be inevitable for most organizations and should not come as a surprise late in the development of an implementation strategy.


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