As all HIM professionals know, and most others in the healthcare community are slowly coming to realize, the potential of EMRs to revolutionize healthcare is almost limitless. There has been a surprising amount of focus, however, on instances where EMRs proved ineffective, confusing, technically inadequate, or expensive/overdue. Unfortunately, the accumulation of this negative press has likely slowed the pace of adoption for EMRs.
A new study offers a potent counterpoint, clearly illustrating that when EMRs are implemented in a creative and committed way, they can have a powerful impact on outcomes. The study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics and outlines work done by researchers at Stanford University.
Those researchers focused on patients with a central venous catheter being treated in a pediatric ICU. They implemented enhanced patient checklists with EMRs for all the study patients. The checklists were meant to monitor whether providers were following best practices for patient care, and then quickly alert providers when those practices were not being followed.
For instance, one of the entries on the checklist related to changing patient gowns. If a patient’s gown was not changed within the prescribed timeline, an indicator would show up on the EMR outlining the problem and the necessary solution. An indicator was also sent to the central nurse’s station. That promoted a faster response and also served as an education tool to improve future care.
After implementing this new system, the instances of central-line-associated bloodstream infections – a common problem affecting the study population – decreased from 2.6 per 1,000 line days to 0.7 per 1,000 line days. Further data suggested that the use of these enhanced EMRs did not add significantly to the workload of the providers, even while it improved outcomes.
This study underscores both the potential EMRs, and the ways in which they must improve in order to be implemented more broadly. Electronic health information is an amazing resource, but only if it is available at the right place, at the right time, to the right people, and in an actionable context. The researchers at Stanford proved that when those four criteria are met, EMRs have an enormous potential to enhance the health of patients and the efforts of providers.
Evolving EMRs from where they are now to where they need to be soon, depends on creative and dedicated HIM professionals. If healthcare stakeholders hope to cultivate the undeniable potential of EMRs, they need the right staff to do it. Find professionals prepared to make a contribution by working with the workforce experts at MedPartners HIM.