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Thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT from Microsoft's worldwide health senior director Bill Crounse, MD, on how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world.

The second wave is coming. Will your EMR make the grade?

The second wave is coming. Will your EMR make the grade?

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imageAs I noted in last week’s post, I’ve recently returned from a Healthcare Executive Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., sponsored by McKesson. Among some of the other invited keynote speakers at the event was Adam Gale, CEO of KLAS. For those of you who may not be familiar with KLAS, it is a research organization whose mission is to improve healthcare technology delivery by honestly, accurately, and impartially measuring vendor performance for their provider partners. Mr. Gale and I had an opportunity to chat during breakfast last Tuesday morning before each of us gave our keynote address at the executive leadership event.

As I would expect, Mr. Gale’s keynote provided a very honest appraisal of where the Health IT industry finds itself in the fall of 2014. Despite the fact that our gathering was an event sponsored by McKesson for their own customer base, I thought Mr. Gale held back no punches when discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the Health IT Industry Solution Vendor (ISV) community at this moment in time.

imageOne thing Mr. Gale and I could certainly agree on was his use of the term the second wave in describing what’s next for the healthcare informatics industry. HealthBlog readers know that I have frequently used the phrase “it’s what you do next that counts” when describing how the digitization of health and healthcare information either does or doesn’t transform the business of healthcare. Electronic Medical Records and Hospital Information Systems in and of themselves add little value to the enterprise if we don’t surround them or embed them with technologies that help us make better decisions and facilitate the ways we communicate and collaborate as care teams and with our patients. It should come as no surprise that organizations served by ISV’s that are unable to harness the energy of digital health data are becoming disillusioned and dissatisfied with their EMR/HIS solutions. No wonder KLAS reports that 25 percent of ambulatory practices plan to replace EMR solutions they’ve purchased, and another 12 percent would do so if they had the financial strength to make a change.

So what should Health IT ISVs be focusing on now if they hope flourish in coming years, delight their customers, and survive the “second wave”.  Here are my recommendations on four areas for improvement.

User Interface—The UI experience for clinical end users is getting better, but still has far to go. Too many of our EMR/HIS solutions are stuck in the dark ages compared to what users expect living in today’s world of modern consumer apps, digital and social media. We are losing patience with EMR/HIS solutions that impede clinical workflow and turn highly educated healthcare professionals into data entry wonks.

Cloud First, Mobility First—The information technology industry is rapidly moving away from on-premises solutions. Progressive EMR/HIS solutions will increasingly be delivered as a service by companies that leverage the full power of the cloud. It just doesn’t make sense for hospitals and clinics to maintain their own server farms. The ever-increasing requirements for file, storage, applications and computing power in health and healthcare will far exceed any organization’s ability to scale their own servers to meet the demand.  Not only that, but access to health data must be securely deliverable to any device, anywhere, at any time. Healthcare is not a business confined to an office.

Universal Communications—Delivering healthcare is about team and community. The relationship isn’t just doctor-patient anymore, and it certainly isn’t confined to an exam room. EMR/HIS solutions must be able to facilitate the myriad of ways that individuals, teams, citizens and patients communicate and collaborate, both synchronously and asynchronously no matter where they happen to be. Currently, very few EMR/HIS vendors have embedded contemporary Universal Communications capabilities within their solutions.

Clinical and Business Analytics—Health Reform demands significant improvements in cost and quality. You can’t improve what you cannot measure, yet very few EMR/HIS solutions inherently provide deep analytics capabilities. As a result, healthcare organizations are having to buy or build separate solutions to meet their needs for clinical and business analytics. It’s not uncommon for them to have as many as six different systems to manage their growing requirements for analytics, even before they wrestle with new demands like managing “population health”. Smart vendors will increasingly embed comprehensive analytics capabilities into their EMR/HIS solutions.  

If you would like to learn more about how Microsoft is helping our customers improve the way they work and our ISV partners around the world build better solutions for the health and healthcare industries, please visit us at www.microsoft.com/health.

Bill Crounse, MD          Senior Director, Worldwide Health             Microsoft

  • Bill, I agree with much of what you have said here but you I noticed that you didn't emphasize security. Organizations need to extremely careful when outsourcing their server farms. Security needs to play an overarching role across all four areas you mentioned.

  • Raj,

    I wouldn't argue that for a minute. In fact, please note today's post which is all about cybersecurity. See http://aka.ms/I1c5q3  

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