Ask the HTRAC Expert: Q&A with Andrew Sawyer, Falcon Consulting Group

 

Interview Conducted by: Parham Eftekhari, Co-Founder & EVP of Research, HTRAC Council

 

As healthcare organizations look toward the future and grapple with maximizing the ROI on their EHR systems, Rural Health and Long Term Care is quickly emerging as the logical next stepIn this month’s edition of “Ask the Healthcare Expert”, we sit down with Andrew Sawyer ( VP of Service Delivery) at Falcon Consulting, a leading consulting firm that is gaining notoriety in the industry as an EHR Optimization expert to hear his views on this important issue.

 

(Parham) Thanks for joining us today Andrew.  To start with, can you tell me why are healthcare providers struggling to maximize the ROI on their EHR system?

 

(Andrew) Thank you Parham. I appreciate the opportunity to sit down and chat with you. In regards to your questions, I think that there a number of factors at play when it comes to realizing return of investment out an EHR implementation.

 

The first factor that comes to mind is the lack of historical metrics available to organizations. For those organizations coming off of paper-based systems, historical baselines are often hard to come by as they had to be calculated manually or through cumbersome spreadsheet-based processes. Additionally, their legacy systems may have been more limited in their data capture and reporting capabilities. Thus, it can be a significant challenge to measure ROI when you do not have a good starting point

 

The second factor is the lack of staff or a related program in place to actively identify and seek out opportunities for ROI in a centralized manner. Within most provider organizations, metrics have been tracked in silos - often within a single department. For example, groups like Quality, Finance, and Decision Support have historically been good data gathers given the nature of their role within the health system. However, with the advent of improved data, top performing organizations in the category of ROI have been creating SWAT like teams to identify and execute ROI opportunities across the entire health system. Efforts of this nature are often new and take time, resources, and operational buy-in to get off the ground.

 

One last factor that I would note is a need for provider organizations to continue to learn from one another and share their experiences. Since the beginning of the modern era of EHR implementation, organizational leaders across the country have hoped for objective ROI measures to displace the high cost of EHR implementation and maintenance. That being said, there have been relatively limited number of case studies or publications outlining common ROI successes across organizations to serve as a guide for others. The growth of user group meetings, regional collaboration efforts, publications, etc. will all aid in providers’ ability to carry out ROI initiatives.  

 

(Parham) Switching gears a bit, why do you think that a successful long-term EHR optimization strategy should include Rural Health and Long Term Care initiatives?

 

(Andrew) Interesting question Parham. Let me preface my comments with the statement that every provider organization is different, and thus, their organizational strategies or makeup may not include rural health or long-term care business. That being said, many organizations are looking at how they can increase their market presence and provide services to a greater patient population, which is a major factor contributing to the volume of merger and acquisition activity we have seen between health systems and provider groups over the last few years. Many industry leaders see long-term care and rural health as the next frontier in increasing a given health system’s reach.

 

Circling back to how that impacts an organization’s long-term EHR optimization strategy, I think that most organizations would agree that they want as much appropriate information as possible to be securely captured and shared across all reaches of their organization and related facilities.

 

I have witnessed firsthand the challenges of information flow between acute care organizations and post-acute and rural health organizations. In both settings obtaining the proper information to ensure safe and effective continuity of care is given can be extremely arduous and can lead to delays in care decisions. In the worst-case scenario, these delays and/or the inability to get accurate information can lead to readmissions and further degradations to the patient’s health. Hence, it is critical for organizations to continue to expand the reach of their technology alongside expansions in the organization’s care delivery strategy.

 

(Parham) Listening to you talk, there is no question that this is a winning strategy, but I want us to shift gears a bit and talk about the challenges to making this happen.  What are the technological barriers to what we’re discussing?

 

(Andrew) To successfully provide care in the rural health and long-term care settings, you are often required to capture information much differently than in an acute care setting. To date, many of the major EHR systems lack applications or depth in functionality to cover these nuances. Thus, an organization must assess whether they should purchase a more specialized product from another vendor and go through the challenges of integrating with their existing information systems, or, if they should make do with existing vendors/technology and any related shortcomings.

 

Additionally, there may be mobile technology and hardware considerations for some of these care settings. For instance, rural health and home health can both require care providers to be on location outside of an office. The ability to capture clinical data and perform procedures like mobile testing reads on a hand held device that is connected to a network becomes very advantageous.  The good news is that most vendors and technology providers are increasing their focus on these markets, and we should see significant improvements on all fronts in the coming years.

 

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